I am writing to update you on the COVID situation in South Africa. Use the information in any way you see fit. Could I ask you to remember the Umngeni Circuit in your prayers? The long awaited election for a new bishop is scheduled to take place on August 24th. That is an important first step in healing and regaining stability in their church. The COVID virus has been really difficult for them as well. The following note contains excerpts from an email I received from Dean Myaka a few weeks ago. He reports their infection rate is dropping now. There are striking similarities and marked differences in our situations and reactions to the serious problem. (The dates are written with the month before the date.)
In Christ - Peg Hatlestad, Chairperson Crow River Conference Companion Committee
“It has been three months since South Africa’s patient zero was diagnosed coronavirus positive on 05.03.2020 in Hilton near Pietermaritzburg, KwazuluNatal. The local municipality of this area is Umngeni, sharing a name and location with our Circuit. This has since sent shock waves in our area which is regarded as the global epicenter of the HIV pandemic and many chronic illnesses.…..The affected are not just numbers and statistics but members of our families, our church, our communities, friends and colleagues. It is scary! As a church we are also allowed to go back to church services under strict regulations e.g. maximum of 50 attendees intense screening etc. We haven't reopened in our Circuit. We are sanitizing churches and getting back to basics before we can think of reopening. We last had service with communion before 20.03.20202. All conferences were postponed. Our churches are deserted and becoming soft targets for criminals. We are trying to hold the fort through family services and sending video, voice and short sms messages. Virtual live streaming is possible but for few. Crime and domestic violence has increased. We are scared. We have never thought we could face such challenge in our life time. It is by God's grace that we are still alive. Despite all this many are holding on to faith. But we are scared!
We prepared for a sprint whereas we are in for a marathon. We await the “new normal” with mixed feelings of anxiety and hope. Government is doing its best and we support all measures painful as they are. However, government cannot win this battle on its own. We need all hands on deck…….
Services are still going to be conducted in the confines of family setting and other residential places for quite some time. This challenges our concept of “church” as we are used to it. There is need for mutual support in all areas and we need to learn to cut on wasteful and fruitless expenditure in order to focus on essentials and to unlearn a lot in a short space of time. Now is the time to practice Christian neighborliness and Ubuntu.
Through the coronavirus, God is teaching us some lessons about our faith and about each other, although this is not to say that coronavirus is God sent. We would appreciate to hear and learn from you our partners in this regard.
Sorry for such a long message. I'm pouring out my thoughts. May God richly bless and protect you.”
From Dean NM Myaka 10.06.2020
Pastor Megan finds that she rarely has all the right answers, but tries to help her community ask better questions.