MEET South Africa 2018

In July 2018, a team of young adults visited South Africa as part of a team organised by WDR, World Mission Partnership and IMYC.  Such visits are aimed at growing people’s faith and understanding of the world, enabling them to better serve God and his people. MEET South Africa 2018 have many more stories to tell. Contact them via our office. 

In this blog a few of the team share about their time with 2 of our partners; Church Land Programme and Phakamisa

“ONE!” shout I (Jools) and quickly Zoe echoes “TWO!”. By the time Gemma gets to “EIGHT!”, we know that Ben, Chris, Jill, Bethany and Emma are all in the room/bus/plane. One in, all in. In July, the MEET South Africa 2018 team – Methodist, Explore, Engage and Tell - threw ourselves into learning from a wildly different culture, in order to more fully understand issues of justice, poverty and leadership.

We were to experience a different way of being Methodist. A way that meant during morning prayers with Phakamisa, you better have your dancing shoes on because those grannies are going to sing and pray in a way that will rock you like you’re in a boat. Ways that provide phenomenally high (and sought after) standards of education for black, Indian, and coloured children as the staff are raising Christian leaders of integrity for a new South Africa. Ways of being Methodist that cross ethnic, racial and economic barriers so the worshipping people of God can be known as a family that embraces all.

One thing remains - whether on retreat at a beautiful beach, being filled with stillness through deep and caring sharing or being challenged by the deprivation of shack-living, we were family, and our understanding of God and of our Methodist family grew immeasurably. 

Church Land Programme

Emma & Sane

Emma & Sane

I (Emma) met Sane in Cato Crest, an informal settlement in Durban consisting of over 6,000 families, where she has lived her whole life. With a college degree in human resources, she was very articulate and described to me the conditions in which she lives. Her greatest challenge, was the lack of consistent (and legal) electricity. It was most difficult when studying for exams because at home she was unable to revise due to the lack of light to see her books.

The Church Land Programme (CLP), a World Development & Relief partner, works alongside those who are landless by listening and understanding people’s specific circumstances. CLP works with the intention of seeing those living in material poverty empower themselves and change their own situation, especially in relation to land injustices. Graham Philpott, the director of CLP, described the listening aspect of their work as a “political act” which affirms people’s right to speak for themselves. Sane appreciated the chance to be heard and said the government does not recognise those in settlements as people, never mind hearing what they have to say. Sane, and approximately 600 families in her area, have connected with CLP. She is now a volunteer teacher of a political class in Cato Crest, teaching the next generation about South Africa’s land issues and context. She hopes this will enable young voices to be heard and be a stepping stone to shaping future leaders. Her wishes to see the future decision-makers of South Africa be leaders that are truly for the people.

I learned so much from listening to the very wise members of CLP and the welcoming, inspiring and open people in the settlements. Land issues in South Africa are complex and I still have much to learn but I do know that God is present in these situations and CLP share His strength and hope, glorifying Him in all they do.


Phakamisa is a ministry of Pinetown Methodist Church and a partner of World Development & Relief. ‘Phakamisa’ is Zulu for ‘to uplift’ and from the moment we arrived our spirits were uplifted, as we met women seeking to uplift the most vulnerable members of their communities. They had identified the oldest and youngest members up to 50km around Durban who would benefit. There are now about 1,700 women and 6,000 orphans connected to their ministry.

The director, Thokozani Poswa, was passionate about her work and this impacted us. We spent time with the caregivers’ programme; It focuses on Gogos (grandmothers) who need an income or new skills to support their families, often including grandchildren who have lost one or both parents. A day for a Gogo at Phakamisa might consist of morning aerobics (you can imagine our feeble attempts) followed by devotions and then classes in skills such as sewing, cooking, literacy, beadwork or gardening.

What most impacted me (Bethany) was the Educare programme which trains young women in their community to teach children aged 0-6 in pre-schools. We met Thandi and Nomalanga, employed by Phakamisa in their ‘Wandering Schools’ in settlements. Coming from education in Ireland, to see the lack of resources, was heart-breaking. Seeing 30 children in a room no bigger than my living room, with holes in the walls and ceiling, no access to water, bathrooms or electricity; well I could only marvel at these teachers. But this was not a place of sorrow. Beyond the ramshackle rooms and financial difficulties was such joy, constant praise and dancing.

One of Phakamisa's 'Wandering Schools'

One of Phakamisa's 'Wandering Schools'

Because of Phakamisa, grandmothers and children are leading enriched lives. I wish I could bottle up the pure joy and passion we experienced because even an ounce of it would change me and even the church in Ireland.

The Members of MEET South Africa 2018 continue to be “One in, all in” and are:

Gemma Barclay (IMYC), Jools Hamilton (Trinity College Dublin), Zoe Cummings, Emma Dunwoody, Jill Fergie, Ben McGurk, Chris Patterson & Bethany Stephens. 

The MEET team on retreat with peers from South Africa

The MEET team on retreat with peers from South Africa

South Africa Team Blog #2

In our second blog from the MCI South Africa team, Karen tells us why she applied to be part of the team and her hopes for the visit.

Hi, Karen Gillespie here, writing this blog from Villiers Boarding School in Limerick. The excitement for the trip to South Africa is building by the day - next on the to-do list is the dreaded vaccinations!!

I've spent the last few days thinking of why I am excited for this trip and what it means to be part of this team. There are a million and one reasons to be honest. While I was studying Social Care in Limerick Institute of Technology I was interested in asking the question "Why has Young People's Participation in the Church Community Declined?". Using sociology and psychology I analysed it as best I could. All that materialised was the evidence that there is a decline! This learning experience to South Africa, for me, will help to further analyse the issue. I hope to learn about the strong connection between the church and community in South Africa and I hope to assist in recharging and revitialising that connection back in my home town and elsewhere in Ireland.

Being part of this team is an amazing opportunity, all members have a variety of experiences to share. For me, this team is not just going to South Africa and returning to separate and do our own thing. I hope to work with all members into the future. Throughout the experience every individual will gain various insights and knowledge - the sharing of that knowledge and discussion is the part I look forward to. I am merely a drop in the ocean however I hope to cause a longstanding ripple effect for the future of the church.






"God has given us only one mission."

In this first blog on the Irish Methodist team going to South Africa in August, Rev. Rowan Zeelie tells us the vision behind the trip.


For two weeks in August eleven Irish Methodists will be travelling to South Africa to link up with two Methodist Churches in the Kwazulu-Natal province and the community projects connected to these churches: Phakamisa, one of MCI’s partner projects and the Hillcrest Aids Centre. We will also visit one of our other overseas partners, the Land Church Programme, headed up by Mr Graham Philpott, a key note speaker at Global Vision 2015.

For a while now we have been engaging in two conversations in Irish Methodism with regards to mission. We have been asking the question How do we become more missional at a local level within our own communities?” and the second has been How do we move our relationship with our overseas partners away from a needs-based relationship to a relationship of equal partners where we both have something to offer and something to receive?”

What we are discovering is that although we talk of ‘Home Mission’ and ‘Overseas Mission’, God has given us only one mission. This trip to South Africa seeks to endorse that understanding.

For this trip we have adopted the Zulu greeting “Sawubona” as our theme. Although it is a greeting, its literal translation is “I see you”. It is a recognition and acknowledgement that the person being greeted is important, is worth noticing. We are all created in the image of God and so every person has something to contribute.

For the past few conferences I have come away feeling encouraged and inspired as we have been challenged to “get our feet wet”, to “move out and join God at work in the world” and to consider ourselves “aliens in a strange land”. But as inspiring – and important – as these messages have been, we have struggled to interpret them at a local level. Often we find ourselves stuck on the most basic of questions “What do we do now?”

Having been born and grown up in South Africa, I have witnessed churches at work in their communities. Although I didn't grow up in a Methodist Church, only becoming a member in my twenties, my impression of Methodism in South Africa is an understanding that the church is in the geographic location for a purpose and that purpose is to serve the people around it. This makes sense when we consider that while Methodism was brought to South Africa by British soldiers stationed at the Cape of Good Hope, it spread through missionaries and so from its very beginnings it has been missional in its focus.

They know what we are trying to learn and so it makes perfect sense for us to link up as partners and in a partnership relationship where, for a change, we are the ones in need. For centuries Methodist missionaries have been sent out into the world. This trip gives us the opportunity to learn what they have learnt, so that we can continue to send Methodists out into the world. But what we have discovered is that the world is right on our doorstep.

I am excited to be going back to my home country, although not to my home town. It will be strange to be going there as an Irish Methodist and, for the first time, as a British citizen (although I have also retained my South African citizenship because it is good to support the Springboks!). I am also looking forward to coming back so that we can “spread the word” across the Connexion, to encourage, inspire and offer practical help to our local churches as we begin to “transform our minds” in our understanding of what it means to be the church on this island.

Rev. Rowan Zeelie (Team leader)