Saturday, 26 June 2010

Day 16 - Vryburg and Huhudi

Today's matches:

Uruguay 2 v. South Korea 1
USA 1 v. Ghana 2

Vryburg lies in a rich cattle-farming area, situated halfway between Mafikeng and Kimberley. It has a population of aaround 60,000. The name comes from Africaans meaning 'fort' and came from the period in the 1882s when Vryburg was established as the capital of Stellaland. The Republicans call themselves Vryburgers (free citizens), hence the name of the town. In 1882 a site for a township was selected and first named Endvogelfontein, soon the name was changed. In December that year, newly laid out plots were apportioned to the volunteers by means of a lottery and by February 1883 some 400 farms had been established. On August 16th 1883, Administrator Van Niekerk proclaimed the Republic of Stellaland with Vryburg as its capital and himself as President. Stellaland split into two rival factions - those who supported annexation into the Cape Colony as mooted by Cecil Rhodes, and those who preferred independence. In February 1884 Stellaland was made a British protectorate with the Reverend John McKensie appointed Commissioner to British Bechuanaland. During the Second Boer War, the British built a concentration camp here to house Boer women and children.Vryburg today is the industrial and agricultural capital of the Bophirima (Western) region.

Vryburg hosts one of the largest cattle sales in the Southern hemisphere with an enormous turnover of more than 250 000 head of cattle per year. It is this, along with its perceived image of being a frontier town that has given it the nickname “Texas of South Africa”. Maize and peanuts are important crops produced in the district.

The town today is a thriving industrial and agricultural hub, which radiates an atmosphere of prosperity. Its modern architecture blends naturally with its surroundings and the well-preserved old buildings are carefully maintained.

The township Huhudi (Tswana for "running water") is situated just south of the town. The Tiger Kloof Native Institute was set up south of the town by the London Missionary Society in 1904. The stone church on the premises is a national monument.

The church of St Stephen, Vryburg was established in 1891. The first Rector being the Revd Sedgewick who came with his wife from England. He oversaw the building of the church and its separation from the parish of Kimberley. the Revd Sedgewick went on to become bishop of Wairuru in New Zealand. Today the church continues to be a hub of community life being oversee by the Revd Drake Tshenkeng and his wife Hope.

St Philip's, Huhudi is linked with the parish of Moulsford in Oxford diocese. Representatives from that parish visited Vryburg in 2009. Here's some of their report:

"Fr Tong, the parish priest, was clearly very excited at the prospect of a visit from two overseas strangers who seemed to be aware of his patch. (Fr Tong worked full time as a head teacher in a school 90 km. from Vryburg leaving home on Sunday afternoons returning Friday evening to carry out his spiritual and pastoral responsibilities over the weekend.) After welcoming hospitality with Drake and Hope we set off to see St Philip's church and were amazed to see the progress that had been made since being given a postcard of a small almost derelict church by Fr Brian Beck in 2007. The roof was on, foundations for the floors laid and the brickwork was up to the windows. The building was now of sufficient size to meet the worshipping needs of the congregation and to provide areas which could be used for other activities- children's needs, the blind, community activities etc. There was great awareness that 'we live once and so must leave a footprint'. Earlier debts had been cleared and the congregation was moving forward as and when they had the funds available. We heard how they were raising funds to support the building programme but were really impressed at how much such an impoverished community could achieve with so little material resources - what commitment!

We had several sessions with key members of the church exploring ways of working together to support the church building and, of equal importance, how the Huhudi and Moulsford congregations could grow their Christian faith together. Inevitably, time was spent on financial issues. We were impressed at the administrative processes established by Fr Tong and his Committee and were pleased that the congregation in Moulsford had been able to assist, in a small way, with the re-building of the church. Our major discussions, however, centred around spiritual matters and the creation of a 'vision of hope' for the next three years with the development of a shared prayer ministry being a key focus. An encouraging start has been made with the writing and exchanging of a prayer each month for use by both congregations at Sunday Mass…we look forward to seeing where the Spirit will lead us in the coming year.

A most memorable part of our visit was the opportunity to join the congregation in Huhudi in worship…..very different from the UK and an uplifting experience. The singing was in Tswana or Xhosa and soared out over the area as the walls of church remained at present open to the elements. The Peace was an amazing display of witness and joy- singing, clapping and dancing. The service after the post communion prayer became an exchange of greetings to us and we were invited to talk with the congregation. We explained the purpose of our visit and hopefully the mutually beneficial relationship we were keen to develop. We handed over the blankets made by the young people of Moulsford, a scrapbook of our church's year. We were humbled by the warmth of our greetings; amazed at what people can achieve with few resources; the strength of Christian commitment despite the huge social and health challenges. "

We pray:

  • For the local church of St Philips, thanking God for the vision to build and that God will continue to provide funding

  • For the parish of St Stephen Vryburg

  • For the work of two young peer educators working in the community, particularly during this time when children are off school, and who are using football to develop key life skills

  • For the continuing developing link between Huhudi and Moulsford

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