Friday 28 May 2010

Visit to Dunoon, 26 May 2010

The following account of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s visit to Dunoon is drawn from a report, with pictures, that is available on the website of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay,

Bishop Raphael Hess and the Chapter of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay express their sincere support and sympathy for the community of Dunoon. Bishop Raphael is also deeply grateful for the Archbishop's visit arranged by HOPE Africa, and to the leadership and Parishioners in the Chapelry.

The Chapelry of St Laurence, in the Parish of St Chad's Church Table View is situated in the township of Dunoon (about 16 kilometers from Cape Town). Recently, a fire raised 165 shanties to the ground, killing one person. The shanties are densely packed together, adding heavily to the rapid spread of fires. While no one can say exactly how this recent blaze started, dangerous and illegal electrical wires criss-cross at very low levels over the shanty skies. Candles, paraffin and wood fires are often the only sources of heat, warmth and light.

In support of parishioners and the community, Archbishop Thabo visited Dunoon today (26 May 2010). The Archbishop delivered a message of hope, distributed some clothing, blankets and food and visited part of the affected area. These care packages were made possible by HOPE Africa in partnership with the Warehouse.

On arrival in Dunoon, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba was welcomed by the Revd Anthony Henderson, on behalf of Bishop Raphael and the Revd William Payne, Rector of the Parish. Canon Delene Mark of HOPE Africa accompanied the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, and Zweli Luzipo, chairperson of Ethembeni, assisted in showing them round.

As they walked around Dunoon, it was clear that though townships in South Africa are places of hardship, poverty and despair - they are also places of staggering heart, humanity, resilience and hope. Dunoon is no exception! The Parish and community received the Archbishop with huge smiles, beating cushions and hammering bells - from the oldest to the youngest. In the seriousness and sorrow there was also celebration and tangible signs of care

The visitors stopped in front of a home that had been raised to the ground. They paused as a mark of respect for those affected by the fire – and particularly in the place where a life was lost. A member of the Mothers' Union led prayers. A Cross cuts through the clear of the open sky just above the place where once someone's home stood. At this place of loss, the delegation stood still and, in sacred silence, witnessed to a God who is still God - even and especially on the ground, in the specific situations of human existence, and especially where there is struggle and pain.

In Dunoon, the Archbishop spoke to the community in the following words:

Dear Friends - my brothers and sisters in Christ,

Thank you all for being here. I just want to share the story of Haiti, following the devastating earthquake earlier this year. I have never seen such immense destruction, the incredible pain inflicted on the people and the ‘smell’ of death as one walked through the capital city of Port au Prince. There was a sense of hopelessness that all had been lost, including more than 220,000 human lives. Please pray for Haiti - even in your own suffering.

But thanks to be God that here in this tragedy in Dunoon there was minimal loss of human life. One life was lost and I pray for the family of the man who died as a result of the fire and for the repose of his soul.

I am honoured to be with you today, along with our team from HOPE Africa. It was with much sadness that I learned of the fire which spread through this area on the 2nd of May. We were distressed to learn of the destruction of more than 100 of your homes and the displacement of more than 500 of this community’s residents, including 20 infants. We grieve for the loss of the life of one of your number and for all who lost their homes and belongings.

In Psalm 147 we are reminded of God’s special relationship with us, especially in the difficult times. We hear the psalmist say that God ‘will heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds,’ and that God 'counts the number of the stars and calls them all by name.' And we know that God also knows each of us by name. Therefore we need have no hesitation to approach him at any time – in times of difficulty and pain, and in times of joy as well. He is there to listen to each of us and will give us the strength and courage to carry on.

I know that initially you received support from some sectors of government. We are here together with HOPE Africa, the social development programme of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, to say that you have not been forgotten and to offer some tangible assistance, small though it may be. The scars from such a tragedy run deep and they take time to heal. We continue to hold all of you in our prayers, confident in the promise of our Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus that he will be with us always – to the end of time.

We are also grateful to the chapelry of St. Lawrence for its commitment to reach out to you and others in the community who suffer from tragedies such as this one. One of today’s readings for Morning Prayer is from the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 17:17) 'A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share in adversity.' And as children of God, we are sisters and brothers to one another – we are the family of God. That is the most important part of why we are here today. We are also grateful for the members of this chapelry and others in the Western Cape for the donations which we leave here today.

May you all continue to know the love and compassion and hope of God as seen in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ as you rebuild your lives in this place and as you reach out to one another.

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