This blog post is contributed by Sundhari Rangiah
At Nelson Mandela’s memorial, United States President Barack Obama spoke about ubuntu, saying, “There is a word in South Africa, ubuntu, a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”
This is what I experienced when I attended the National Women’s Conference of AB Women’s Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, in July of 2012! The women at the conference were caring and kind towards me and the other women who accompanied me from South Africa. This caring started long before I left South Africa. Sitting through the conference I was in awe of their caring for the rest of the world!
Perhaps I should tell you something about myself. I am an Asian of Indian descent, living in South Africa! How did I come to be South Africa? That I owe to the Lord Jesus Christ, American Baptist missionaries, and a strong-willed grandfather. But I would like to leave that for my next article….
Being invited to the National Women’s Conference was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I am very thankful to God for the experience. I came back to South Africa and asked the Lord to show me a way in which I could translate what I experienced into action with the Baptist women of South Africa.
I realized that because of apartheid (segregation) in South Africa, the various Baptist churches had developed based on race, and were located in segregated areas allocated by race. We didn’t meet one another. It was only the Indian Baptist women who met and had a joint Ascension Day service together.
After much prayer, the Lord laid in my heart that I should invite all Baptist women in South Africa to come and join us for our Ascension Day Service. I did so, and in 2013 almost 400 women attended our first Joint Baptist Women’s Service at the Tongaat Baptist Church. I was so thrilled to see women of all races praising and worshiping God together! It was truly awesome! The different groups of Baptists were given a part in the programme. Dorothy Selebano, former president of the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, gave God’s word and the women were thoroughly blessed! I received numerous compliments on the co-coordinating and planning of our function. I definitely tried to emulate the standards set by the AB Women’s Ministries National Women’s Conference in Nashville. I want to thank Crystal Newton [former AB Women’s Ministries national events coordinator] for giving me the necessary guidance to plan and execute the programme and Chris Marziale [International Ministries staff] for planning my trip to the U.S.A. and making my stay in Nashville a very joyous experience!
The South African women were so blessed by our joint Ascension Day Service that they asked me to continue this service on an annual basis. My plans for 2014 are already in place and I know that the attendees this year will be greater in number than 2013.
Please continue to pray for the women of South Africa. Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog.
(Gallery of photos from the Ascension Day service in South Africa, 2013, and the South African Baptist women’s visit to the 2012 National Women’s Conference)
Sundhari Rangia serves as president of the Women’s Department, Baptist Association of South Africa. She and several women traveled from South Africa to attend the 2012 National Women’s Conference sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. For more information about the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, of which AB Women’s Ministries and the Women’s Department of the Baptist Association of South Africa are both a part, visit www.bwawd.org.