I was reading this Guardian newspaper article about Desmond Tutu, and came across mention of Paul Verryn, who is a bishop in the Methodist church in South Africa, and minister at Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg… I know Paul through my remarkable friend Penny Foley, who has been working in community development in South Africa for the last 16 or 17 years, and who is very involved with the work of Central Methodist [UCA readers might have read about Penny on p 2 of the latest issue of Crosslight].
That’s a long introduction to set a context for this: Penny’s been talking recently about the devastating financial situation for the Central Methodist Mission, which, for the last couple of years has been hosting around 3000 refugees – most of them Zimbabwean. The church didn’t design a program for refugees and set up a charity – they simply found refugees turning up to the church one day, and knew that they couldn’t shut the door on them.
Whatever money they had is running out, and it would be catastrophic to have to shut this down… It costs them $12000 per month just for water. Penny said in the email today, ‘the pipes are leaking. We have 500 kids in a school with six class rooms. We have babies born every week…’
I think the frightening thing is that there is no backup plan for the people who rely on what the church can offer for day to day survival; South Africa doesn’t have the capacity to offer social support to refugees… It’s frightening to think about what this means for people who rely on the church. But action’s always a better option than fear: information about the mission and their work – along with ways we can donate – is here…