Missionaries Dave and Marj Patrick. (The Witness)
The American couple arrived in South Africa on a voluntary missionary visa to help, educate and equip poverty-stricken people with new skills to eventually take over the positions the missionaries initially filled.
Without pay, the couple worked with South Africans in the newly established democracy and were even commended for their hard work by former president Nelson Mandela a few years after they started their missionary work in the country.
Marj said three years ago when she and her husband attempted to renew their voluntary missionary visas with the department of home affairs, their renewal was refused and they were told those visas were no longer part of the system.
“We came here to work together, embrace culture and empower people. Our organisation, the Evangelical Alliance Mission, has been working in South Africa for over 100 years and we have made a difference.
“What would cause a nation to say they don’t want help?”
Marj said the only way they would be able to keep working in the country would be to apply for a visitor’s visa or a project visa as well as a work permit, which missionaries could just not afford.
“We are here to empower people, help people get an education and then take over our work once they are qualified and they will be paid where we weren’t. If you take us away, South Africans will be at the complete mercy of the government.”
She said she and her husband leave for America next week and although there was still work to be done across the country, she felt they could leave their station at Pietermaritzburg’s Union Bible Institute knowing they had fully equipped and trained locals to take over, empower themselves and start earning a living.
“We haven’t been told why the department of home affairs weren’t renewing voluntary missionary visas, but they did tell us that eight other missionaries had been sent back to their home countries.”
The department of home affairs was contacted for comment but did not respond.
Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness