Lassiter's Connect With South Africa

 
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PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

Bishop Ronald and Sandra Lassiter hold copies of a Capetown, South Africa, newspaper with articles on the plight of people with AIDS in that nation. The Lassiter's, who recently returned from South Africa, plan a missions trip to a village near Capetown.


Priscilla's House Mission

An eight-day trip to South Africa over the Thanksgiving holiday was a life-changing experience for Bishop Ronald and Sandra Lassiter, pastors of Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, 1162 S.W. Lincoln.
When the couple returned to Atlanta from their trans-continental flight, they were ready to go back to South Africa to offer continued support to a woman who runs a home for orphans and other children ravaged by AIDS.
The Lassiter's are planning for a return missions trip next fall to South Africa — and hope to take other members of their church with them.
In late November, the Lassiter's visited Bishop Lassiter's sister, Marcia Oshinaike, a U.S. diplomat based in Capetown, South Africa. One afternoon, Oshinaike took the Lassiter's to the township of Wellington, located about 60 miles from Capetown.
There, the Lassiter's met a woman named Priscilla Simons, who was dying of AIDS 13 years ago.
"Her testimony was that she was healed by God," Bishop Lassiter said. "She prayed and asked God if he would heal her, she would devote her life to the children."
Lassiter said Simons opened her home 10 years ago to children in Wellington township who had nowhere else to turn for help. Many of the children have seen both parents die of AIDS. Some of the children themselves have AIDS, while others have been sexually abused.
"She feeds 40 children every day but can only keep 24 at night," Lassiter said. "She has to find a place for the rest to go for the night. Then they come back to her house the first thing the next morning."
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Lassiter said Simons gets by on practically no financial support.
The main course of a meal she serves children can be the size of a silver dollar, Lassiter said, but the youngsters who sit down and eat are thrilled to get even that much in an area of extreme poverty.
The biggest problem plaguing the area is the AIDS epidemic, which infects one in nine of South Africa's 48 million people.
Lassiter said a myth running rampant at this time states people with AIDS who have intimate relations with a virgin will be healed of their disease. For that reason, young children — such as those helped at Simons' home — are targeted.
A secondary problem, Lassiter said, is AIDS-infected children are reluctant if not unwilling to discuss their disease, including anyone who may have sexually assaulted them.
In the meantime, Lassiter said, township police think nothing of dropping off one or two children a night at Simons' home, knowing she will care for the youngsters who may have been sexually assaulted and are now roaming the streets.
After visiting with some of the children, in addition to Simons, the Lassiter's gave Simons a monetary gift and promised more funds would be forthcoming from Faith Temple in Topeka.
"When we gave her our gift, she said, 'Follow me to the bank and watch as I deposit the money,' " Sandra Lassiter said. "That's how legitimate she is."
Already, Sandra Lassiter said, she has challenged members of the Faith Temple church to pledge $5 a month to go to Simons for her home. If 50 members a month would make such a contribution, she said, the $250 would be a monumental boost to Simons, who conducts nightly Bible studies for those at her home.
Additionally, Faith Temple is working with international students at Washburn University to strengthen ties to South Africa for future trips to the Wellington village.
The Lassiter's said their recent trip to South Africa — a country of extreme wealth and poverty with vestiges of apartheid still prevalent — made them even more thankful to call the United States home.
The Lassiter's said they want to encourage others in Topeka to realize how good they have it here and to do all they can to help others in need, including locally, nationally and around the world.
"We're blessed to give," Sandra Lassiter said. "We're blessed to be a blessing."
Phil Anderson can be reached at               (785) 295-1195         (785) 295-1195 or phil.anderson@cjonline.com.
 http://cjonline.com/life/2010-01-01/Lassiter's_connect_with_south_africa