In partnership with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), a small group of divinity students travels for intensive 10-week internships every summer at South African churches and other ministries. Since 2004, almost 100 students, staff, faculty and friends have journeyed on South African "Pilgrimages of Pain and Hope" led by Peter Storey, Williams professor emeritus of the practice of Christian ministry, with the help of the Office of Black Church Studies. Divinity School faculty have also taught at John Wesley College, the Methodist seminary near Pretoria. Editor Elisabeth Stagg, who visited South Africa last August, reports on two internship sites: Ikageng Itireleng AIDS Ministry in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, and SHADE, founded near Cape Town by Methodist pastors who fled brutal warfare in Congo.
“Mothers lose their babies ... and babies lose their mothers. Death is with us everyday. Indeed our ways of dying are our ways of living. Or should I say our ways of living are our ways of dying?” — Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda
SOWETO — Carol Dyantji talks very fast, as fast as if she is a mother with so many children that she has no time to tell her own story. But that story is also the story of her children—all 1,700 of them.
In 2002, Dyantji had earned a diploma in HIV/AIDS counseling and was in her second year of nursing school. She had left a career in hotel management and felt called to help intervene in the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in her home community of Soweto, an acronym for SOuth WEstern TOwnships, where black South Africans were forcibly relocated during apartheid.
“A nursing colleague called one day and asked me to check on a family,” says Dyantji . “The father had recently died from AIDS and the children were trying to care for their mother, who also had AIDS. The oldest child was 13.”
When Dyantji arrived, she found the mother badly dehydrated. There was no electricity in the house, and no food. “I asked the children, ‘When did you last eat?’ The 13-year-old could not remember, except that it was when she had been given money for popcorn.”
Dyantji did what she could to make the children’s mother comfortable, and returned with food for them. Two days later, their mother died at home. There was no money for her burial.
“I realized that if I could get this story published in a paper, people would help,” says Dyantji . “And people did. They donated time and came to the mother’s funeral.”
Three days later, Dyantji began getting calls about other children. “The stories were so honest and real,” she says. “One girl who was too young to be taking care of herself told me that her mother had gone to the hospital July 18. It was then in September. ‘Please find her,’ the girl said.