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Johannesburg - St. Columba's

St. Columba

I have spent the last week with the wonderful folks of St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church in the Parkview neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. I have learned so much about both the ministry of their congregation and South African history. In this post, I will update you on my experience with St. Columba’s ministries – stay tuned for a post about my encounter with 20th century South African History.

With my wonderful hosts, Ruth and Peter

First of all, the hospitality and openness of St. Columba’s were remarkable. I was welcomed warmly, stayed with gracious hosts, and was even welcomed into the St. Columba’s staff. Each morning the staff begins the day with a short meeting – time to read Scripture, discuss what is happening in the church, community, and world, and finally finishing with prayer. On Tuesday, the first day I was around, I got to know the staff and attended a funeral that was being conducted at the church. In the evening I attended a beautiful choir and organ concert. It was the first time I had heard an organ and that style of choir in over a year – it was magnificent. Tuesday afternoon I also went to Liliesleaf, then Wednesday was a day of outings at the Apartheid Museum and the Constitutional Court (more on that in the next post).

Love one another as I have loved you

On Thursday I got to go along with Penny, who is active in many of the outreach ministries of St. Columba’s. That particular morning she was going to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital. She had a bag of blankets to drop off and also toothbrushes and toothpaste for the kids. We went through two of the hospital wards handing out the toothbrushes and toothpaste. One ward was for pre-teen kids, the other for babies. Some of the kids were sleeping, while others greeted us with smiles. Penny was great with the kids, chatting with them and even sharing a few jokes. Then we visited the Kangaroo Ward, a ward for mothers with premature babies. These babies need to be kept warm, so the mothers keep them in just a diaper, wrapped next to their body (usually on their chest) most of the time. For a mother and child to be placed in this ward, the baby must be under 1.7 kilograms (3.75 pounds) and otherwise healthy. The rooms were very nice, with a bed, chair, and side table for each mother. Penny works very hard to serve the community and spends many hours sorting though clothes, delivering supplies, and visiting folks all around Jo’burg each week. She has a few helpers but could definitely use more. Please be praying that Penny will be encouraged as she continues this ministry and that others would be call to work alongside her.

A mother and her baby in the Kangaroo Ward

On my last day with St. Columba’s, Friday, started early. I was at the church at 7.30am to help with the soup kitchen that runs Monday through Saturday. Members of the church take turns preparing soup and simple sandwiches for 20-30 of the homeless folks in the area. Then after the morning meeting with the staff, I visited the Sinenhlanhla Support Group in Soweto. This is a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. There is still stigma associated with HIV/AIDS here and people are often ostracized from their families and communities if they come out that they are HIV positive. This support group seeks to be a place where people with HIV can share their struggles and encourage one another. The group is run by an amazing woman, Phindile, who is HIV positive herself. She was in a support group that met at St. Columba’s and felt called to start a support group in Soweto, which she did. The group has about 20 people who meet on Wednesdays. Phindile has an amazing story and is a great example that people with HIV can lead long, meaningful lives when they take care of themselves and one another. In a place where announcing your status means being cut out of the community she is a brave voice and an encourager to others living with HIV/AIDS. When I asked her what the name of her group, Sinenhlanhla, meant she said, “We are lucky to be alive.” For the generations before, HIV was a death sentence. Now HIV can be managed by ARVs and a healthy lifestyle. Phindile is helping those living with HIV to realize the blessing of their lives and fighting against the stigma of HIV/AIDS. 

Gladys and Phindile at Sinenhlanhla

I had a great time with St. Columba’s. In many ways it is similar to MAPC. These folks who have much and are seeking to follow Jesus Christ are using what they have been given to bless others. I was inspired by this congregation and was sad to say goodbye so soon. Please pray for St. Columba’s, that they will continue to serve their community and be drawn ever nearer to our God. 

Posted October 13, 2012


Will pray for them and you. One Q. I understand the white, black and mixed churches have united in SA. Is that change reflected at St. Columba's? Does the change - or absence of it -- affect them?

Carolyn L Patterson on October 15, 2012

Wonderful! I esp. love the kangaroo ward! :D

Liz Jones on October 23, 2012

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