Monday, December 15, 2008

Yes, we can make a difference in Zimbabwe

Urgent SOS! An Emergency Call, A High Priority Request. It’s About Zimbabwe!!
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In recent days we have more than ever been made aware of the dire conditions in our neighbouring state Zimbabwe. In backstage discussions with various church and business leaders there, we have been deeply moved afresh by the expressed need coming now in multi-decibel volume.

Their cry for incarnational help in this extreme suffering has motivated numbers of us in TEASA and in various organisations, along with both church and business people to collaborate in partnership to create a major movement of support in solidarity with the Body of Christ in Zimbabwe. We ask that you also consider sending this appeal out throughout your networks, whether it is local, national or international. Together we will identify in the coming months how we as part of the Church in SA and beyond can serve the Church in Zimbabwe and its peoples in new ways in the spirit and compassion of Christ.

This is a time for united action. To reiterate what Archbishop Tutu said recently ‘Enough is Enough’!

TEASA in collaboration with WENSA and NIRSA are envisioning an immediate practical action from South Africa to assist in some of the immediate needs. God willing and depending on the conditions on the ground and politically, we will, with intent, begin to drive a process with your help and from month to month raise and channel as much aid as we can via the Body of Christ to those suffering in Zimbabwe. The good thing is that there are many who are already involved. We applaud the work they are doing. To mention just a few: The Vineyard Church raising aid and trucking it to Zimbabwe for distribution through their networks; the AFM Church positioned in Musina to help those who come across the border with food, medical supplies and pastoral care; The Dutch Reformed Church outreach, World Vision, Youth with a Mission and others.

As we come to you now with a request to partner together to give whatever you can, we pray that our response will be like the Church in Macedonia who urgently pleaded with Paul to let them participate in the collection of goods for the needy (2Cor 8:1 – 4:9:2).

We have been given a list of food and medical aid that is needed. In addition to that there is a need for money to enable the basic operations to take place.

However, in discussions held on the ground in SA, we felt it best to major on raising funds. With these we will purchase food and medical supplies and we have vehicles ready to roll through at once with these.


These financial contributions will be channelled through both TEASA and NIRSA to either one of the two organisations based in Johannesburg (Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the Dutch Reformed Church) who are equipped to purchase the essentials in food and medical supplies in bulk and deliver it to infrastructures in Harare and Bulawayo as the main incoming points in Zimbabwe. The aid will then be given to credible church networks there for distribution to the needy in their areas, both rural and urban. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe together with other role players are to play a facilitating role in this process.

However, should you rather make a donation in kind in terms of food or medical supplies in this first phase, there is capacity to handle these through the Vineyard Church as well as the Dutch Reformed Church structures. Their details are as follows:

• Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Johannesburg
Compassion Ministry
Waynne Pienaar at 082 417 5027
• Dutch Reformed Church
Dr Gustav Klaasen at 082 856 1943

Our hope and prayer is that a second phase of all this will follow in January 2009 and will continue on a monthly basis for as long as it takes to bring relief. Please therefore, as part of the TEASA/WENSA/NIRSA constituency, RESPOND NOW! TODAY. Just reach for your credit card, cheque book or phone and act now.

Send your financial donation to the TEASA account. We will take immediate responsibility and accountability to send this for use through the right channels. Full reports will be available on this and all who make contributions. Bank details below.

Next week, (Wed 17th, and Thur 18th) God willing, a NIRSA delegation led by Dr Michael Cassidy will go to Zimbabwe to meet leaders of various networks including church and business leaders. The focus of the meeting is to show solidarity with the Church in Zimbabwe and to hear from leaders how best the Body of Christ in SA can serve them at this time and in the future. It will also include a discussion to ensure that all the distribution happens responsibly and efficiently.

May God lead and guide you and all of us.
Moss Ntlha: TEASA (The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa)

In coalition with:
Peter Tarantal: WENSA (World Evangelisation Network of South Africa)
Michael Cassidy (Chairman) and Naomi Boshoff (Exec Coordinator) NIRSA (National Initiative for Reformation of South Africa)

The account for contributions is:
Account name: TEASA
Bank: Standard Bank of SA
Branch: Johannesburg
Account Number: 20 200 3604
Branch Code: 000205
Swift Code:: SBZAZAJJ

Please send copy of EFT or fax or e-mail deposit slip to TEASA and clearly indicate it is for TEASA Zimbabwe Aid
Fax: 011 403-1077 (TEASA)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dr James Dobson has taught us a lesson

Dr James Dobson's organisation, Focus on the Family, has found fame and fortune the last few decades, for its strong strident stands on issues of amonst others, homosexuality, tough discipline for children, censure in media and recently, campaigns to protect Christian festivals, like Christmas. This once mighty organisation is however currently reeling under financial pressure and has been retrenching staff, some argue, precisely because of the financial support for amongst others, anti-gay campaigns and legislation, but also an erosion of credibility in the recent Us elections. Of course, we may still learn from them as we may learn from all ministries, faithgroups, lessons which we can apply in our lives. Let me add though: this is not (yet?) an epitaph for the ministry, as this season might even be the birth of something new.

Because of their tough and particular stand on matters of sexual ethics, Dobson also publically supported the Republican campaign. God was on their side, the winning side. He was therefor also adamantly opposed to the election of Barack Obama. In fact, in his recent 'Special Message', on their trying situation, in the context of his discussion of the current global financial crisis, he states,
My point is that the American people have been poorly served by their leaders. Now we have elected a liberal President-elect who promises nearly $1.3 trillion in new spending, which he proposes to pay for by taxing five percent of the richest people. What a tragic joke.

Before the elections he actively campaigned against Obama. Amongst others, he released a 'Letter from 2012 in Obama's America', where he forecast doom for the US. In the words of Jim Wallis, from Sojourners, he
'apocalyptically depicts terrorist attacks in American cities, churches losing their tax exempt status for not allowing gay marriages, pornography pushed in front of our children, doctors and nurses forced to perform abortions, euthanasia as commonplace, inner-city crime gone wild because of lack of gun ownership, home schooling banned, restricted religious speech, liberal censorship shutting down conservative talk shows, Christian publishers forced out of business, Israel nuked, power blackouts because of environmental restrictions, brave Christian resisters jailed by a liberal Supreme court, and finally, good Christian families emigrating to Australia and New Zealand'.

Wallis, then on 31 October 2008, responded with indignation, that Dr Dobson owe America an apology:
In a time of utter political incivility, it shows the kind of negative Christian leadership that has become so embarrassing to so many of your fellow Christians in America. We are weary of this kind of Christian leadership, and that is why so many are forsaking the Religious Right in this election.

Well, Wallis was right and Dobson wrong. The US, and significantly Christians and members of various faith traditions, indeed walked away from this kind of demonizing. They voted for Obama. Further, Obama himself a confessing Christian, came out declaring that his public stance is being derived from his Christian faith. He might not share the same views as Dr Dobson or Rev Jeremiah Wright, or in their manner, but still, he also claims to be hearing God. Of course, he is human and might be wrong at some points and, God forbid, also yield to the temptation of power and money. Yes, he might also be found wanting in some areas; but for now, he seems to be the carrier of change, whilst the mighty fortresses of yesteryear, of a particular brand of Christianity, seems to be crumbling in the public arena. This development glaringly, shows how vulnerable we are, when churches and ministries, but also when we, as leaders, try to bind the conscience of people, try to play politician in the name of God, and inevitably 'otherfy' and demonise these others we created. This shows how vulnerable we are, when we are too close to the throne.

What are we to do then ? We might do better to rather share our views, with others, as humble testimonies, stories, to the ongoing search for morality and common values. In this respect, we may surprisingly, find allies amongst people of various spiritual and ideological persuations, but also, we might find those that differ fundamentally from us, from our own fold. So be it, we are different. For God sake, may we not exclusively side with political campaigns and baptise their programmes as divine, but continue to engage critically with all persuations, in particularly our own, building bridges instead of walls.
May our reading of the Bible and our context, not blind us to think that we are God, but let's be open to be persuaded otherwise, allowing those who differ from us, to also be our sisters and brothers, correcting our blindspots.

South Africa also face a year of elections and political campaigning. Often we hear politicians and church leaders claiming God or Jesus Christ for their side. May we heed to lesson of Dr Dobson, and so by the way, also thank Dr James Dobson.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When pastors go crazy

Churches can be brutal. A few stories the last few days reminded me of the reality of violence within churches, amongst pastors, members of boards and ministries. The question is whether we are willing to own up to it, whether we are able to transform ourselves to be communities of healing and hope. Maybe for some congregations its then better to die, disgracefully.

Anyway, this cannot go on. We may not simply hope for the best or at worst, hide it from the public eye. Whilst we pontificate and open up the big canon of law, ready to throw it at people, we ourselves are stand to be judge. So, let's own up to our dark sides and become genuine and honest, vulnerable.

Of course, we are not only refering to physical violence, but also the subtle emotional and verbal attacks, the manipulation, the guilt trips, etc. We also refer to the silence in the face of guilt trips and reigns of fear, the biblical extremisms that holds ransom, life in abundance. This remains to be one of the most critical areas where we still need healing and restoration, grace to be transformed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

AIDS is not a punishment from God

Churches and Christians often struggle with the question, What message, or good news may we still shout from the rooftops, from the mountains ? Former leader of South Africa's Anglican church, Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, is convinced that faithleaders have a message to preach: AIDS is not a punishment from God but a medical condition which is preventable.

Ndungane was speaking at the World Aids Campaign and links his call to the quest for 'HIV competent churches'. Representatives of faith-based organisations, at the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, stated that "HIV-competence" relates to
the ability of a given faith community to deal with the challenges posed by the HIV and AIDS pandemic in an appropriate and compassionate manner. An HIV-competent church prevents the spread of HIV, improves the lives of those living with and affected by it, mitigates the impact of HIV and ultimately restores hope and dignity.

Yesterday, 'Auntie Millie', shared her story at Riverlea, and how she experience the closeness, the grace of God, as somebody being HIV positive. We could hear the affirmation as she stated, 'My test became my testimony'. Indeed, Aids is a medical condition that can be prevented, but also, with which we may live positively, if only we choose life.

As churches, we are challenged to inform ourselves, to review our policies and behaviors towards each other- because behavioral change, at the heart of it, comes from a change of heart. We call it 'conversion', as we are turned inside out and repent from a crude hollow legalism and perpetuating stereotypes about each other, in particular women. We are challenged to accept that HIV/AIDS has come home, we as the body live with HIV, under the grace of God. This change of mind makes us positive, HIV positive, as we create safe spaces for those infected and affected to be at home. The role and place of councilors is critical, but also every one of us caring and loving each other, as one family sharing blood.

DJ Jacobs passed on

Its with regret that we have heard of the passing on of one of our most colourful ministers, dominees, Rev DJ Jacobs. He was serving in various congregations, the last being Franschoek and retired to give his life serving children at the Abraham Kriel children's home, in Langlaagte, Johannesburg.

Rev Jacobs, indeed left a indelible mark on the church and the communities he served. He remained committed to his eternal Anchor right to the end and an inspiration and encouragement to younger ministers and congregations. He still preached and ministered sacraments in Johannesburg, until the end and his incredible stories in the ministry will be remembered.

May God grant him rest from his toil and comfort in the truth that the fruit of his ministry will live on in the lives of so many others.
Reggie Nel