South Africa: That They Will Have Strength

6_esther The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa (EPCSA), formerly known as the Tsonga Presbyterian Church, resulted from work of the Swiss Mission in South Africa that began in the Northern Transvaal in 1875.

Today the Rev. Esther Maringa serves as the church’s Health Co-ordinator. On the EPCSA Health Desk, Esther works to promote the livelihood of communities by promoting health awareness and to improve the quality of life for people with chronic and progressive illnesses, including HIV and AIDS.

The EPCSA’s HIV and AIDS programme seeks to provide its clergy, staff, and members access to information and training for ministers; testing and counseling for HIV at an individual’s voluntary request; and support for those affected and infected by the pandemic.

The denomination’s policy statements affirm that the church will: raise HIV and AIDS issues as high priority on the church agenda; promote and affirm human rights, dignity, justice, and the value of life by breaking silence and reducing stigma and discrimination; promote sexual abstinence for those not yet married and faithfulness in marriage; address practices that increase the risk of HIV transmission; provide care and support to those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS; reach out to vulnerable groups–orphans, widows, and widowers; and collaborate with other churches, governments, faith based organisations, and non-governmental organisations.

Esther told of several ways the EPCSA lives into their visions and policies. Twenty ministers and eighty members have been trained (in partnership with the South Africa Council of Churches) to help spread the word about the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the facts of transmission. The church fights HIV/AIDS from the pulpit–equipping preachers to tell the facts and address the stigma. Esther told of one congregation that provides food to orphaned children in 116 homes. Another congregation dug up its front yard to put in a garden that now provides food.

General Secretary, the Rev. Titus Mobbie, and Moderator, the Rev. Dixon Masangu, met with us. They shared their support for Esther’s work, asking us to pray for her and for others who are in leadership in the EPSCA’s health ministry–pray that they will have strength for the task to which God has called them.

Photo of Christy Kittrell, the Rev. Esther Maringa, and the Rev. Janet Guyer by Kyle Kittrell.

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