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Church ventures to ‘unseen’ settlements
Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press
July 12, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Church ventures to ‘unseen’ settlements

Church ventures to ‘unseen’ settlements
Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press
July 12, 2010

Thick mud clings to the

shoes of pastor Xolani (Ko-lan-ee) Klaas and his church members as they walk

through an informal settlement far from the World Cup venues in South Africa.

There are few visitors to

the informal settlements, and the residents are wary of strangers. Most are

members of the Zulu people group, and a large percentage are hiding from their

families in the villages. Originally they came to the city to find a job or go

to school but were forced into the shantytowns when their money ran out.

“They do not want to be

found,” one of the church members says in visiting the Durban-area Newlands

East settlement with Klaas. The residents refuse to return to their families

empty-handed, and the only place they can live is in the informal settlements.

The needs are overwhelming

in these settlements, but Klaas and other Zulu Christians are seeking to make a

difference in the lives of the people in these “unseen” areas.

In the mud, Klaas and his

team slip as they walk up and down the hills past tiny shacks constructed of

scrap metal, tarps and cloth inadequately providing shelter for entire families

from the cool, wet weather.

Yet amid the struggle of

everyday life, the smiling faces of residents conversing with one another

reveal a measure of joy and happiness in their community.

BP photo by Martha Richards

South African pastor Xolani Klaas gives a blanket to a 92-year-old woman in an impoverished Durban-area settlement. Klaas is leading Hope Restoration Baptist Church to help ease pain and hunger in order to share the gospel.

Efforts in evangelism in the

informal settlements can be compared to how Jesus did ministry, Klaas ntoes,

because the needs of the people are so immediate.

“People, if they are hungry,

will not listen because their primary needs have not been met,” the pastor

says.

Some of the people know

there is a God, Klaas says, but “they (do not) know that one can make a

decision to follow Christ, to commit your life to Christ.”

The residents in Newlands

East struggle to find food, water and other necessities. Klaas’ church, Hope

Restoration Baptist Church, has started taking food and blanket packets to

individuals in the settlement and talking with them about coming to church.

A 92-year-old woman receives

a blanket, and her eyes shine with gratitude and amazement as she unwraps it

and rubs the soft, thick material between her fingers.

After giving her the

blanket, Klaas prays for her, that she would have strength, healing and wisdom.

He emphasizes that all providence and glory go to God and encourages her and

her family to attend the Hope Restoration’s service on Sunday morning.

Leaving the house, the team

notices tiny wires strewn across the ground and suspended in the surrounding

bushes, looking much like spider webs. A closer examination reveals the wires

carry electricity to several shacks, but they pose a danger because children

who have no shoes can be electrocuted if they step on the exposed wires.

In the settlement, the

smells of decomposing trash, outhouses and sludge thicken the air, making it

difficult to breathe at times.

Plastic bags, bottles and

rotten food litter the ground.

Residents dodge in and out

of their shacks, curious about the visitors but also hesitant, knowing that it

is easier for many people walking past to ignore the poverty in the

settlements.

But Klaas is confident in

the task he has undertaken, saying, “This is right. I have to follow God’s plan

for my life.”

He’s also confident God is

at work. “The same thing that happened in the Book of Acts, that is happening

in South Africa right now,” he declares.

“There’s so much of a

revival. You go everywhere, Christians are standing up. They are …

evangelizing. They can’t keep quiet, talking about Christ.”