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The garden that grows reconciliation

By Jens Pinther B

otswana, with one of the high- est rates of HIV and AIDS in the world, is known for its

progressive approach to addressing community needs. One of its many projects is the Manyana Lutheran Diakonia (MALUDI) Garden Proj- ect. During the growing season, the garden produces fresh, healthy food for families in the area aff ected by HIV and AIDS. T e initiative also brings

together members of two Lutheran churches in a project of coopera- tion and reconciliation. In 1979 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana (ELCB) split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA). Today members of both churches grow food from the same garden for

‘We don’t feel the difference between the two churches. We feel like we are working together as a family.’

the people of Manyana (population 3,500). Started

Dora Mosmele, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (ELCSA), checks on spring onions at the Manyana Lutheran Dia- konia (MALUDI) Garden Project in Manyana, Botswana. Produce from the garden is distributed to locals living with HIV and AIDS.

in 2009, the garden was conceived a year earlier as a joint diaconal (service) pro- gram by the two Lutheran churches with assistance from the ELCA. Six women manage the garden in four- month rotations—three from each church. T e even split is intentional, and it’s working. “T e four months pass by so fast

because we enjoy working together. We see change,” said Motlhhophi Sithibe, an ELCB member who is currently working at the garden. “We don’t feel the diff erence between the two churches. We feel like we are working together as a family. Even outside of the project we recognize and accept each other.” But the feeling of family didn’t

come immediately. “One could feel the discomfort of the workers as they were expected to work side by side toward the same objective,” said Nicholas Isaacs, a pastor and


general treasurer of the ELCSA Botswana Diocese who used to live in a parsonage next to the garden. “As the project progressed, these

fears were laid to rest. Soon aſt er, the youth from ELCB were able to approach an ELCSA congregation for the use of the church building events. Meeting at ministers’ frater- nal meetings, community prayers at the local clinic, school, kgotla (pub- lic meeting) and funerals became easier with time. So, yes, the garden helped with reconciliation.” T e gardeners pray each morning


before they begin working, a ritual that reminds them they are one in faith. Dorcas Macha, a worker at the MALUDI Garden Project from the ELCSA, said the small stipend the gardeners receive helps as well. T e project is funded in part by ELCA World

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