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News from 2005

Written by Scott Couper & Susan Valiquette
January 11, 2006

Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette - South Africa

Each liturgical season of the church proclaims a different aspect of our Christian theology. Advent is the season of preparing for a Messiah that brings a message of love for the entire world.

espite its infancy (only nine months old) and only one member of staff (Scott), the KZN Regional HIV and AIDS Desk has implemented a great deal.  The Desk hosted several overseas delegations that wished to see the good work happening at local churches.  Groutville, Umlazi-Lamont, and Eastwood United all told the “good news” of ministry taking place.  Through the HIV and AIDS Desk, the ministry at Noodsburg received a R 10,000.00 contribution from SASBO (a local financial institution)!  Our new intern ministers received resources to assist them with HIV and AIDS sermons and liturgy.  Banners with an HIV and AIDS emphasis were produced and twenty congregations now proclaim “Our Lives…Our Faith…In Ministry Fulfill Both.”  The UCCSA held their General Assembly at Inanda Seminary in September.  During the Assembly, delegates were challenged to know their HIV status and over seventy waited in long lines to volunteer for counseling and testing.  It was a powerful experience for those who were tested and a great testimony to others who witnessed church leaders being tested.  We look forward to recognizing HIV and AIDS Day on December 04 and we plan to do even more in 2006.  Next year, we hope to host a volunteer from the USA, produce a music CD, and develop a website where all the HIV and AIDS ministries in KZN can advertise their ministries to the world.  Global Ministries and the KZN Region deserve much appreciation for the sponsorship of the Desk!

Family News
Scott’s PhD has been approved by the history department and by the higher degrees committee.  He is now soaring forward with class, seminar, reading and research.  He has been received at the Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Museum with access to an office, fax, copier, and anything else he requests for his research.  Susan recently volunteered at Micah and Madeline’s school to tell the Christmas story.  She was Angel Gabriel in Madeline’s class and in Micah’s class she invited the children to participate in a spontaneous drama.  Micah continues to favor piano and art.  He has excelled greatly in his piano according to his teacher.  He is playing the same songs the grade 3’s are playing.  We decided to purchase a digital piano to enable better habits in practicing.  He needs little reminding to practice; he will happily sit down and play for anyone.  The first day at home with the piano was a concert.  Micah made a program for us and we all sat in the living room to listen.  Micah also learned how to ride a bike in one day.  Scott is the witness.  He didn’t have to learn how to balance; he just did it.  He only had to learn how to brake. Madeline is an extremely confident girl.  Her teacher expresses regret when Madeline isn’t in the class because she brings a special life to the class; “she is full of life.”  Madeline is well-loved by her friends and teachers.  She catches the attention of others easily, and she thrives socially.  She will join a conversation even if she doesn’t have anything to say in particular, and she will sit in the living room with mom’s friends and listen carefully to everything that is being said.  When she thinks she understands the conversation, she interjects even if it doesn’t make sense.  Madeline loves to play dress-up; the more jewelry and pink the better. 

Inanda Seminary Outreach Committee
The end of the second term saw the birth of a very exciting project.  We are a training centre for SMILE. SMILE is an English additional language oral skills program.  Selected and interested schools from the community bring their learners to Inanda Seminary where the program is run.  Initially this will involve one primary school, but every six months another school will become involved in the program and the previous school will run the program at their school, together with a nearby High School.  The focus thus is on sustainable development through education.  The outreach committee has also formed a new relationship with a local group of women who are providing home based care for families who have family members who are HIV positive.  The students along with the school purchased food parcels to deliver to the families.  We witnessed desolate conditions of poverty and disease and these families are just outside the gate of our school.  We hope to continue to give them love and support. 

Inanda Seminary Confirmation Class 2005
After a four year hiatus, confirmation class was reinstated at Inanda Seminary.  Sixteen students were confirmed of which five were also baptized.  During one of our last classes, we discussed the meaning of confirmation and the commitment they were making.  One student leaned forward with her hand stroking her chin in deep thought and spoke, “This is really serious isn’t it?”  Making a decision to follow Christ is serious.  After the class was confirmed, the girls expressed disappointment that there were no more classes.  A successful confirmation class should end with each person desiring more.

Bethel Congregational Church
The leadership at Bethel has been working on all cylinders!  We have completed construction of our Wall of Remembrance where our loved-ones remains will be interned (due in-part to AIDS, cemeteries are filling–up too fast).  After being struck by lightening, our steeple, cross, and roof have been repaired.  Our hundred year old stained-glass has also been replaced.  In order to minister to the community, the church felt that our worship style needs to be more contemporary and thus relevant.  Therefore, the membership installed a new ‘invisible’ audio-visual system (six channel mixer, cordless microphones, speakers, computerized liturgy, suspended projection lamp and screen, and keyboard).  Bethel has in 2005 consciously invested in its structure and worship capabilities so that in 2006 we may direct our attentions to outreach and ministry to the community.  For many months, the deacons have discerned a vision and we pray that the following will be ‘unveiled’ in 2006: “We fellowship in the ‘House of God’ where God’s love for all people is revealed, to discover and nurture our gifts of the Spirit and commit our lives to go out to serve in the way of Jesus Christ.”  This vision will encourage us to initiate a ministry to the community most likely related to children, the elderly, or to HIV and AIDS.  On October 23, 2005 the church affirmed my pastorate and formally requested the kwaZulu-Natal Region of the UCCSA to extend my renewable one-year appointment.  We look forward to our upcoming confirmation class when we will add to the numbers of new members that have recently joined the church.  Bethel continues to struggle to diversify its leadership but we are confident that as our ministry expands, so will the need for fresh leadership.  We pray for direction in regards to our youth ministry, which is weak.  We have plans soon to boost our Sunday school program with training, curriculum, and resources.  Despite all the above progress, we remember and celebrate that the real progress and building lies not with programming or infrastructure, but with relationships.

First Congregational Church, UCC - Winter Park, Florida
In October, a small delegation from the UCC church in Winter Park came to visit and see first-hand the plight of those who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.  They had a very meaningful experience and have taken the stories back to their church to discern ways to be in relationship with the people they met in South Africa.

The campaign encourages HIV Testing so that persons can know their “Status”.  A team from Johannesburg who provided the counseling and testing to those Assembly delegates who volunteered to be tested. 73 Assembly delegates allowed themselves to be tested for HIV (a tremendous turnout).  This campaign will continue in Synods and Regions.

Random Acts of Kindness
During the school year, we have worship themes for each of the four terms of school.  The fruits of the Spirit worship theme stood out above all others.  During the week that we were studying the fruit of kindness, I received a crocheted cross in my mailing from Global Ministries.  Once a month, we are sent our mail from the States, and this month I found inside the mailing, amongst the bills and financial statements, a crocheted cross that was given as “a random act of kindness.”  There was a beautiful note attached that explained the meaning of the stitches that were used to make it.  I decided to share the story with the students at Inanda Seminary because it was so appropriate for our theme of “kindness” for the week.  The students were very touched by the story.  I wrote to Carol Sullivan in Hawaii who made the cross and she responded with an e-mail asking me how many students were at Inanda Seminary.  Carol made 345 crocheted crosses for each student and teacher.  The crosses were given on “All Saints Day” as we recognized Carol as a Saint in our lives. Carol is a member of Hawaii Kai UCC.  Her mother, Emiko Abe, used to crochet the crosses until she grew too ill.  Emiko died recently on October 12, 2005.  We were truly blessed with kindness by Carol.

Ushering in a Savior
Each liturgical season of the church proclaims a different aspect of our Christian theology.  Advent is the season of preparing for a Messiah that brings a message of love for the entire world.  Isaiah foretold it best, “ the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Isaiah 61: 1-2).  I am longing for a Savior to be born anew in the midst of the HIV and AIDS pandemic that is wrecking havoc on the most vulnerable in South Africa.  (40.7% infection)  The students and I knocked on the door to deliver our first food parcel to a family who was affected by AIDS.  As we entered the small home, we realized that the home housed four families; each bedroom was owned by one family.  As we entered the bedroom we were greeted only by utter darkness and a grandmother sitting on a bed with a dying infant grandchild.  Against the other wall was her daughter, emaciated and unable to communicate.  As we greeted the grandmother, she could only weep.  I was overwhelmed by the pain and suffering contained in the heart of that grandmother, and I felt utterly helpless.  The only one who can heal the pain of her heart is a Savior that comes to bring news to the oppressed.  Let us usher in anew a Savior; the only one who can bring healing to the nations.

Revs Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette
Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette are missionaries serving in South Africa.  Scott  serves with the UCCSA as pastor at a UCCSA congregation in Durban.  Susan  serves with the Inanda Seminary in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa as chaplain.


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