Mission Partner

Sunday 13th March at our 10am service saw the launch of our partnership with Hands at Work and in particular with the African community of Siyathuthuka. 
Cat and Child
We all remember the amazing visit that our young people of "The Room" made last year when they travelled to South Africa, for all of them a life changing experience, but that was just the start of what we now have! 

One of the communities that "The Room" visited whilst in South Africa was this amazing place, Siyathuthuka and when "the room" asked the PCC to consider a partnership with HANDS it was Siyathuthuka that HANDS asked us to partner with. 

The PCC considered the idea in depth and agreed that for the next three years we would be in "partnership" and would send enough money each year to support 15 children in the three essentials of food, education and basic health care. Edward Peake school also wanted to help the partnership and have agreed to support 2 further children, The Room are supporting 4 more and together with individual members of the congregation, we as a church are now supporting 35 children in Siyathuthuka.

It felt right that we should have a formal launch of our partnership within our morning worship and we invited Hands at Work Uk to send someone to preach. Rose Westwood came along to preach, it was passion Sunday, which is when we tend to start looking forward from Lent towards the events of Easter and in particular the cross. The Gospel reading for the day told the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet with expensive oil (John 12:1-8).

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”


This is what Rose had to say:- 

“Good morning. My name is Rose Westwood. Thank you for inviting me to share or journey with you this morning. It’s a privilege to talk about God’s word today I have enjoyed preparing this talk from John’s Gospel. I would like to share with you some of things we can learn from this bible passage.

First a prayer…………Holy Spirit, please come and fill us so that we may know more of God’s truth and His love for us all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen)

Street in Mafambisa

First of all let’s remind ourselves of the context; at the time of this meal, Jesus is coming to the end of his earthly ministry. He is on his way to Jerusalem where he will celebrate the Passover celebrations in six days’ time. He has decided to break his journey from Ephraim to Jerusalem, here in Bethany where his friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha live.

There is probably a mood of celebration because Jesus has recently miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead………….. Maybe his friends want to show their appreciation. These gathered friends are enjoying each other’s company, maybe celebrating the life of their friend Lazarus.

(I’ve been imagining this scene a lot as I prepared for today……..I wonder if you do that. I like to imagine I am there in the room and try to picture it in my head. It helps me if I put myself in the shoes of a bystander or one of the characters. Then I think about what Jesus might want to say to me.)

So Mary suddenly does something very unexpected…………… During the meal she goes and gets a pint of Nard; an expensive scented oil from India and starts to anoint Jesus. She pours the oil on Jesus’ feet, other Gospels say she anointed his head or his body. But the point is that she ministers to him, unbinding her hair in the process. This would have been a scandalous thing to do; the sight of Mary’s flowing hair and the fragrance permeating the room would have shocked the gathered group.

I wonder how we would feel…….

Perhaps we would share Judas’ concern. That oil could have been sold to use for caring for the poor. It is worth a year’s wages. The friends have been very aware of the needs of the poor in their communities, they been taught by Jesus to care for the poor.

But all is not what it seems; it is said that Judas, though probably appointed by Jesus, or at least with His consent, is in charge of the money that the disciples share, their common purse. But he has been helping himself to it. He is already showing signs that he will betray Jesus for money a week later.

Jesus defends Mary. ‘Leave her alone’. He says ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial’. The shockwaves must have rippled through the room as his friends hear Jesus talking about his burial. They still do not understand that he will have to die.

Jesus says ‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’

(Perhaps, like me you wrestle with Bible passages when they bring us things like this – but we need to go on wrestling with them… what is Jesus saying to his friends? And what does that mean for us here today?

What Jesus does not mean…So, knowing, from the rest of scriptures, God’s heart for the poor, we can be certain that Jesus does not mean ‘so don’t worry about the poor’. We know that the disciples have a common purse used for collecting donations for the poor and that they have been to taught to share their coats and take nothing with them as they spread the Good News. The poor are very close to Jesus’ heart.

What does Jesus mean… Mary has shown her devotion to Jesus by pouring out an abundance of precious scented oil. She is at his feet using her own hair to wipe them. She is ministering to Him, blessing Him with the best she can give.

We can learn a lot by looking at Mary here, she shows humility; she is at Jesus feet…… ; We have seen her earlier in the Gospel, sitting at Jesus feet listening to Him when her sister Martha is busy preparing the meal; We have seen her fall to his feet in dependence at the burial site of her brother Lazarus; And now here she is ministering to his feet.

Because she listens to him. She senses the prompt to bless him with ointment; it is a timely response….for now. She is criticised by her peers for this response to Jesus. These friends have not understood her behaviour. She responds extravagantly; giving him the best, and her response is fruitful. In one of the gospels describing the same event, Jesus says, ‘wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told’

What else could Jesus mean when he says ‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’Perhaps Jesus is saying, in the future, you will not have my body to minister to, but I will be in your midst, uniquely present in the poor. So by ministering to them, by giving them your best, you will be serving me.

There are some deeply challenging passages in the Old Testament about true worship. One of the well-known ones is Isaiah 58. At that time one of the key ways of showing devotion to God was to fast. So this passage talks about true fasting.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.


This passage shows us that our practical actions; our involvement with the needs of the poor; loosing the chains of injustice, sharing our food with the poor is spiritual worship.

So what could we do?

Let’s start by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him; Maybe we could pay attention to those we encounter or interact with this week; Why do we avoid some people?; Are we making excuses about being busy or preoccupied but really we’re afraid of getting closer?; Is there some risk in getting closer to this person?; A risk of getting involved in a difficult situation? 

I believe that we, as followers of Jesus are called to do what he does, to go where it hurts, where there is suffering. Not because we can heal the suffering of others, but because we can walk alongside the suffering person and in doing that we bless them and they bless us.

This, for me, is why partnership with Hands at Work in Africa is so compelling – because it’s not just about social justice (us helping the poor) but about us coming close to those who are at the bottom of the pile– serving them, getting to know them, and learning from them – and as we do this we draw closer to Jesus because He is already there.

So I would urge you to get involved, this is about partnership, not pity…..though you may well start with pity…..learn the names of children and their care-workers in Siyatatuka. Pray for them. Know them by name. Visit them. You have been given an opportunity, now, so take it, and meet the Lord Jesus as you do so.

Prayer to finish…….Thank you for coming to us Lord, in our brokenness; for coming to us when we were in a mess, Lord.  Help us to respond now in gratitude, by meeting you in the most vulnerable.  Amen  - Rose Westwood 13/3/16

At the service pupils from Year 7 at Edward Peake School came along and led us in prayers for the people of Siyathuthuka and everyone present took away a small prayer card to help us remember to pray for Siyathuthuka each day.

So the Partnership has been born, and for our part we are asked to Pray, Give and Come which means that we as a church will continue to pray for the people of Siyathuthuka, the vulnerable children and orphans who live there, the volunteer Care Workers who visit and care, the care givers that open their homes to these children. As a church we will support through our mission payments, through school fund raising, and also as individuals, 35 of these children and as a church we will visit to encourage, and stand with the people of Siyathuthuka in their time of need.


Claire McDonnell and Chris Parker

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