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  • Jonny Campbell-Smyth

“Slowly by slowly”

Our time in Soweto has been full of the sights, sounds and challenges of extreme poverty, overlaid with the busyness of people who are determined and strengthened by God to improve their own lives and the lives of others. People are walking everywhere, going to school or to work, going to try and find work, or simply greeting and supporting one another in the streets.

We joined almost 40 members of the Tujisaidie Community Group for their regular Wednesday meeting, for worship and prayer. They have worked together for over 30 years, pooling any small resources, sometimes just one or two Kenyan shillings each (0.0116 pence) in their table banking scheme, so they could buy food and gradually plan for the needs of their community. The elderly members of the group, the Gacucu (Little Grandmothers), then received a supply of maize flour, rice, oil and soap to assist in the coming month, purchased from group funds.

Later we discussed with Louise Githire (who supported the group in her work at All Saints’ Cathedral and continues to do so voluntarily in her retirement) the many challenges the group faces:

· The impact of climate change that has seen the worst drought in 40 years, and resulting crop failures.

· The crippling cost of food and supplies due to drought, a post-Covid economy and war in Ukraine.

· The cost of providing text books and other resources for the new national curriculum.

· The pressure on the ageing community members to continue to support the next generation who are struggling to find work and support themselves.

Into this discussion Louise spoke words of wisdom. “It is not easy,” she said. “Slowly by slowly.”

Regardless of how bleak the situation may appear to us, this community has made huge developments and is rightly proud of what they have achieved, and we saw this pride as they shared their history and praised God for His faithfulness throughout. Louise continued,

“The success of what we have done together, is because we talk, we listen, we discuss, we give views and all have a chance to speak. Then there is a joint decision, and we move on. There are no ill feelings, and nothing is imposed from outside.”

What a wonderful example of true democracy in community-led development.

On Thursday we returned to the Tujisaidie school, built by the community group and now educating 350 pupils from 3 to 14 years, with support from churches and individuals through CMS Ireland. We held our second knitting class, a new curriculum subject for the Standard 5 and 6 classes, some 65 children. Using donated knitting needles and wool we had brought from home, we faced together the challenges of the heat and sticky hands, narrow needles, tangled wool, dropped stitches, trying to ensure that each child made some progress.

The children prayed aloud before and after the session, and showed patience, concentration, teamwork and determination as they sat in the new playground space…and slowly by slowly, the knitting took shape. They were delighted with what they had achieved, and look forward to continuing this with their teachers.

On Friday we enjoyed a day with Antony and his family, and slowed our busy pace so much that Jonny fell asleep on our way to the National Park. We recalled that in the desire to see God’s work done, we must also rest in his strength, and therefore the words of Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31 came to mind,

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Slowly by slowly, we are learning that through prayer and faith in God, sharing our resources and working in true partnership, all things are possible. The pace of progress in life here is not lackadaisical, it has a rhythm, a purpose and a structured approach that works.

Please give thanks to God for Lucy, Louise, Antony, Isabelle and all those that are making a real difference to this community, praying that God would give them strength in their daily service. Pray that in the remaining days of our visit that God would speak to us more and more through the lives of those in this community whom we encounter. Finally, pray that God would provide all the resources this community needs as they deal with the daily pressures of life.



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