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For many years our church has had a strong link with South Africa
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Paul joined an Exodus team to South Africa in July 2002. It so affected him that he returned for six months in 2003, as part of a "gap" year. During those six months he served and studied at Midlands Christian Centre, in their DTS (Discipleship Training School).
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Jackie was part of an Exodus mission team which travelled to George in South Africa. They linked up with Out of Africa Missions and took part in practical and manual work in the adjacent township. They ran kids' clubs, painted, assisted in youth work and even dug a drainage system. Out of Africa Missions, under the leadership of Pierre Bartells, runs a discipleship and outreach programme.
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Lynn worked for two years as a paediatrician in Durban and in a Zulu township clinic. "Currently one in ten South Africans are HIV positive, and sadly women and children bear the brunt of the disease. In Durban, about half of all pregnant women are HIV infected and many babies subsequently die of HIV/AIDS. I had never seen children look so sad or been in a situation where I felt so helpless in the face of such suffering."
"It amazes me that God calls common, ordinary people like us to step out of our comfort Zone for Him and to trust Him fully, and for me these past 2 years have reminded me again that He can be trusted with all the details of my life."
Stephen and Karen spent a year in medical and church work near Portshepstone. Stephen worked in the Norwegian Settler's Church primarily in their youth and children's programmes. He was also active in the HIV/AIDS ministry in the Genesis hospice and local orphanages. Karen, as a paediatrician based in Murchison District Hospital, found much of her work also taken up with those suffering with HIV/AIDS and TB. "When there is great physical need in a community there is a huge opportunity for the church to reach out with the love of Jesus. It is such a privilege to be involved in this."
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Neil Dickson was part of a Out of Afrcia Mission team, based in George and spending time in Thembalethu and Blanco. He worked with children as well as doing practical service(like cleaning toilets). He comments "When we got to Thembalethu we got to take part in a local church service- and what can I say - it was amazing! When we stepped into the wooden hut we were struck by the sight of everyone singing and dancing. When they saw we were there they welcomed us with open arms and just kept on singing."
In July Alison O'Loan was part of an Exodus team visiting Durban and Balito. "It was unbelievable to see so many huge mansions with swimming pools and electric gates and then just across the hill there was a township where 10 or 12 people were living in one room with no running water." During their time they built a play park at an orphanage and made that all important connection with those in need.
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This group of 16 has been our first youth team to go overseas.
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Matthew McKeown and Stephen Lamont: "In July 2011 we had the privilege to go to South Africa, not as before as part of a group but just the two of us. We went to serve alongside the Norwegian Settlers Church and the Genesis Project in Port Shepstone.
In the mornings we had the opportunity to help lead two Holiday Bible Clubs in different areas where Genesis is working, Merlewood and Murchison. There were approximately 90 to 120 kids at the Club each day and there was a wide range of leaders from different parts of the world - South Africa, USA and the United Kingdom. It was a real blessing to work alongside so many different types of people who all have one thing in common - a love for our Master and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and a desire to show that love in a real and meaningful way to each young person that we came in contact with.
Every afternoon, when not involved in youth ministry, we were serving practically. We fixed many broken windows and doors in the Murchison Community as well as putting up a fence, mending parts of a Jungle Gym, digging and fertilizing the soil and - eventually - making a flowerbed! We also serviced a gym in the Marburg area for Genesis.
On the 4th Sunday Matthew had the opportunity to share with the youth at one of the events about our time out in South Africa, while challenging them to reach out for God in their own communities."
Jack Fleming and Jonny McClelland: "At a ridiculous 4:45am on the 28 July, nine excited but expectant purple hooded figures found themselves at the Europa Bus Station setting off for George in South Africa. Some 33 hours later the final backpack was unloaded from the bucky (pickup truck!) and into the new bedrooms at Out of Africa Missions [OAM].
After a good nights sleep we awoke to be sprung into action to our first task, my most memorable. Roll up sports was exactly what the name suggested. While driving through the township Thembalethu only took a couple of minutes, it was home to over 100,000 people. At the end of the road was a field with some cattle grazing on the scrawny grass - but the boys from Ballymena made short work of them and the field was soon turned into a football pitch. Jack and another team member Stewart started kicking a ball about while I set off dribbling another through the streets telling everyone they were welcome to join in our game. At first there seemed to be next to no kids but looking over my shoulder after dribbling down some nooks and crannies I was soon the bait to a street full of eager children. I soon teased the crowd towards the field and a great morning was had.
Another highlight of the trip was when we took a trip out with a local nurse who visited patients living in Thembalethu. We followed her through the shacks and entered in to many different doors finding sick people of all ages. Some using breathing apparatus, some mentally and physically disabled for life. One 17 year old boy lay on the floor wriggling and writhing about, oblivious to the world. His widowed mother looked on in desolation as her only hope lay in front of her eyes, unaware of the poverty and harshness that they lived in. I’ve heard it said that there are around 5 or 6 experiences during our lifetime that will change us forever. This was certainly one of them.
The plan was for both Jack and I to be involved with the Sports Academy Branch of OAM. As I am sure you all know our plans quickly changed as Jack snapped ligaments in his shoulder and found himself under a surgeon‟s knife! I would like to point out that Jack was, in almost judo like fashion, flung helplessly to the floor by a fellow female team member. Jack still likes to forget this bit of the story and denies all charges. Anyhow, this allowed him to do other things which didn‟t include the use of his right shoulder. One morning he took a Bible Study in another township Blanco, whilst the rest of the team helped at the Sports Academy.
Time and space does not permit me to speak about our other activities while we were away. But in short we were involved with helping out at crèches, feeding schemes and we spent time in the townships every day. It was an amazing 2 weeks and I know the after effects of it will be felt for many years to come."
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Jack Fleming with OUT OF AFRICA MISSIONS
Two years ago I had visited George, in the Western Cape of South Africa to work with the charity Out of Africa Missions as part of an Exodus team. Since that time, I always knew that I wanted to return and this summer I had the opportunity to do so. Out of Africa Missions is a charity which works in the townships surrounding the coastal town of George. Their work includes community outreach such as practical labour, knitting clubs, food-drops, sports outreach and partnerships along with much more, developing relationships and spreading the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ within the community.
After 35 hours of exhausting travel, we arrived in the tiny George airport to be picked up by an Out of Africa Missions volunteer and were taken to where we would stay for the next month. To our surprise we were greeted by a roomful of excited American girls who we, unbeknown to us, would be spending the next few weeks with, serving in the local community along with some other volunteers from good old ‘Norn Iron’.
The next month was spent working in the local township of Blanco. Specifically in the area known as the ‘Golden Valley’. The outreach in this area was of special significance, as the people who lived in this part of the region were considered by the rest of the community as ‘immigrants’ or ‘outsiders’ as they had been forced into the township during apartheid. There is also one of the highest rates of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world and, from this, it is clear that this broken community is in desperate need of help. My job was focused on giving practical help to those who needed it whilst also getting the opportunity to work with some of the local young men. We played rugby together twice a week and then had a Bible Study once a week. From this we were seeking to develop the young men into leaders in a community that desperately needed them. Culturally, men tend to be absent in family life in Blanco and it was sad to see the lack of male role-models and the impact that it had on the younger generation.
Another ministry that OAM were involved with was ‘Food Drop’. Every Tuesday and Thursday, some local women would cook up some soup and it was our job to help distribute this soup around the area to those who needed it. For some people, these two meals a week were the only proper meals that they were having so it was clearly a hugely important part of OAM’s work. Allowing the help to come from within the area means that the food drop is no longer completely reliant on overseas missions teams and volunteers. It was such an honour to be able to go around and meet some of the people who were receiving the food, praying with them and just generally building relationships. Their faith was so apparent and, even though they had so few material possessions, they were completely content with what God had given them and sure that He would cover any needs that they had.
Even though this was my third time in South Africa, each day was a fresh challenge and it was an absolute honour getting to know every person with whom I came in contact. If I was able to give even a tiny portion of what I received from the people of OAM and Blanco, I know that my time there will have been well spent.