About sixteen years ago, Trinity and the JL Zwane Presbyterian Church in Guguletu, South Africa, formed a partnership promising to work together to achieve certain mutual objectives. Guguletu is a settlement located in a near-desert area a few miles from Cape Town. It was created by the former apartheid government for relocation of black and colored citizens who worked in the homes, farms, and industries of white communities in the area around Cape Town. The resettled Guguletu residents made do with what they could find and built shacks out of paperboard, discarded sheets of tin, and whatever else they could find. The apartheid government provided running water and toilets about every 100 yards. Since the end of apartheid, some permanent houses have been constructed by the government, but much of Guguletu and surrounding settlements still consist mostly of shacks, and the population has grown to several million souls. Unemployment, drugs, and HIV/AIDS are commonplace.
Trinity Presbyterian Church has a long history of supporting those in need in our own city and county, as well as various missionaries and mission agencies around this country and abroad. The opportunity to form a relationship with an established Presbyterian church in a place like Guguletu had an obvious appeal to Trinitarians. Funds were added to Trinity’s annual budget as a means of expanding and enhancing several on-going JL Zwane’s outreach efforts, and additional funds were provided the Trinity Outreach Team so that other needs could be addressed as they arose. Supporting our partnership in distant South Africa became an important part of Trinity’s outreach efforts.
The benefits of this partnership have been manifold. Several dozen Trinity members have visited JL Zwane to observe first-hand that church’s outreach programs and to assess the impact of Trinity’s support on local needs. We have brought a dozen or so partners from South Africa to visit us and local care giving agencies here to learn how they might better serve their own community’s needs. We have welcomed their minister, Rev. Dr. Spiwo Xapile, to our pulpit on several occasions, and some of our ministers have filled the pulpit there. These exchanges have underscored the worldwide connection between Presbyterian churches and have broadened the cultural perspective of members of both Trinity and JL Zwane.
The Rainbow School
During the apartheid era in South Africa, educational opportunities for black and colored citizens were limited. It was illegal to teach these citizens math, science, or any other subject that was not needed by them in the performance of unskilled labor. When apartheid ended, Nelson Mandela became president, a predominately black congress was elected, and schools were established for all children.
Many of the black and colored school children encountered problems due in part to their inability to get help with homework from their parents who had been denied opportunities for education themselves. To address these problems, JL Zwane established the Rainbow School, an after school program where children could receive help from tutors who were mostly trained educators. The Rainbow School met immediate success and gradually grew in enrollment. Recognizing the limited resources available in these children’s homes, JL Zwane gave each child a hot meal each school day, in many cases the only such meal they would receive that day.
The Rainbow School has become a permanent element of JL Zwane’s outreach to the community. Trinity has been a supporter of the Rainbow School since its beginning. Currently, the annual Trinity budget includes a contribution to the School, and many members of Trinity have made designated gifts to its support.