South African churches speak out against child mortality


By Cameron Geasey, Parnership Communications, Child Health Now; World Vision International & Bongani Makhubo, Child Health Now Coordinator; South Africa


Some 450,000 churchgoers in South Africa heard a special message about child health in early September.  World Vision South Africa distributed a pack of sermon, Bible study and prayer resources to churches in advance of the Child Health Now campaign’s Close the Gap mobilisation.  A total of 1,893 churches used the resources in mid-week Bible studies or Sunday services.


One of the messages provided to churches was based on John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  This is sometimes also translated as “that they may have life more abundantly.” 


The sermon outline goes on to say that sometimes the reality in our world does not meet this vision of “an abundant life”:


Sometimes this vision becomes distorted and twisted. Instead of abundance, we often see greed. A study by the United Nations University reports that the richest 1 per cent of adults owned 40 per cent of global assets in the year 2000, and since then, world inequality has continued to increase. … The world of healthcare is an area impacted by scarcity. 


World Vision’s message aimed to help congregation members to reflect on what the “thieves” are in John 10.  According to the sermon notes:


The thieves are not always individual people.  They are not always people who intentionally mean harm.  Sometimes they are mistaken policies.  Sometimes, the “thief” is simply a person's own lack of knowledge.  Sometimes the “thief” is the bad decisions or policies that leaders make because they are not paying attention to the needs of people. 


Churches were encouraged to help people see that they can help defeat the challenges that steal healthcare from children.  Citizens can educate themselves about the simple solutions that can save lives and graciously remind their leaders about the needs of their country’s children.


The church resources aimed to also educate listeners about some of these simple solutions, such as the list of 13 live-saving commodities being promoted by the United Nations.


World Vision South Africa also requested that its church partners engage in prayer daily for those living in poverty and those working to alleviate poverty.  It provided churches with an animated video that related the fairy tale of the Pied Piper to the modern phenomenon of thousands of children disappearing from their towns and villages every day because leaders have not kept their promises.


The team also gave interviews to two Christian television networks in South Africa—One Gospel TV and Dumisa TV.  Through these channels World Vision was able to reach more than one million viewers in South Africa alone. Viewers were able to engage with the World Vision spokesperson during the interview.


World Vision has worked over a number of years to establish a wide network of church partnerships in South Africa.  This includes a partnership with the Methodist Church of South Africa.  That partnership also involves work around promoting early childhood development, addressing the needs of youth and mitigating the effects of HIV and AIDS on children and their households.


Dan Ole Shani, World Vision’s international leader for Christian Commitments, said: “World Vision collaborates in child focused development ministry with about 2,000 church denominations globally that represent tens of thousands of individual churches in countries where World Vision is working. Forging partnerships with these churches for Child Health Now can add a massive momentum to the campaign for better health for children.”


World Vision used the child health church resources in other countries, including Nepal and Kenya.