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Africa project demonstrates churches’ outreach


ALBANY, Ga. — About mid-April, police in this southwest Georgia town started asking Muriel Moton when the Africans were coming.
Soon, she said. Then she joked that they should ease up on the speeding tickets as church members rushed the visitors from event to event.
Moton, of Albany’s River Road Church of Christ, kept participants in the Southern Africa Mission Project, or SAMP, on a tight schedule. After joining a panel discussion at nursing school Darton College on everything from health care to domestic violence, the delegates rushed to Albany State University for a tour. They discussed enrolling in American universities with administrators, then rushed back to the church building for a dinner hosted by the church’s singles ministry — and that was just the first day.
The 20 participants from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi attended classes on team-building, marriage enrichment, leadership and nutrition.
Five churches served as hosts for the month-long project: River Road; the Greenbriar Church of Christ in Atlanta; the New Harvest Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala.; the Gilmore Street Church of Christ in  Senatobia, Miss.; and the Mount Vernon Church of Christ in Alexandria, Va.

“This is what we call a holistic ministry,” designed to serve spiritual, physical and mental well-being, said Terrence Crooks, of the Greenbriar church. Each year delegates pay their own travel expenses and take the fruits back to their churches.

“The fellowship … in the previous time, we weren’t doing it,” said Harold Netansaheni of South Africa.

The training also helps in the job market, Crooks said. When they return to Africa, “individuals get promotions on the job … they gain employment, advance in current jobs,” he said.

“It inspires me with church work and with my work,” said Mashuda Malachia Tshivhase, a first-time participant from Venda, South Africa. Tshivhase, a school principal, said he would take what he learned back home and conduct seminars for his coworkers.

Community involvement is at the core of the program, said Executive Director Lynn Nelson, minister for the Mount Vernon church. Delegates from South African churches first traveled to Georgia in 1994 for SAMP, while the community was dealing with the aftermath of a flood that crippled Albany.

“I’ve never seen such a lot of water,” said Philip P.S. Kivedo, evangelist at the West-End Church of Christ in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Africans took notes as River Road members provided relief to their neighbors. That outreach grew into a separate organization, the South Albany Family Enrichment Collaborative.

“If a Church of Christ is in the community, the community should be better for it,” said the collaborative’s coordinator, Carolyn Gibson. The organization provides temporary housing to single parents and families in need, sponsors clothing drives and food donations and refers people to government and non-profit agencies.

Gibson and River Road elder Johnny Moton taught the African delegates about their experiences through the agency.

“That flood was a blessing,” Johnny Moton said. “Because of that flood, we got into the people business — big time.”

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