Riding for South Africa

Whenever you turn on the news or look through social media, I’m sure you see countless stories of things going on in the world. Sometimes it can feel like information overload, and all too often the stories are disheartening and troublesome. 

With the emergence of social media, blogs, and very simple-to-make websites, it has become easier and easier for each of us to not only consume information, but to also be creators and distributors of content. Whether or not this is a blessing or a curse is yet to be seen. Perhaps a bit of both.

In my own writing, I have tried to be cognizant of the responsibility I have to those who read my blog. I have tried to focus on topics and issues that are relevant and that I think people need to, or want to read about. Sometimes I try to write devotionals meant to uplift and encourage us in our journeys of faith. But today’s post is a bit different, and I feel the need to preface it so that you don’t feel any obligations at the end.

This is a story of what I believe to be exciting work of connection and partnership between Anabaptist churches around the world. 

In my last job, when I worked for Mennonite Church Canada as a graphic designer, I had the chance to meet amazing people. The workplace was a community that supported each other and where we built lasting friendships. Two of these people were Hippolyto Tshimanga and Miriam (Maenhout) Tshimanga.

The story of how they arrived in Canada is amazing in and of itself, but the knowledge and experience they brought with them was inspiring to me. I went to visit their home many times and had lots of conversations about gardens, sustainability, and even aquaponics. I remember popping in to Hippo’s office for a quick question and leaving half an hour later with a booklet on soil.

All of their interests had a purpose - to see how they might support Christians in third-world conditions with business ventures and to help churches abroad become self-sufficient. They thought global while experimenting in their own backyard.

I was delighted when I heard, about two years ago, that they had been called to serve as Witness Workers with Mennonite Church Canada in South Africa. They had been invited by five Mennonite churches, called Grace Community Church (GCC), near the area of Bloemfontein.

They “serve in the areas of leadership development, Bible and ministry training, women and family ministries, capacity building, and understanding identity and spirituality from an Anabaptist perspective. Their ministries involve visiting congregations, relating to pastors and other ministry leaders and sharing teaching, resources and experiences.” (Excerpt taken from their support page)

Hippo and Miriam.jpg

I was even more delighted when our Missions and Service committee at Sterling showed an interest in an intentional partnership with the Witness Workers we already support. As it turned out, we decided to partner with Miriam and Hippo. The Canadian Mennonite wrote a great article about their work and partnerships.

Over the past few months we have enjoyed connecting with them through Skype and their newsletters. We even had a live Skype call during one of our Sunday morning worship services. I’m excited for the different ways our church has wanted to connect and learn from GCC, and the many ideas they have for fundraising and support.

One of the things we’ve learned about GCC is that out of the five churches, only one has a building. Recently they have been able to acquire a machine to make bricks as a way to raise some funds, as well as to build church buildings in which they could worship. In North America we are so blessed with our extravagant churches, and we like the idea of supporting churches around the world so that our Christian brothers and sisters can have places to meet.

On September 30, we are joining in the Ride for Refuge to raise money for Miriam, Hippo and GCC. Our team is called the Sterling Storm (amazing, I know). All our riders will be tasked with raising money that will support the ministry in South Africa. We hope this is a positive start to a great partnership opportunity.

The reason I share this is because I’m excited about this story, Miriam, Hippo, and Grace Community Church. Again, you have so many stories coming at you and countless appeals for help. That is great. We should all support the organizations we are passionate about. But if you feel interested in joining in our ride, or if you would like to donate to our team, we would love that too. You can learn more and donate here.