Just about three miles (five kilometers) from the headquarters of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) church region, located in an affluent suburb of Pretoria, South Africa, there are informal settlements where thousands of poverty-stricken people struggle to survive.
The settlements, which do not even have a name, are known by the letters of the alphabet. Among them, the J and L communities, where about 3,000 people live, have proved to be fertile ground for Total Member Involvement (TMI), the world church initiative that encourages every Adventist member to reach out and share Jesus with others. The J and L settlements accommodate people of various ethnic backgrounds, with quite a number that are also foreign nationals.
“These communities have no organized sewage or electricity systems, no running water, and no waste disposal system,” explained an individual working with one of the outreach initiatives in the area.
The city council provides water on an irregular basis, twice a week, into 5,000-liter tanks that have been placed in strategic places. Residents claim, however, that this water supply does not meet their needs. Some portable toilets have been placed across the settlement, but according to the residents, emptying them also occurs on an irregular basis.
Following two fact-finding visits, staff from the regional church offices started visiting these settlements on a more regular basis. “Among other basic needs, we saw that they lacked food and warm clothes,” said a staff member who is taking part in the initiative. “We took soup and bread, and provided [the people] with warm blankets, now that colder winters have become the trend in recent years.”
A few months ago, a major health expo was organized with the help of two local churches where most of the SID staff members worship. This combined team dipped into their own pockets to fund the event. Many also gave individual services in kind.
That day, close to 200 residents of the settlements received free healthcare. Hundreds enjoyed health talks, music and sermonettes, as children’s needs were catered to in a tent provided just for them. The community also received a full meal cooked by SID staff, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) graciously came in to provide hundreds of water containers for collecting and storing water.
Visits to the settlements, explained the SID organizers, did not end with the health expo event. The home of one of the community leaders is now being used every Sabbath afternoon for health and Bible studies activities, they reported.
“Every Sabbath, 15-20 adults, and more than 15 children are taking part in interactive health talks and Bible studies for all age groups,” said the organizers. “We are excited about these precious people so eager to learn and know more about Jesus!”
Now organizers are asking members around the world to pray for the initiative.
“Thanks to your prayers, this TMI initiative will soon bear fruits for heaven,” they said.