It is a rare gift to be able to witness the human spirit from two perspectives. There are those who do not give up and they persevere against the odds of a crazy world that we do not understand. They have been abandoned, beaten, invaded, have no hope, no shelter, no opportunities, no food, no love, no support and at times, no future. They fight battles every day, live with their scars …. but where it would be easier to lie down, they get up and try again.
And they get up and try again because of people like the congregation of St Columba’s. Because of your generosity, passion, goodwill and belief and with an incredible outreach team, they are able to pick up the pieces and become human again …bit-by-bit. They are able to heal from their hurt.
St Columba’s Presbyterian Church was established in Parkview, Johannesburg, South Africa in 1920 to serve the fast-growing surrounding community. With growing needs in the community, caused by many socio-political and economic pressures, a formal Outreach Committee was formed on 14th February 1983. The central theme of the Committee then, and now, is social concern.
Think what happened in the world and in our world since 1921. A depression, deeper than ever before, a war greater than the Great War, unprecedented boom times in the 60’s and 70’s and in the early 2000’s, technological advancement enough to create a whole generation of geeks but also enough to blow any sane mind. And most recently the biggest financial bubble created through greed and derivatives.
And through all of this, St Columba’s and her amazing Ministers, Elders, Congregation and contributing non-members, has made a real difference to hundreds of thousands of fellow South Africans and near South Africans
Although our current Outreach was only formed in 1983, there has always been, at the very centre of St Columba’s, a large beating heart of caring and compassion, and action.
It was realised early on that St Columbians were never going to convert the world of non-Christians, so the focus of our evangelism became the spreading of the Kingdom of God right here in our world. We believe that one of our tasks as Christians is to bring some of the Kingdom of God to as many people as possible – right here on Earth. In other words, at St Columba’s our evangelism in our Outreach, and vice versa.
And through this we attempt, constant, to bring relief and comfort, and indeed a smile, and many times joy, to those who seldom experience these warm emotions.
How do we do this? By giving and serving. About 160 St Columbians are involved personally, in one or more of our projects. These range from things we do and manage one hundred percent, like The Pantry, The Soup Kitchen, Thusano, The book Business and the Wednesday Clothing Distribution Shop, to project where we help financially, with goods and food, with management or emotionally and with governance.
We are involved to a greater and lesser degree in about 20 projects at any one time. Our projects overall serve over 700 adults and 1050 children.
Some we serve daily and some less often, but we help them all.
Thusano. This was the very first outreach project started at St Columba’s, now many, many years ago, changing its emphasis over time. It began as a ‘Thursday Night’ movie club for domestic workers, later changing to teaching cooking and sewing, and at one stage even English. Currently, a very dedicated group of ladies, not all of whom are members of St Columba’s, come on a Thursday to teach needlework, smocking, and patchwork. Through this wonderful programme, ladies who work in our homes not only acquire and perfect their own creative skills; they have also forged a fellowship and wonderful network of friends.
COME AND SEE THE MAGIC CREATED BY THE THUSANO STUDENTS
Donation of clothes. Many people have taken to dropping off old clothes, toys or even household goods at the Church. Penny Shaddock, along with her band of helpers, which includes Linde (one of our park residents), sorts and packs all donations received. Shorts, shirts, long pants, skirts, jackets, jerseys and shoes are all sorted by size and allocated to the various outreach centres supported by St Columba’s. Not forgetting about the street people, once a month Penny arranges to hand clothes out to them as well. The recipients are all hugely grateful and leave with a smile on their faces and something ‘new’ to wear with pride.
COME AND SEE HOW YOUR DONATIONS BENEFIT MANY PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY
St Columba’s Christmas Day Luncheon was started by Margie Maker in 1978. Alan often remarked that he though it to be ‘the best thing we do’…
Margie noticed that Pensioners would often get their first “Christmas party’ from a well-intentioned charity as early as late October and come the great day, Christmas Day, many of them sat at home staring at four walls. So she decided that it would be an act of real Christian love for us to give up our Day to give these folk a real Christmas Day party. Well over 600 folk, young and old are picked up by bus and private cars and brought to the Church. The tables groan with nuts, sweets, crackers, cool drinks and lovely table decorations. To background music, they are served a three course meal with all the Christmas trimmings, second helpings and food to take home for the day after.
SOME OF WHAT WE DO AT ST COLUMBA’S
The Pantry supplies groceries and other essential items every month to almost 50 people. It was started by Granville with the help of Lorna Riddet in 1980 when it was realised that many people on pension were battling to come out on the State Pension alone. Granville decided that a limited number of pensioners, it had to be limited if we were to do it properly, would receive sufficient groceries every month to get them through the month and that would be guaranteed those groceries for as long as they needed them. It started with around 20 people and has grown to 44. A tem of packers and deliverers gets together each month, buys the goods, packs them away and at a specific time allocates them and delivers them. The parcels often include toiletries and nice ‘smellies’ for the ladies and at Christmastime an extra special Christmas parcel is added for each recipient. The Pantry is also there for the desperate people who come to the Church in need of help. No one is turned away. The organising ‘torch’ has passed from hand-to-hand with a very efficient team organising and distributing the parcels each month.
The weekly intimation sheet appeals to the congregation who bring packets of non-perishable foods to most services throughout the month. In the third week, Iris Fair, the convener, carried out a stock take and draws up a shopping list. On the last Wednesday Iris and a small dedicated team assemble in the Pantry basement where they pack 44 Metro file boxes with basic foodstuffs to last a month. The parcel includes soups and jellies, tinned fruit and veggies, rice, soap and toiletries. Sometimes there is a budget for, or a special donation of, a chocolate or sweets. A colourful magazine is often included. Over the next 5 days, church volunteer teams collect marked boxes delivering these to 44 below-the-breadline pensioners living in Hillbrow and the Berea, Johannesburg. These volunteers work on a three month rotation.
The funds come out of a very tight budget.
The Convenor Iris Fair (084) 438-0709