Comprehensive Ministry Through Comprehensive Programming

Wayne & Ingrid Wilson – Swaziland

Wayne & Ingrid Wilson – Swaziland

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.”- 1 Corinthians 12:12(NIV)

The Kukhany’ Okusha Zion Church (KZC) of Swaziland has been working to alleviate poverty, HIV/AIDS, and a variety of other social ailments for many years. Admittedly, many short term projects existed in the past that have led to not so stellar results. However, since 2004, with the assistance of Global Ministries’ missionaries, interns, volunteers and financial resources the church has worked toward achieving comprehensive, sustainable programs and projects that have great potential for the future.

{mosimage}No matter what one knows about Swaziland, with a little research one will quickly discover that Swaziland is the country in the world with the highest rate of HIV and AIDS by percentage, presently standing at 42.6% of the total population. For a country of only 1 million people, that means that roughly 426,000 people have contracted this deadly virus which has no cure, yet is 100% preventable.

In January 2006, the board of KZC began taking a new approach to doing the business of the church. No longer was it satisfied with just maintaining the church in its current state. For them, it was time to bring its plan for operational and administrative reforms (conceived and developed in 2004) which emphasizes four key performance areas (KPA’s.) The four key areas are: 1) Spiritual Growth for the Church, 2) Growth in Church Membership, 3) Financial and Material Sustenance, and 4) Love and Care for Others. In order for the church to make tangible gains in each of these areas, a series of new initiatives were started. Additionally, there were underlying objectives that are usually suggested by all HIV/AIDS strategic plans, emphasizing the importance of serving three principle constituencies: 1) those seeking prevention and education, 2) the infected and 3) the affected. Together, these initiatives, guided by the key performance areas and working objectives have made a difference. Here are some of the projects that have been started or continued this year:

{mosimage}Seed Distribution- since 2003, KZC has been a recipient of seed from Seed Programs, Inc. Seeds have been distributed to other KZC branches, other church denominations, ecumenical bodies, and civic organizations throughout Swaziland. In 2005-06, seeds were intentionally donated to families of those suffering with HIV and AIDS. One of the principle strategies to assisting those who are suffering is to provide them with nutritious food that will build their immune systems and make them stronger and resistant to disease, viruses, and germs. Seeds also reached those who had arable land and water so that they could grow food for themselves, their relatives, and hopefully have some left over to earn an income.

Gardening Projects- with the same aforementioned seed, gardens have been planted by church members, congregations and community organizations. The goals of most gardens are the same, which are to: 1) grow nutritious food for immediate families, 2) create sources of income, and 3) provide vegetables to community organizations that care for orphans, the elderly and the sick. In 2005, the Manzini branch of KZC had a very successful project on the grounds of the church. In 2006, the church decided that it would be more economical if seedling were grown that could be distributed to individual members who could then plant them on their own land. So, in August 2006, aided by members of Lincoln Memorial Congregational, UCC and St. Albans Congregational, UCC who were on a People to People Pilgrimage, the soil was tilled and gardening plots cleaned off so that the members of the church could plant later on in the month.

{mosimage}Micro Credit Initiative- with funds received from Global Ministries last January, initial seed money for a Micro Credit Initiative was set aside. Bishop A.M. Dlamini stated that “20 years ago the church first talked about starting such a fund. But then, members were ignorant and did not understand the churches role in helping others to start businesses and raise money. With this fund, people can earn income, which will help them be able to help the church in the future.” Today, the fund now has 20,000 rand in it (about $3000), and the Advisory Board is still learning the technical aspects of being good administrators of the funds. They have distributed two loans. The first loan acted as gap funding for the KZC Manzini Mass Choir’s compact disc project and a second assisted an established seamstress in expanding her business in the wedding accessories arena. After 20 years of waiting, this initiative has great potential for assisting hundreds of people and families in the days to come.

{mosimage}HIV/AID’s Education, Prevention, and Assistance- for the first time in its history, all 33 of the congregations of KZC gathered for a national HIV/AIDS strategy and planning meeting in March 2006. The result was in the production of a KZC Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Strategy. Presently, the strategy is still being broken down into manageable pieces. However, this plan represents a milestone in the church’s history; it will now serve as the basis for all of its future initiatives and proposals dealing with issues of HIV/AIDS. One of the first steps of eradicating HIV from a given community is for everyone to know their status. Assisted by a US based non governmental organization(NGO), Population Services International (PSI), 21 members of one branch were tested and counseled free of charge on July 2, 2006. Again, this was a milestone moment for the church. But most importantly it represented the formation of a new relationship between KZC and PSI that will include free training, additional testing/counseling sessions, and referral services in time to come. Lastly, in order to assist those suffering with AIDS, KZC used a portion of its HIV/AIDS funds to assist Swaziland’s only hospice, fondly named Hope House, to purchase a water pump for its laundry facility. This was an important step for the church because it demonstrated their continued willingness to act ecumenically when dealing with this great problem that is literally engulfing the entire country.

{mosimage}Food, Clothing, and Medicine Pantries- in May 2006, in a meeting of the KZC board, the question of “What could the church be doing to assist people who were hungry and without clothing?” was presented by Bishop Dlamini. After a few moments of pondering the question, Global Ministries missionary, Ingrid Wilson, stated that in her experience pantries are often set up to assist people in need. Surprisingly, a few moments had to be spent explaining to the Board what a pantry was and what it could do to assist the poor, the hungry, and the elderly. In the past, the church dealt with food distribution on a case by case basis and clothing was collected and saved in an old 20” by 20” cardboard box. In May/June 2006, the first pantry was built in an existing storage room. As often occurs in similar settings, when one room is reclaimed other adjoining rooms must also be “fixed up” so that stored items can be moved, hence the beginning of the kitchen shelving project. Assisted by Global Ministries summer intern Ms. Krystal Rodney, several shelves were put up and the pantry was stocked with staple items: millie meal (corn meal), beans, canned fish, chicken soup mix and rice. Church members have caught on to the vision and have begun to donate dry goods, fresh vegetables, fruit, and even cash. But the success story does not end there. The church leadership was so encouraged that a clothing pantry and medical supply pantry was added to the mix with the help of volunteers from Kentucky, New York, and California. People to People Pilgrimage participants from the DOC/CC Kentucky Region, St. Albans CC,UCC(NY) and Lincoln Memorial,CC/UCC(CA), members of a delegation from the New York Conference, UCC and Krystal Rodney all brought clothing and medical supplies with them and all pantries are now fully stocked and ready for continued distribution. In fact, we are awaiting the delivery of 31 boxes of clothing that was organized by a local Boy Scout troop in Queens, NY. Because of his individual and corporate effort, a member of St. Albans, Mr. William Leverett, will receive his Eagle Scout badge later on this year.

The Ministry of Presence- during the U.S. summer of 2006, Kukhany’Okusha was visited by a total of 39 visitors from Christian Church/Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ congregations. Many visitors brought a variety of items to donate with them, while others participated in a variety of work projects. Nonetheless, nothing was more important to the church leaders and members of KZC than the fact that people came from so far away to see them. This is called the Ministry of Presence. What we learned from the visits is that people want more than anything to be heard and understood. So, during each of the visits there was ample time for discussing, talking, listening, laughing, and sharing thoughts and ideas. Through the ministry of presence, the pieces of the body of Christ came together to make a difference in the lives of the people of Swaziland and Mozambique.

{mosimage}So far, 2006 has been a banner year for the partnership between Kukhany’Okusha and Global Ministries. It continues to be a privilege to be part of this unique ministry in this unique place. May God bless you. And as always, please keep us and the church in your prayers and we will do the same for you.

Peace,

Ingrid and Wayne Wilson

Global Ministries Missionaries to Swaziland and Mozambique

Wayne and Ingrid Wilson are missionaries with the Kukhany'okusha Zion Church. They are development project officers.