Saturday, December 10, 2011

No CD4, No Initiation

 Sithembile Matsenjwa is 47 this year and lives in Maphiveni with her husband.  She and her husband were tested by CHIPS in February 2009 and both are HIV+.  Blood was drawn in 2009 to check their CD4 counts.  Both of their CD4 counts were above the threshold for being initiated on ART.  Every 4-6 months CHIPS would re-draw blood to check their CD4 counts.  The threshold for starting ART in Swaziland is 350 now.
In November our staff began relaying instances where the government labs refused to take blood samples for follow up tests due to lack of reagents.  Follow up CD4 counts are performed for people like Sithembile who are still above the threshold to begin ART and for people who are on ART to check that the drugs are effective.  The Swazi Times reported on the situation in November as well.
Sithembile with Mary dos Santos, CHIPS HIV Counselor
What does this mean for Sithembile and her husband?  It means even though they know they are HIV+, they will have no way of knowing when their CD4 count has dropped beneath the threshold so they will not be able to begin ART.  The natural progression of HIV from infection to onset of AIDS is typically 5 to 10 years.  Sithembile, her husband, and many more know they are living with a clock that is ticking down.  Their only hope for delaying or stopping that clock is access to anti-retrovirals.
CHIPS tries to lend encouragement (and slip in blood samples for recounts when we can).   
Sithembile and so many like her and her husband are casualties of the financial crisis gripping the Kingdom of Swaziland.  So while the government had stated that health care would remain untouched, it is in fact already affected in a very real way.  While we can't support the entire country, we are looking for a way to source the reagents needed if only for the Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki that we work directly with.  If you can help with this specific need or want additional information, please contact us. 
We know with your help we can continue to make a real difference in the lives of the marginalized and forgotten in Maphiveni.
"Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people." Psalm 82:3 & 4

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Simphiwe M. - 10 years old
Simphiwe has been on ARV’s since 2009.  Her health has always been frail.  In August 2010 she suffered a right stroke and was transported by CHIPS in a critical condition to Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki.  She was in a coma for two weeks and spent an additional six weeks slowly recovering.  She is now able to walk and talk but it has left her with some deficits in learning and mobility.
CHIPS sustains Simphiwe through providing transport to the hospital for her ART Refills and doctors’ visits to GSH.  She has recently had a hearing screen because it was noted she was very hard of hearing; perhaps due to ART.
The long term future for her is uncertain as she is unable to attend government primary school:  it is a long distance to walk and she tires easily, she has fallen far behind the other children of her age.  Her hearing problems also make it difficult to attend school.  Her family are looking into the possibility of placing her in a special residential school here in Swaziland.
CHIPS makes regular visits to the homestead to encourage the family to continue the physiotherapy and to assess any new problems while offering encouragement and praying with them.

There are nine other children living at the homestead.  The father works as a casual labourer for the sugar corporation.
            Simphiwe M.'s CHIPS History
Visit Date
Site Name
Service Offered
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
HIV Test
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Initiation
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Initiation
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill, CD4
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill
Good Shepherd ART Clinic
ART Refill

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Missionary's Prayer

He might ask the same of you
(Kendall Payne)

He gave us plenty, plenty to share, and the good sense to know what’s fair.
He gave us power, the knowledge of right. He gave us strength to brave a fight.

So we have no excuse and no defense.
There is not one that can plead innocent.
We have a shameful state of tolerance.

So you pray to God asking Him to intervene,
To set it right, to stand up for the weak and the unseen.
And still you pray to God ask Him what He’s gonna do?
But He might ask the same of you.

He gave us riches, more than enough to fill both hearts and hunger up.
He gave us Jesus who died to proclaim, “As you have seen in me do the same”.

We are all connected,
We are all affected,
When one loves their brothers,
There’s no “us” and “others”.

So we pray to God with our days from dust to dust.
Is there a better world to have? It seems there must be.
And still we pray to God, when will He make it just?
But He might ask the same of us.
Yes, He might ask the same of us.

© 2010 Kendall Payne

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Called to Serve, Baton Rouge Advocate

In today's Baton Rouge Advocate! Called to Serve
Former BR residents work to build health-care center in Swaziland

The Rehmeyer family left Baton Rouge the same weekend Hurricane Katrina was churning off the Louisiana coast, but they were not fleeing the mighty storm.

The family — Daran, his wife, Teresa, and their four children ages 7 to 14 — were headed to Swaziland to do missionary work. Swaziland is Africa’s smallest country and the country with the world’s highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, Daran Rehmeyer said.

Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer, who have been living in Swaziland since 2005, hope to establish a community health center in a remote area of the country.

Donations from the Peace One Day Musical Window to the World concert, a free event planned for Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, will go toward establishing the center, as well as to a local organization, the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center.

Prior to moving to Swaziland, Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer were living in Baton Rouge, raising their four children.

Teresa Rehmeyer was working as a nurse, and Daran Rehmeyer had a successful engineering services company, he said.

He had worked in ministry in Baton Rouge’s inner city, but as his children grew older, he started to devote more time to their activities, Daran Rehmeyer said.

In late 2004, he said, he felt he needed to return to ministry work, so he became involved with Healing Place Church.

Rehmeyer said he imagined stuffing envelopes, but instead, the late Dave Ohlerking, founder of Children’s Cup International Relief, invited him to visit Swaziland.

Teresa Rehmeyer agreed to visit the country, but she made it clear she had no intention of leaving Baton Rouge permanently, Daran Rehmeyer said.

Daran Rehmeyer felt differently.

“My heart was already set on ‘this is where I want to be,’” Daran Rehmeyer said.

He chose to keep his mouth shut and let God do the talking.

“You could really hear God’s voice and the direction he wanted you to go,” Daran Rehmeyer said of the trip.

At the end of two weeks, Teresa Rehmeyer agreed with her husband that the people of Swaziland needed them, but she still had reservations about uprooting their family.

When the couple was hardly home, their oldest daughter came to them and said, “We need to move to Africa and work with the orphans,” Daran Rehmeyer said.

“We took that as close to confirmation (from God) as we could get,” Daran Rehmeyer said.

He sold his business and started raising money for their mission work.

After a short trip to visit family in Baltimore in late August 2005, the family was headed to Swaziland.

Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer work with the Children’s HIV Intervention Programme in Swaziland, or CHIPS, which makes it possible for hundreds of children and caregivers to access lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV and many of the other associated diseases.

Their current proposal is to establish a local clinic in Maphiveni that would allow CHIPS patients nearby access to health care and eventually could be expanded to provide most health-care services to the entire area’s population.

Rehmeyer said he has located a site available for purchase, which includes several existing buildings. One is in fairly good shape, and with renovations, could house the clinic.

Another large building could be renovated and leased out commercially to provide income that would support the long-term operational costs of the clinic.

The purchase price is approximately $483,000, and another $129,000 is being sought for renovation of the commercial development, he said.

The problem with building a stand-alone clinic, Rehmeyer said, is “someone will always be begging for operational funds for that clinic.”

“We feel like we’re getting a fairly good deal,” Daran Rehmeyer said. “Sustainability is the big factor right now.”

Friday, September 02, 2011

Kudvumisa Clinic

This is an exciting time!  We have been pursuing a vision for a clinic in Maphiveni for the past year.  We feel we are in the right place at the right time. 
Daran will be in the US between 5 September and 19 October to raise funds to purchase about 4 acres with close to 30,000 sq. ft. under roof.  What makes this project exciting is the possibility of actually developing a clinic and outreach that could be sustainable in the long term from local income.  Please check out the proposal for the clinic outreach at Kudvumisa Clinic ProposalKudvumisa means to praise in siSwati.  This clinic and community outreach will give people hope in their future and in the God who loves them even in their desperate circumstances.
We need to raise a significant sum.  If you have any contacts or introductions you could possibly make to that end please contact us.

We pray God’s richest blessings!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New NGO Formed in Lubombo

Although not 100% accurate in some of the details, here is an article in today's (16 August 2011) Swazi Observer about CHIPS

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

We Were Being Used in a Scam

We received a note on our blog and someone Google'd us and found our real email addresses to alert us. We are NOT trying to rent an apartment in Philadelphia. While, yes we are always looking for donations to continue our projects here in Swaziland (via our Missionary organization) we would never ask you to send any money via Western Union.

I think the ad has been removed from Craigslist now.

So thanks to the people who took the time to research it and notify us. I hope no one actually sent money to them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Rural Homestead Birth

Just got back from Mbabane Gov Hospital, took our friend Thokozani and his wife and brand new baby in. We tried to get to the homestead in time to take her for delivery. It takes a little over an hour to get to this homestead from town and the roads are really bad. Sometimes there really isn't a road or the road is washing away down the side of the hill! When we arrived Tabile, Thokozani's wife, was up walking around, cleaning up, but obviously in pain. I started asking her about the pains and when they started and how often they were occurring. She looked at me and said, "I already delivered." I felt really stupid! We are so spoiled! I am used to delivery in the hospital and being in bed and having nurses or family help with everything. She was up trying to get cleaned up with blood running down her leg, bending over in pain at intervals.

Anyway, we arrived too late, the baby girl, Bakazile had been born 2 hours earlier. Thokozani's sister helped deliver the baby. I asked what she used to cut the cord and she said a sharp piece of glass and tied the cord off with a piece of thread. The baby was having some difficulty breathing, lots of mucous. I felt really helpless, I had nothing to suction her with or anything. I prayed for her all the way to the hospital as I was holding her. We tried to get her to breast feed and she was not interested. I am very glad we took them, the nurses suctioned the baby to get the mucous out and Tabile had a very bad tear and had to have many internal and external stitches. They will stay overnight at the hospital. We got food for her and a packet of nappies (diapers) for mom and baby to share. They use the baby nappies for mom as a pad for the first 24 hours.

Praise God, mom and baby are safe and well. I am very happy that we were able to be of assistance to this precious family! Pictures of beautiful Bakazile to follow. They asked us what her English name could be and we said Becky.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Hope in Swaziland?

Going out in the communities in the eastern part of Swaziland where our CHIPS program is working makes me think of how I might cope living the way these people live. They have no electricity, no water, no toilets, tubs or showers. They literally have nothing, including enough food or clothes. We do give them clothes and blankets as we have them, but we think that sometimes they sell them for money for food or alcohol. We do help some of them with food also, if they don’t have anything to take their HIV meds with.
Many of the adults and teenagers sit around all day and drink home brew made from whatever fruit they can get and ferment. Currently it is grapefruit. Many of them drink to fill the emptiness in their stomach, and/or the emptiness in their soul. Yes, some are lazy and don’t want or are unable to motivate themselves to move forward. Many of them are happy just to lie around and live on handouts and their home brew. I do get very frustrated at them, but then I think, what would I do? How would I react in the same situation? I really can’t answer that, because I don’t know. We received word from Jabulani yesterday that he received a call about one of our patients: she was found on her way down to the river to drown herself. They went and found her and tried to help her by clothing, feeding, counseling and praying for her as well as getting her back on her medication. Would I be the one that was feeling so helpless and hopeless that I would go to the river to drown myself? Without God, I might be. These people need good medical care, but most of all they need God. You can literally feel the oppression in these communities. These places are Satan’s playground, and the children are the ones that suffer the most at the abuse and/or neglect of drunken parents and caregivers.
The missionaries that help us with this program told me not long ago about a young boy about 8, who was locked in his house (mud and stick hut) by his drunk Gogo (grandma). As she lay outside, passed out drunk, there was a fire and he couldn’t get out. Some neighbors heard him screaming and rescued him. He suffered severe burns and was hospitalized. Only the Lord can protect these little ones! Please help us continue to pray for and help these communities as much as we can!
We do what we can through CHIPS, but have the desire to move forward and offer a beacon of hope in these communities. In our last letter we spoke of our vision to build a clinic and community center. We currently have $10 000 of the $50 000 we need to secure the property. Please help if you can.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maphiveni Clinic: Close to a Reality

In the 6 years we have been working in Swaziland, we have made few “urgent” ministry appeals. God, through our supporters has made sure we have always had our needs supplied.
We communicated with many of you while we were in the States last that God had laid a future ministry plan and direction on our hearts for the communities we have been actively working in eastern Swaziland. The Children’s HIV Intervention Programme in Swaziland (CHIPS) has been a tremendous benefit to the hundreds of HIV+ clients we have been able to literally bring lifesaving medical care while opening doors to share the Gospel in the CHIPS communities. The vision we shared for CHIPS included developing a community health centre in Maphiveni. A health centre in this isolated community could serve thousands vs. the hundreds we are able to help now.
Sustainability of a clinic dependent entirely on donor funds will always be at the mercy of the continued generosity and ability of donors to continue to give. We have the opportunity to develop a different model. We have been looking at a property in Maphiveni for some time now. The property has significant commercial development potential. The clinic sustainability will derive from lease income from the current and future commercial tenants. In other words, the commercial tenants on the property will pay for the operation, maintenance and expansion of the clinic.
We approached the owner in February and subsequently made an offer based on the valuation we had performed. It was rejected. Everyone involved in CHIPS felt God saying ‘just wait.’ Waiting is not something any of us do well. Last week, the owner of the property called us and made a counter offer, which was still below the valuation and not significantly higher than our original offer. We accepted the counter offer.
Our plea now is to raise the monies necessary to purchase the property outright (we want to avoid paying interest to a bank). Our goal is to raise 10% in the next thirty days with the balance in six months. The agreed upon purchase price is 2 900 000 Emalangeni (the current exchange rate is not in our favor and moving in the wrong direction at 6.55 Emalangeni to the U.S. dollar today). In U.S Dollars that is $442 748 (10% is $44 275).
We are trusting God has given the vision and opened doors that just a week ago were firmly closed for moving forward. As well, we trust that He will move on hearts to make this clinic a reality in a community accustomed to being marginalized and passed by.
All donations towards the clinic need to be designated “Maphiveni Clinic.” We have detailed plans and budgets developed for this project. If you would like a copy, please email me and I will forward a copy.
Daran & Teresa Rehmeyer
African Leadership Partners
P.O. Box 994044
Redding, CA 96099

Maphiveni Property Details
1.7078 hectares (4.22 acres)

Existing structures on site:
• Two buildings to house the Health Centre, Community Education Centre and commercial development.
• A home to be developed for Mission Team housing (medical teams for the Health Centre, outreach teams for work in the community, teaching teams for the Community Education Centre).
• Several residential flats.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Statistics are Meaningless

I lost another one of my friends and co-workers to the ravages of HIV. She found out she was positive only after she was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with fungal meningitis. At that time, her CD4 count was found to be 3, when it should be 800 to 1000 normally. People are started on Anti Retro viral drugs here in Swaziland when their CD4 count reaches below 350. All of that detail to say, she was very sick and I was afraid that she would die before I returned from our visit to the States in January. When we returned, I was happy to see that she was back at work and doing much better! The next thing I heard was that she had gone to South Africa to visit her grandfather, who was sick, and then he passed away. The next news I heard was that she had died as well, after her grandfather’s funeral. Her parents said that she was not taking her medicine like she was supposed to, and that is why she got sick again. I am not sure if she just didn’t bring enough medicine with her, or she was not taking it. I am so sad for this loss.
While she was working with me at Breast Cancer Network for the past 2 years, I tried my best to help her see Jesus and let her know that He loved her and had good plans for her. As her boss, I tried to discipline her and still let her know that I loved her and most of all Christ loved her. She also had some mental health issues, and I invited her to attend the monthly mental health group with me. This group meets at the church that I attend and I believe that she and her brother, who came with her a couple of times, received help from this group as well.
I believe that she was placed in my life so that I could be an example to her. Although I was not always a perfect example, I pray that I was able to influence her short life for the good and that she was able to see and know Jesus a little better because of the time that we spent together.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

God is so Good!

God is so good! We just received a huge answer to prayer! Last year God put on our hearts to build a Community Health Center in Maphiveni, where we work with our HIV program, CHIPS. We found a piece of property that we thought would be ideal both for service and sustainability. We made an offer a few weeks ago and it was turned down. We were very disappointed, but still felt that this was the place. So we have been praying and waiting and gave it to the Lord! People just told us yesterday that there is no way that this person would sell to us. This land has been for sale for many years and it was pretty hopeless. So we said, it would be a miracle if this happened. This morning, I was reading my devotion about Elijah praying and believing God for rain even though he saw no clouds until he sent the servant the 7th time, then he saw a cloud the size of a man's hand! Praise God! Daran ran in the house calling me and said you will never believe who just called me! Yes, it was the lady making us an offer! Praise God! Now we have to raise the funding for this, but my God can do anything!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CHIPS has an immediate ministry opportunity/need

Part of our work in the community of Maphiveni in eastern Swaziland is economic empowerment: our goal is families that have the resources to buy their own food, basic necessities, and pay school fees for their children.

To that end we are looking for someone who can begin a project in Maphiveni/Vuvulane to teach and mentor women to sew cloth hand bags for a U.S. market. The volunteer would develop patterns, manage quality, and select cloths and colors. We are looking for someone who has a firm Christian foundation and would be self-motivated to also bring mature spiritual discipleship to the women in these areas.

The need is now. We truly believe God calls people to specific work. He already has a person for this work. We would ask that you help us pray for that specific person to be faithful to their calling.

Please circulate this among your friends.

We know everyone has challenges and issues in their daily lives; some are small, some are huge. We have been honored to be entrusted to help pray for some of these and continue to do so.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Back full steam in Swaziland!

Thank you to everyone who made the trip back to the States enjoyable and successful!
Maphiveni Community Health Centre Update
We have met with ICAP, PACT, Cabrini Ministries, Good Shepherd Hospital, Mbabane Rotary Club and the CHIPS staff in the past two weeks. But maybe most important, we had a meeting with the Indvuna Inkundla for the Maphiveni area this Friday. The Indvuna Inkundla is responsible for representing the Inkundla, a political entity with an elected MP (Member of Parliament), back to the chiefdoms in the Inkundla's constituency. His support and recommendations back to the chief that has jurisdiction over Maphiveni is critical in obtaining the land needed for the health centre. He was confident we should be able to arrange a meeting with the chief in the next week to begin the discussion for land. Please help us pray for favour and confirmed direction in Maphiveni.
The Capital City Rotary Club in Baton Rouge has expressed interest in fund raising for the health centre (the Mbabane Rotary Club would be the partner on this side). The firm of Watts Didier Architects in Baton Rouge has graciously volunteered to develop the construction documents for the health centre.
Experience of a lifetime! ? We have arranged with a local tour operator for fully catered hunting, photo, birding, and fishing safaris in neighbouring South Africa (just across the border from Swaziland). A portion of the fees go directly to supporting the Maphiveni Community Health Centre. Included in the safaris are two days visiting in Swaziland: a traditional homestead and the on-going work at the health centre. Groups of 2 or more can be accommodated. Any interest or questions please email us back!
Other news?
Kids are all back in school. Gabby is in the States: working, attending CNA classes and waiting to finalize plans for college in the fall. Teresa is continuing to volunteer with the Swaziland Breast Cancer Network in the implementation of a cervical cancer diagnoses and treatment program here.
Worn Out
Both of our vehicles are over ten years old (13 and 14 years). And while they are still running today, it is only a question of time before they have to be retired. We are wary of having to drive them out of Swaziland anymore. Even used vehicle costs here are on par or higher than costs in the US. We have suitable replacements in mind (nothing fancy!), but would need extra-ordinary support to be able to replace what we are currently driving.
We hope this note finds you Blessed. We would be honoured to help pray for the needs and challenges in your life!
Daran & Teresa Rehmeyer

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Angels Watching Over Us!

Last Friday on the way home from visiting our CHIPS staff in Vuvulane, I received a call from my son saying that 2 men had been in our yard earlier that day. When I got home, I found out that there had been someone going from gate to gate seeing if anyone was home. No one was at our house that morning because I was in Vuvulane, the kids were at school and my house lady, Anna, had an appointment and was only supposed to come in later in the day. Her appointment was changed and she came around 10am. At 1pm, she looked out the window and saw 2 men standing in the front yard by the gate. When they saw her, they jumped over the wall that has barbed wire on top of it! She started screaming and all of the gardeners and guards from both neighbors and across the street came running and chased them. They got away in a Volvo with South African plates. Anna was shaken when I arrived. I called the police and they showed up about 3 hours later to take a report. By then, the guard and gardeners that had been there when the incident took place were gone. They said they would send an investigator in the morning to ask them questions. (not sure if that ever happened) They told me that these guys have been going all over looking for houses with no one home to break into to get jewelry and electronics. Later that evening the police had a road block down the road from my house. I told them I hope they were looking for the guys that tried to break into our house earlier. Praise the Lord that Anna was there and scared them off. Also, I am so thankful for my neighbors guard and gardeners that tried to help. I am happy that we live in an area that is alert and willing to help us. I sent cookies to all of them today! I pray that the thieves are long gone and do not come back! Praise the Lord for His Faithfulness and Protection!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Jabulani and Mary Graduate

Congratulations to both Jabulani Maziya and Mary Groening. Both are dedicated and crucial employees of CHIPS. Without their dedication and compassion for the members of the CHIPS outreach communities, this program would not be successful or have the impact it is having. They exemplify Christ. Jabulani earned a Diploma of Ministry while Mary earned a Certificate of Ministry with Distinction from the Christian Family Church International Bible School.
We are blessed and privileged to be able to work with both Jabulani and Mary in the ministry God has called and enabled them for!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Syncretism vs. Sold Out

We often deal in Swaziland with a culture which is trying to mix Christianity into traditional beliefs. Here is a very good discourse from a Swazi on this, published in the Swazi Observer 5 Feb 2011 :

The other day I had a severe headache and I asked my son to buy me some tablets from the shop. Before I could take the tablets he gave me a brief lecture; ‘mummy you must pray for these tablets first, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, not in the name of Jesus.

My friend at school told me the devil also produces some tablets in the world of spirits, where there is a different Jesus, not the one from Nazareth.’
I could sense that my son was engulfed by fear of some mystical powers which are capable of inhabiting anything, even pills.
The public is once again gripped by fear caused by a recurring wave of evil cult revelations. The recent confessions reported in the local media have sparked various reactions from the public.
It is, therefore, imperative to seek a sound balance between the two extremes of on one hand denying the very existence of the evil spirits and on the other demonising everything. One possible approach to this subject would be to explore our ‘world’ as Africans to be able to appreciate the predicament we are grappling with now.
Like all Africans, the Swazi indigenous religious orientation is based on a certain consolidated worldview, which is as old as humanity itself. A worldview refers to a comprehensive conception of the world by an individual or a group, from a specific standpoint; it is his/their way of understanding reality.
The beliefs, values and behaviours of a culture stem directly from the worldview. The African worldview is very distinct in its approach in that it makes no clear-cut separation between what is secular and sacred; the world is one, interconnected and indivisible. As one African proverb has stated, ‘our world is like a drum; strike any part of it and the vibration is felt all over.’ Hence, for Africans everything is looked upon in a religious perspective and every form of behaviour is imbued with religious significance. In a succinct analysis of the African worldview, African scholars have identified a six feature framework which explains the salient features underlying an indigenous conception of the world.
For the purposes of this discussion I will just mention one of these aspects, which is the widespread belief in the existence of the world of spirit power. From a primal perspective, a Swazi cannot be alone in the universe; he/she is part of a heavily populated spiritual world of powers or beings, even more powerful and ultimate than himself/herself. For that reason he/she has to live in harmony with the universe, obeying the laws of natural, moral and mystical order. The spirits that populate the universe have different but related classifications. You find them everywhere; in persons, trees, mountains, waterfalls, animals, sun, moon, and so on.
Notable about these spirits is that they are both benevolent and malevolent. The malevolent comprise evil spirits, demons, and occult powers of wizards and witches, which always threaten society with destruction. For an African nothing happens by accident; there are always causes and reasons for whatever misfortune, and a scenario must be established in which the malevolent powers are exposed and subsequently placed in a position where the community can deal with them accordingly. For example, a car accident cannot be caused by bad driving because the driver was drunk; there must be some spirits involved which ultimately caused the accident. Religious personages are, therefore, consulted to analyse events in order to determine cause and effect connections. The prescription that they would make would then provide an escape from the terrors of the evil forces.
What happens, therefore, at conversion, when a Swazi with such a developed religious sense and thought patterns, has an encounter with Christ? He/she does not discard these traditional religious thought patterns; instead he/she interprets this new data in the light of some frame of understanding. This suggests that one’s worldview provides him/her with a ready made key to an understanding of the nature of the universe. Any new religious orientation would appeal to his/her religious instincts and susceptibilities that already existed. To be more precise, for a Swazi who co-exists with a variety of sources of power which impinge upon him/her, what happens at the level of these powers when he/she is converted to Christ? His/her conceptions of evil are not altered, but they are reoriented by Christ who enters the convert’s cosmology as a primary source of power.
To be continued...
I am convinced that for a sustained conversion experience, a person must elevate Jesus Christ to a position of Lordship in his/her power constellation, and keep him there through a Christ honouring lifestyle. Failing which, Christ is reduced to being simply an additional helpful source of power, perhaps equal in power with other lesser spirits. Without being judgmental, it is true that in this era of power hunger, fame and prosperity, it is not easy to ascertain the place of Jesus in another person’s conversion experience; some Christians would no doubt score high on a commercial gospel questionnaire as to the person of Christ.
If Christ has assumed Lordship in your life, and He has assured you protection from all the powers of darkness, that you consciously know, heavily populate the universe, why should you be enslaved by fear? ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.’ Such a declaration does not suggest that one denies the operations of evil forces, it just stretches your world further to realize that ‘greater is He that is in us than the evil one that is in the world….’ After the costly, but necessary Calvary experience of Christ, more than two thousand years ago, Christians pain Christ when they emphasize the ‘spiritual war path’ element than the celebration of His victory over evil. On the other hand the devil is tickled and amused to see Christians frustrated and threatened by his presence. I guess he interprets this special attention given to him to be like glorifying him more than Christ.
I know that if Sigmund Freud and Erik Erickson, some renowned psychological theorists were to resurrect from their graves they would give a different interpretation of this Satanism saga. They would attribute the behaviour of the teenagers alleged to have participated in occultism to the many complexities involved in the development and maturational stages of adolescence. They would analyse the scenario in terms of one’s identity at this transitional stage, whereby all earlier crystallizations of identity formed during childhood come into question, with the overwhelming combination of physical changes, increased sex drive, expanded mental abilities, and increasing and conflicting social demands. The theorists would claim that this is a critical stage for adolescents, to an extent that they can even reject their parents, and all that they stand for so that they can make a clean break from childhood as they attempt to form an identity of their own. With their sense of identify influx, they would find a sense of belonging in peer groups. Some would even engage in cult-tendencies as they journey to self-discovery. In the process there would be some ‘control freaks’ who would take advantage of the teenagers’ vulnerability and insecurities to serve their selfish ends.
Another person can give a different perspective of this Satanism saga in relation to the competition within the Christian fraternity, which unfortunately becomes a negation of the universal ontological solidarity revealed and realised in Christ. The competition for members and the money that goes with an increased affluent membership may tempt some Christians to engage in character assassination and blacklist others, thus corrupting the ‘Good news’ of Christ to be portrayed as ‘bad news.’ It is high time that every Christian, the men of the cloth in particular, reassess their vocation and break the chains of mammon and throw off the impediment of this ‘fashioned’ gospel. One even wonders if these new trends are not an indication that the country is now over evangelised, thus risking opening doors for impostors to flood Christians with more distressing religious opinions.
Whatever avenues of approach the public takes in interpreting the Satanism wave, the fact remains that Christians are not condemned to a fate of fear of spiritual powers, but are promised victory through Christ. They must therefore rid themselves of all the obsessive fear of evil and discover in the incarnate Christ the God who is in ontological solidarity with their human destiny. Sadly, this obsession can have far reaching repercussions on the Christian fraternity; it can divert the Christians’ focus to become ‘devil conscious’, at the expense of more threatening issues to the survival of the Church, like ecumenism, morality, poverty, economic recession, and so on. Also it can lead to people engaging in a ‘witch hunt’ to discover who does this and who does not do that. This can have serious implications on interpersonal relationships amongst Christians, thus threatening the unity of the church. Lastly, as much as we can not undermine and trivialize the experiences of some people with the mystical world, and the operations of evil on earth, we would like to maintain this profound truth that Christ gained victory over all evil.
Submitted by: (Mrs) Sonene Nyawo UNISWA Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities