Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

God's Grace is Great! Former FRC Mission Work in South Africa Continues

Written by F. Pronk
We know GodÕs promise that His Word never returns to Him void and always achieves His purposes (Isa.55: 12). But we often are so impatient; we want to see instant results on the work God calls us to do, whether it is with our children, our churches or that of missions and outreach. We tend to be discouraged by opposition and few visible results. But GodÕs promise stands, even though it may not become visible until years later. This is what happened in regard to the first foreign mission work that our churches were involved with in South Africa.

In cooperation with the Dutch sister churches, the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken, our Free Reformed churches supported, Rev. Rebel, who worked among the KwaNdebele people in South Africa. Later, Mary Overduin was sent out by the Hamilton congregation on behalf of our churches. She worked for many years among the Vendas, first going into the bush to teach womenÕs Bible classes and later as a pastoral care worker with women at Siloam hospital.

It was a huge disappointment, when at the end of apartheid in South Africa, due to sabotage of patient care and life-threats on the doctors and hospital staff, the work in the hospital came to a virtual standstill. All mission personnel, including Mary Overduin, were recalled. In her last letter from Siloam (The Messenger, February 1991), she wrote: ÒWe do not understand why all this is happening. We do know, however, that all things are in GodÕs hands. We pray that some day a new Siloam, with new dedicated staff may once again function to serve this peopleÓ (p.10).

In the Dutch mission publication, Doorgeven, (February 2002), there is a report about the work in KwaNdebele. The Bible school, started by Rev. Rebel, has grown into an accredited seminary, the Mukhanyo Theological College (MTC). The first students have graduated and have been equipped to take their place as ordained ministers in the Reformed Church of KwaNdebele. Graduates have also been ordained in other native churches. This is something to be very thankful for.

Several new projects to serve the social needs of the KwaNdebele people have begun or are in the planning stage. Poverty, high unemployment and the death rate caused by AIDS have left many children orphans. The government promotes the adoption of these children in foster homes. To prevent corruption of government aid and to teach parenting skills, seminars are conducted to instruct women of the church who were recommended by their pastors. Another project is to teach a course to help church leaders and others give practical support and pastoral care to the sick and dying, usually of AIDS. An instructor to teach efficient methods to grow vegetables in the dry climate by means of drip irrigation is another project that is very much needed. Computer training for unskilled workers to make them employable is another project planned in cooperation with the local churches.

When the mission personnel were forced to leave the Siloam hospital in Venda in 1991, they had many questions. Would the gospel continue to be taught to the sick? Would others take responsibility for the hospital? Only one Dutch nurse still works there. She is Maartje Kruger-van Asselt, who writes in Doorgeven (May 2002): ÒWith joy and thankfulness I can tell you that the proclamation of word and deed continues at SiloamÉ Our hospital and another one in this province have been singled out by the government for a project to prevent the spread of AIDS. Its goal is to protect unborn children against this deadly virus. When the women come for a pre-natal check-up they will be given a free AIDS test. If the results show that the mother carries the HIV virus, mother and child will receive medicine before and after delivery to protect them. The dedicated nurses and other workers here who are responsible to carry out this health service project are doing their utmost for a successful outcomeÉ Ò

ÒFor a number of years not much pastoral work was done among the patients in the hospital. Two years ago this changedÉ Gideon Siphoro works every day as evangelist in the hospital. The local pastor, Rev. Masakona, assists him where he canÉÓ Several examples of how the Lord is working are cited, such as a severely ill woman who acknowledged, ÒEven if I have to die, that is fine because Jesus is there.Ó AIDS (still a taboo and not talked about in Venda) has reached epidemic proportions on the African continent and many of the patients in the hospital are infected with it. But it has also made them open for the gospel. Rev. Masakona mentions that independent African churches have voiced their appreciation for the pastoral work done at Siloam hospital. They say that it is touching many more lives than the evangelism work they do from house to house, in which they are very diligent.

God works in a mysterious way His wonders to performÉ The ongoing work in South Africa today is a testimony to GodÕs faithfulness. But also, nothing done in His Name is ever wasted, not even a cup of cold water (Mk.9: 41); also not our early mission efforts, our giving and our prayers. We may believe the same about the mission work in Guatemala. The director of the Mukhanyo Theological College states it well in one of the articles from which this information was gleaned: ÒGodÕs grace is great!Ó

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