Cathy Mark's final stint in Matlosane Diocese
After a sad farewell to Reverend Isaac and friends at Lichtenburg (the time with them passed too quickly), I was whisked away by Reverend Mbele to Itsoseng. This, approximately a forty minute drive, via the Education Board offices where we met a number of church council members who I would be seeing later that evening at a social. After our time at the Education Board offices, we went to meet with the Mothers Union (MU) and Anglican Women’s Fellowship (AWF) who had put on a programme to welcome me in their parish. Both organisations spoke of their histories and focus within their communities. In illustration, some of the projects that the Mother’s Union (and indeed the AWF) engage with are: school shoes drive, visiting the sick, hospice help (e.g. washing laundry), handiwork (e.g. knitting blankets), growing a vegetable garden (although this has had to be suspended due to a lack of water in this area – more on this later), praying together, attending conferences and various training events, social outreaches, and being involved in the spiritual development of others. The agenda for the morning included lots of song, dance and hashtags. For example – #wow or #standupanddoyourthing – followed many of the presentations. So quirky and fabulous! I was asked to give a talk to the group. Another on-the-spot and impromptu opportunity. I spoke on mothers/mother figures being the pillars of such communities and encouraged them not to give up on their children and youth (this emerging from all I’d been hearing about the concerns of townships and rural communities). I reflected on my relationship with my mother – difficult in my teens – but my mother never gave up on me… she sowed many tears, love and prayers over the years… and, I truly believe I am who I am today because of her faith in God. Again, Kgowe translated for me and did a grand job. Following this, I had a couple of hours to settle into my home for the next two nights, living with the priest-in-charge and family in their rectory. In the evening, we travelled back to Lichtenburg where the Lay Minister of St Peter’s Church and his wife had organised a social event to celebrate my arrival in their parish. Again, it was another wonderful occasion of food, fun and fellowship. The motto here being, “we don’t want you to feel at home… we want you to be at home.” What a wonderful perspective on generous and sacrificial hospitality.
The sprawling and extensive parish of Itsoseng has sixteen chapelries in its rural outstations. Supporting these communities are a priest-in-charge (Reverend Mbele), curate (Reverend Leboe) and two self-supporting ministers (Reverends Maboe and Moiloa). All incredibly committed to the communities they serve. From 10 am to 4 pm, we travelled around this rural community to visit many of these chapelries. St Marks (Bodibe), St Pauls (Bodibe), All Souls (Matshepe), St Augustine (Meetmekaar), All Saints (Driehoek), Christ the King (Brooksby), St Matthews (Kalpaan), St Simon and Jude (Moodgedacht), to name a few. Features of this landscape include: expansive corn fields; farmyards with goats, chickens, and other animals; donkeys carrying people and goods from various parts of the community; track roads full of potholes. The key issues in this parish, as identified by the priest-in-charge are: drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, unemployment, civil unrests arising due to the lack of service provision, namely water. In fact, this morning, Mrs Mbele had to fill my bath with water boiled in an urn and kettle because there was no running water from the taps. A real point of contention in these parts, which has led to strikes and protests – and I saw the evidence of this in burnt down shops and grassland. Food and fellowship flowed throughout the day. And, after a full and exhilarating day, we came home ready for another evening social. The Men’s Fellowship were to prepare Braai for us. I managed a good long walk around Itsoseng with two young servers. It was illuminating to see the place from a different perspective – on foot. And, the walk helped with digesting all the food eaten earlier in the day, prior to this next meal. Back in the UK, a friend of mine who grew up in SA warned me that South Africans do enjoy eating a lot of meat – and my goodness is he right! Not only meat eaters, but real food lovers around that ethos of sharing in community and fellowship.
An early start for me today. I woke up at 6 am and readied myself for a 7 am service. Today was a special service, where we would be unveiling two tomb stones. The service was in two parts – at the church and at the cemetery. It was interesting to observe a service being conducted interchangeably in four languages: Setswana, Xosa, Zulu and English. It was a privilege to take part in the service: at the church, pray for the children and serve the chalice during holy communion; at the graveside, say prayers alongside the other clergy and sprinkle water on the tombstones as a blessing (a first for me). Not surprisingly, an elaborate meal followed! Then, by early afternoon, it was time to head back to the rectory and pack my bags in preparation for my trip back to Klerksdorp with Lebogang and Letlhogonolo (which means ‘Lucky’). We were picked up at 4 pm. Although sad to leave so many good friends behind (at Lichtenburg and Itsoseng), it was good to see the Bishop and his family again and update them with all my adventures in the diocese. My prayer is that I will have a future opportunity to visit this wonderful diocese again. So many ordinary people doing extraordinary things to God’s glory!
Tomorrow, the UK team arrive… and we’ll be off to Hands at Work in White River. Do pray for our journeys, for God’s protection and provision. IJN. Amen.