Easter in Swaziland

Easter in Swaziland

Wayne & Ingrid Wilson – Swaziland

Spring 2006 represents our second Easter/Resurrection working in Swaziland and Mozambique. This year, we shall focus this letter on what it is like to be part of an Easter celebration in the Kukhany’ Okusha Zion Church of Swaziland, as it began preparation for Easter in February because Easter is the most significant day on the Kukhany’ Okusha Zion Church liturgical calendar.

“You are the light of the world…In the same way, let your light shine before humankind, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”- Matthew 5:14-16

First, since the church has branches in Swaziland and South Africa, the Easter celebration is biannually held in alternating venues. Each year, approximately 1000 people, representing all of the branches of the KZC church attend. This year, we will be traveling to Durban, South Africa. The celebration of the Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church lasts four days beginning on Maundy Thursday and ending on Resurrection Sunday. All of their meals, bathing, sleeping, etc are all done at the venue. Only a select few enjoy the luxury of guest houses, motels, and hotels.

On Maundy Thursday the first night vigil is held. A night vigil is a worship service that begins in the evening and continues through the night. Many parts of the service would be familiar to you- prayers, testimonies, scripture readings, sermons, and lots of music. The main difference in a KZC worship service and a common U.S. service is that here they all begin with approximately 30 minutes of worshipful dancing at various rhythmic speeds. The Maundy Thursday service usually concludes at approximately six o’clock in the morning.

During the extended Easter weekend there is little time for sleep, so the participants merely take a break for three hours, then at 9am on Good Friday morning, the second series of worship services begin. The Friday series of services ends at 11PM, and then the evening is spent with all of the churches participating in a choir competition. So many choirs participate the competition lasts until 6am Saturday morning, when the winners are awarded trophies and verbal accolades.

Saturday starts out much like Friday. Worship at 9am, meals, showers, and a little free time. In the early evening, however, there is communion, foot washing, and prayers. In the late evening, formal worship services begin again. This is also when the offering is received. Instead of each person giving their offering separately, each church gets up in front of the entire gathering and sings their favorite songs. While they are singing, one member of the church, commonly called “branch” in Swaziland, walks around with a basket and those who have money place their offering in the basket. The amazing thing about this final offering is that all of the churches have a friendly competition as to who gives the most. This is readily known, because after each branch’s offering is collected, it is counted, and the amount immediately reported to the rest of the gathered.

Finally, on Sunday (Easter) morning at 3AM, all of the women (about 70% of the crowd) walk about 1/8 mile from the venue and as they walk back begin saying, “He is risen, he is risen indeed” over and over again. As they enter the venue, the entire congregation goes wild with elation, repeating and testifying that, “He is risen.” As the morning continues, final prayers, songs, and affirmations are offered. Soon after, everyone begins piling in cars, vans, trucks, and buses and the trek homeward begins.

The Easter celebration represents the beginning of the Kukhany’Okusha calendar year. Therefore, it is like a conference/regional annual meeting or General Synod/General Assembly. It is a time and place where much of the work of the previous year is lifted up and celebrated, while time is also given to informing the faithful of the coming year’s projects and programs. 2006 will be a pivotal year at Kukhany’okusha. Because of the many faithful supporters of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ, many new and continuing initiatives are being conducted.

First, in March 2006 there will be a pastors and leaders workshop on HIV/Aids led by Rev. Adora Iris Lee, our Global Ministries colleague-HIV/Aids specialist based in Johannesburg, SA. In the past, many initiatives on HIV/Aids have been conducted. The goal of the workshop is to construct a comprehensive strategy, which includes education/testing/prevention, services to the effected, services to the affected, and services to those who serve the affected/effected. This will not be a simple task, but one, which must be done. It is already estimated that by 2010(only four years from now) Swaziland will have 120,000 orphans, many of whom will be totally dependent on churches, government, and other NGO’s for food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. Kukhany’Okusha has already begun being part of this effort through its school fees, uniforms, and supplies initiative that provides these things to children who have become orphaned by the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Second, we have continued our work in Micro-Credit Financing/Small Enterprise Development. In 2005, a comprehensive study was done so that the Church could move forward, informed and ready to conduct business development exercises. So far, we have had two seminars to prepare the people who want to move forward and thanks to our generous donors and supporters, we have been able to establish a fund for micro-credit financing. Many in the developing world use micro-credit financing because often people do not have such things as credit ratings or collateral. Micro-credit venues are able to offer people, who have strong work ethics, determination, and honesty small amounts of resources so that they can purchase basic supplies that enable them to start a small “cottage” business. Many of the products will be submitted to our colleagues in South Africa who are working with Lydia House, the ministry that sells and markets the products of women and men from the churches of southern Africa.

Lastly, we will continue our work in agriculture and seed distribution through the Seed Programs, Inc program. This year, the Church wants to expand the garden concept by establishing seedling nurseries in geographically strategic locations so that members and friends can obtain seedlings for home gardens. We will also investigate the viability of starting fruit tree nurseries.

Presently, we spend about 25% of our time and energy working on the programs and projects of the UCCSA in Mozambique. Our task is simple. We help the clergy and leaders identify programs and projects that are significant to them, assist them in writing them up (in English), and then monitor their progress. Last year, we monitored many of their building construction programs and spent many hours developing relationships with pastors and leaders. We even got one project, the Jangamo Pottery Project, off the ground. In 2006, we hope to help the people and leaders of the church become the best that God has created them to be. And you can believe that as developments occur, you will be hearing from us.

We hope and pray that 2006 will be a banner year for Kukhany’Okusha Zion church and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, Mozambique Synod. We are expecting and planning for many visitors and interns who will also assist us in telling the stories of the faithful in these places. We know God can and that God is able. We, the people of God, must do our part so that the grace, glory, and goodness of God can be made manifest in this place. We will be praying for you and ask that you do the same for us.

Ingrid and Wayne Wilson
Your Missionaries in Swaziland and Mozambique
Wayne and Ingrid Wilson are missionaries with the Kukhany’okusha Zion Church. They are development project officers.