From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ABCUSA: Participants Aid NCCC/Habitat South Africa Project

From "SCHRAMM, Richard" <>
Date Wed, 12 Jun 2002 13:42:45 -0400

American Baptist News Service (6/12/02)--American Baptists were part of a
45-member National Council of Churches of Christ ecumenical,
intergenerational delegation to Durban, South Africa, that participated in
the June 3-7 culmination of Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy Carter Work Project
2002 (JCWP). 

American Baptists included the Rev. Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III,
executive director of American Baptist National Ministries, Valley Forge,
Pa., representing American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Dr. Paul Eppinger,
director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, Phoenix, Ariz.; Sybil Eppinger,
a former missionary, Phoenix, Ariz.; and Joy Edmondson, representing the
Atlanta-based Fund for Theological Education, New York, N.Y.  They joined
the NCCC contingent and some 2,000 other volunteers, including former
President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.  Together they helped build
100 houses to shelter South African families who now live in shanties and
other substandard housing.

NCCC General Secretary Dr. Robert Edgar, who led the ecumenical group, noted
that in the aftermath of apartheid, "Now is the time to build up, to gather
stones together, or, in this case, to gather concrete blocks together."  

Ranging in age from 18 to 82, members of the NCCC group come from
congregations of mainline, historic African American, Orthodox and peace
churches in communities in 13 states and fields as diverse as the ministry,
medicine, education and construction. 

Participants began their experience with a four-day pre-build tour in the
Johannesburg area in which they met with representatives of the South
African Council of Churches; visited a local Habitat affiliate in Oukasie
Township; and were greeted by officials of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund.
Described as "the single largest investment that the South African
government has made in support of the development of young people," the fund
develops strategies to promote "the economic citizenship" of young people
hampered by lack of job skills and opportunities.

The group traveled to Durban on June 1 in preparation for the "blitz build"
of 100 houses in Durban's Sherwood area. The land had been occupied by
Indian and black South African families who were evicted by the former
apartheid government in the early 1960s to enforce racial segregation and
open the area for white occupation. 

The Durban build is the culmination of a continent-wide building effort-the
largest in the 17-year-old Jimmy Carter Work Project history-that will
construct 1,000 houses in 18 African countries. 

Describing the experience, Wright-Riggins said, ""Building new homes as we
worked hand-in-hand with black, white and Indian South Africans in that
multiracial and international setting truly mirrored Christ's 'Kingdom of
God,' Paul's 'Household of God' and Martin Luther King's 'Beloved
Community.'  In the 1980s and 1990s American Baptists used the hammer of
angry activism and righteous indignation to help break down the dividing and
destructive walls of apartheid.  This week we used the hammer of Christian
love and the affirmation of our common humanity to hammer out a song of love
between brothers and sisters all over the world."

Habitat for Humanity and the NCCC are engaged in a long-term series of joint
ventures to eliminate poverty housing in the United States and around the
world.  In its first 25 years, celebrated in 2001, Habitat for Humanity
built 100,000 homes worldwide, and half a million people now live in Habitat
homes.  The organization's goal is to build another 100,000 homes by 2005.


American Baptist News Service: Office of Communication, American Baptist
Churches USA, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851; (610)768-2077; fax:

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