Dear Mrs. Nemathaga, dear Care Group members in Devhula/Lebowa parishes,
I greet you with joy in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has made us one, for we belong to One Family of God.
From 1956-1966 I have lived among your people, and 1966-1968 I was called to the Bible School of Didibeng at Masealama. Then I married Wilhelm Steffens, a Lutheran pastor from Germany, and returned to my home country. Since 1975 I have come back many times visiting the Prayer Women and lecturing on their invitation. I know I have a home in Venda. In 2001 I returned with Mufarisi wanga and my last born son Matthias Tebogo. Ndo takala u vhona vhanzhi vha dzikhonani dza kale. Naho ndi kule fhano, ndi vha elelwa thabeloni nga misi.
Reports of my encounters with Support Groups in 2005
Lutheran Community Centre Themba La Bantu — Philippi / Cape Town
Here I like to give you brief reports on my experience of my last visit in Jan/Febr 2005. My main emphasis was to give spiritual and practical support and also financial assistance to those groups which are active fighting HIV/AIDS.
Mid-January 2005 I have been invited to the Lutheran Community Centre THEMBA LA BANTU at Cape Town. So far they have been and still are very busy with producing stars from beads. With me they started a sewing project for which I could sponsor a sewing machine from donations I had received. The young women and men working at this centre confess that they are HIV- positive. We worked together, prayed together, and shared our hopes and sorrows. Some of them get antiretroviral treatment which strengthens them so much that they are able to work.
At the centre they live in a healing community being united in this support group. Here they feel safe without being stigmatized or discriminated against as they experienced in the township Philippi where they come from. Rev. Otto Kohlstock (formerly at Polokwane) is the Director of the Centre. They call him their “Father”.
The hungry people from the township come for daily feeding. The beautiful stars the groups produce are sold overseas. Thus they earn money. They are happy to buy substantial food for themselves and for their children. By sharing their painful experiences, by laughing and praying together they gain new hope, self-confidence and self-respect. They learn to be reconciled to their families. Through the Sunday Services they get new confidence in God, and some are baptized.
I learned that such a community offers healing of body and soul, healing of the family and the individual. Many people all over the world have come to know this:
Health is not primarily a medical problem. Poverty, violence, and humiliations cause sickness and depressions. In a support group healing takes place in manifold ways through the love of Christ as it becomes visible in accepting and helping one another.
Sekhukhune Counselling and Care Centre — Jane Furse
As I travelled on I met 40 young people of different support groups at Jane Furse. We were talking, singing and praying together. I was deeply impressed that some of them readily confessed their status:
I am HIV positive though I am strong. I believe in God. I have got hope for my life.
Two elderly ladies, devoted Christians, are in charge of this group. Assisted by others they renovate an empty parsonage and plan to start a sewing and a baking project there. Here the infected persons and people suffering from poverty want to cooperate.
Masealama Information Centre (Mic)
I felt encouraged when I saw the work of the volunteers at Masealama Information Centre. They get a good practical training in Home Based Care and do this work in the surrounding villages. They also care for the orphans and give them food.
Botlokwa Care and Support Group
I enjoyed a very warm welcome by Mrs. G. Mohale, Mrs. Malema and the group members. They could start their beadwork project with a small donation which I handed over to them during my visit in 2003. Now they surprised me with wonderful beadworks the group had made and asked me to sell it in Germany. I have done so. Here many ladies now wear the colourful necklaces and thus are united with the people in South Africa.
Tshakhuma Parish Group
At Tshakhuma I was welcomed by the group that cares for the orphans. They run a garden project. I learned about the manifold activities of the Tshakhuma Parish Health Committee. Here as in Botlokwa it was very encouraging for me to see how the parish pastors give Biblical messages and prayer support to the group members.
Spiritual Summary and Thanks
In February 2005 I stayed in your circuit only for a weekend. Though I was not able to meet many of you, I was deeply impressed by the fact that so many Christians in South Africa serve as the living hands of our merciful Saviour Jesus Christ. In his name they look out for those who are in need and who are sometimes isolated from their families and the community. They stretch our their hands, nurse and feed them, care for the orphans and the old-aged people without a family. They build a bridge of hope and love towards those who are in physical and spiritual need. They encourage them through the Word of God and prayer. They give them the assurance that we are all children of God. By doing so they believe in the words of Christ:
Henefho he na zwi ita munwe wa vharathu vhanga vhenevha vhatuku-tuku, no ita nne. (Mateo 25,40)
I thank you for what you are doing already in this way or what you plan to do by starting a Support Group in your congregation or parish. There may be many difficulties in doing so, but trust in the Word of God which is true:
Ngauri Mudzimu a huna tshithu tshine a sa tshi kone. (Luka 1, 37)
Report about projects in our Heiligenrode parish
The truth of this Word of God I also experienced here in our parish. The Lord opens doors that seemed to be shut so far. I have often reported about the situation in your country and how many of your Christians share with those who are in need, but I found little support.
Since 5 years, we have an African pastor from ELCSA Eastern Diocese, Rev. Zwanini Shabalala and his family from Swaziland. Now little by little the interest in the situation of the people and the Christians in Southern Africa grows through his presence and service.
Another hopeful sign is the growing concern for AIDS orphans in the Ev. Luth. Church in Malawi (ELCM) where I was called 5 times to give further training to the women leading groups in the Church.
Three years ago I started a project binding wreaths to be sold here for the benefit of orphans in the ELCM. Every year I made up to 200 wreaths with my own hands, supported by some women of the congregation. I sold the wreaths made from green branches at basars and many other occasions as people like them for decorating their doors for Christmas. The outcome is used for giving scholarships to orphans and coworkers’ children in the ELCM.
I was very happy that members of our parish joined me in this project. Others even started a new project of baking scons and selling them for the benefit of orphans. Another lady, a church elder, made a special marmelade and sold it for the same purpose. Others are knitting stockings or painting congratulations cards.
A further step has been taken by our Parish Council. They agreed to open a CARE GROUP FIGHTING HIV/AIDS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA. This group is supposed to build a bridge between your Care and Support Groups and ours. I thank God that this step is possible now. We want to assist you in your task as far as limited voluntary gifts permit. We pray that our people here realize that we all live by sharing spiritually and practically: As we give we shall receive
We want to get into contact with you. We therefore shall be happy if you answer this letter and let us know your own ideas and problems. Share your hopes and sorrows with us. Let us participate in your faith, your plans and projects, in your love to God and Jesus Christ and to your neighbours. We like to be one with you in intercession and faith that the Father answers prayers and that Christ is among us as Healing Communities grow in our congregations. This will also be a step forward in the transformation of our Churches which we need here in Germany as much as in Southern Africa.
If you are ready to start a project of your support group or for it you may make an application to
Mrs. Hanna Steffens HIV/AIDS CARE GROUP HEIILIGENRODE Heckenweg 5 D 28816 Heiligenrode / Germany
We shall try to find donors for reasonable amounts up to R 3,000.–. Please give some details about the self-help project and the envisaged costs. Looking forward to your reply by airmail or email I send you warm greetings.
Yours in Christ, Hanna Steffens