Presbytery to Presbytery Partnership between
Donegal Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
and Mthatha (Umtata) Presbytery
of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa
The idea of a partnership begins in June of 1997
Donegal Presbytery's partnership with Umtata began when the presbytery voted in June of 1997 'to explore the possibility of establishing an International Partnership with a presbytery or other governing body in South Africa.' That presbytery or other governing body became the Mthatha Presbytery in Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
A Covenant Agreement is drafted in 2000
The partnership began to be experienced in personal terms when a three person delegation from Donegal visited Umtata in February 2000. During this initial visit a Covenant Agreement was finalized and given tangible expression as we shared one cup in the Lord's Supper. 
The vision of the partnership is conveyed in the Covenant's Preamble where it states:
We hope that the proposed partnership will bring us together to engage in mutual support materially and spiritually, helping us realize in a true sense the meaning of Christ's prayer in John 17:23, where our Lord makes an earnest plea that God will make us one.
It takes us along a different path than the traditional model of benefactor - recipient. As we do mission in partnership we seek:
1  to answer God's call in mission, not serve our own needs by 'doing good.'
2. to express mutual respect, not paternalism and dependence.
3. to establish an interdependent partnership that benefit all partners not one-sided dependent relationships.
4. to seek the day when Christ's church in all its diversity may show its unity for the sake of the gospel, not
    promoting or being content with division
Shortly after this initial visit, Mthatha reciprocated by sending a three-person team to Donegal in November of 2000. These two visits accomplished our beginning goals of building friendships, experiencing and celebrating our diversity and unity while gaining a deeper appreciation for the breadth of the Body of Christ.
The dream of a garden project is spawned in October of 2002 as a Donegal team visit Mthatha
Slowly the idea of shared mission projects developed, resulting in a second contingent from Donegal visiting Mthatha in October 2002. This second Donegal visit included among its five member team two youth. During the visit, discussion ensued about the possibility of starting a garden plot project at the Sommerville and Lower Ngqwara Congregations.
A computer literacy project was also discussed with the Youth of the Erskine Congregation in the city of Mthatha.
With differences in resources between the two presbyteries so enormous, the challenge is to partner in such a way that dignity is preserved, and dependency is avoided. This is achieved by developing the unique capabilities of the Umtata peoples, working within their schedule, priorities, organizational patterns and values. It is the goal of the partnership that value be placed on building relationships as much as solving problems.
The dream begins to take shape as money is raised and an Mthatha team visits Donegal in 2004
With unemployment upwards of 50% in the very rural villages of Mthatha the reality is that most young people must leave their homes to look for work in the cities (even though there are very few jobs there). It is hoped that the two proposed garden plot projects in Sommerville and Lower  Ngqwara will begin to reverse this trend and increase the income of the two congregations involved.
Through the Presbytery of Donegal's Moving Christ Mission Forward Capital Campaign, money began to be set aside for future projects in Mthatha. The Presbytery of Donegal also voted to make the Mthatha Garden Plot Project it's ongoing Mission Project in 2003. This resulted in two revenue streams for future garden projects in Mthatha.
Mthatha Presbytery sent a delegation of three to Donegal in May of 2004. The visit furthered the goal of the Covenant Agreement for a regular exchange and communications between the two Presbyteries. The visit enabled the partners to discuss the soon to be started garden plot project at the Sommerville Congregation, as well as to discuss ways to fund the computer literacy project. Plans were also made to begin congregation to congregation linkages between the two Presbytery'a churches.
The Garden Project becomes a reality and a Donegal Team vists Mthatha in 2005
With moneys now available and plans for the garden project further developed, the dream of a garden plot project became a reality at the Sommerville site in  2005.  It is hoped that this is just the beginning, Unfortunately, due to the loss of the planned site at Lower Nqgwara, the garden plot planned there had to be shelved for the time being.

The Mthatha Youth's computer literacy project, however,  is very much still in the works.
A contingent from Donegal consisting of four adults and two youth visited Mthatha in October of 2005. The team was overwhelmed by the hospitality of their Mthatha hosts. During the trip the extention of the Covenant Agreement and the Congregation-to-Congregation Connection project were discussed. The team also visited the Sommerville Garden Project, and a new church site for the Erskine Congregation that is to be the, home  of the Youth's Computer Project. The travelers came back energized and committed to growing the partnership.
Upon returning to the States, the Task Force finalized and launched the Congregational Connection project (renamed Congregation-to-Congregation Connection project). For a copy of the program's guidelines click here. The hope is to get the project off the ground, and to begin to link congregations of the two presbyteries together.
As the footsteps between the homes of the two partner friends continue to multiply, so too will the understanding between the two partners. This, in part, is the result of learning how other Christians live their faith daily. As we share in worship, communion, and true fellowship, we experience that oneness that can only come by the Holy Spirit.
Facts about Mthatha Presbytery and South Africa
-The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCS) was formed by a union of two presbyterian   denominations, the former 'black' or Reformed Presbyterian Church and the former 'white' or Presbyterian Church of South Africa. The new church chose the term 'UNITING' rather than 'UNITED' reflecting the clear intent to be joined in the future to the two other presbyerian bodies in South Africa: the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Africa.

-The Presbytery of Mthatha has more than 5,200 members in 16 congregations. Three of those congregations have been established since February 2000.

-The churches of the Mthatha Presbytery minister to one of the poorest regions of the Republic of South Africa located in Eastern Cape Province (formerly the Transkei Black Homeland in the days of Apartheid).
-In South Africa unemployment is upwards of 50%, with about one in four young adults between the ages of 15 and 48 infectected by the HIV virus
-The flag of the Republic of South Africa began use on April 27, 1994. 'The horizontal "V" at the center of the flag can be seen as representing the convergence of diverse elements in South African society, which then take the road ahead in unison." (Source: RSA Embasy website)
Is your congregation looking to put a face on an overseas mission connection?
Consider partnering with an Mthatha Congregation through the Congregational Connection Program.
For a link to the program's guidelines click here
To find out how your chuch can help raise funds for the Mthatha Garden Plot Project click here
For a list of references, including books, videos and a map click here
For a link to the PCUSA's Southern African Mission Network click here

For more information contact Rick Schmidt: or 717.880.6436