Most South Africans, including children and young people, belong to church. In spite of this, as Tim Hastie-Smith discovered, they need mission beyond the church walls as much as we do here in the UK. He explains the challenges, how Scripture Union South Africa (SUSA) is rising to them, and shares an exciting opportunity for you to help.
‘People still openly talk about faith in South Africa, but there are different interpretations of what “faith” means. For example, there has been a rapid rise in new churches founded by untrained but charismatic leaders who promote scripturally unsound but popular ideas such as the prosperity gospel.
‘It’s the cultural norm here for children and young people to go to church. Faith is formed in childhood and, because they may have been exposed to a flawed version of Christianity, SUSA needs to present children and young people with a clear and accurate gospel message. (In that respect, there are parallels with the challenge we have in the UK of sharing the gospel with children and young people who aren’t part of a church.) Once they understand it correctly, young South Africans are often very receptive to the good news of Jesus.
"Once they understand it correctly, young South Africans are often very receptive to the good news of Jesus."
‘SUSA is trying to challenge the inaccurate teaching in some churches, but because that will take time, it’s often quicker and easier for them to share the good news of Jesus directly with children and young people in those communities. They do this in partnership with those churches whose theology is sound, training up congregation members to run after schools clubs, holiday clubs, camps and missions. SUSA staff, having seen some of our 95 Campaign mission initiatives on visits to the UK, are keen to embrace some of these as well. For example, many young South Africans now have access to the internet at school, so this summer SUSA plans to launch Guardians of Ancora. It has the exciting potential to reach many more of South Africa’s children and young people than SUSA and their church partners can through direct mission.
Meeting physical needs
‘The gospel is inextricably linked with social justice. South Africa has one of the largest inequality gaps in the world. For ministry here to be effective, physical needs must also be met. So SUSA runs camps for children who live in orphanages, townships or on the streets, with the costs covered by local and foreign benefactors. In schools, SUSA teaches life skills to young people to enable them to make wise and healthy lifestyle choices that will help them flourish and live life in all its fullness. And they also encourage better-resourced churches to partner with poorer ones to promote community-based mission. ‘To sum up the mission situation in South Africa, it really is a case of the harvest being plentiful and the workers way too few. So this July, a team of Scripture Union staff and volunteers will fly out from the UK to help run street missions in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. And there’s an opportunity for you to join them!
‘One of our trainee young leaders, Matt Godfrey, was on such a visiting team a couple of years ago and ended up returning as a volunteer for three years. So being on this year’s team could deepen your faith, even change your life – it certainly changed his!’
Volunteer in South Africa this summer
If you’re 16+ and have worked with children and young people, why not apply to join the UK team that’s going to South Africa for two weeks?
If you’re accepted, you’ll need to organise your own insurance and flight to Johannesburg. Internal flights to Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, accommodation and food will cost an additional charge of around £250. To find out more and register your interest, please contact Margaret Lilley.
Read more stories from Connectin You
This story featured in our supporter and prayer magazine, Connecting You. Read Connecting You online here.
- Connecting You