Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You never know who is watching . . .

"I was crying so much I don't know where all the water came from?" . . .
"I had lost hope – but then you came along and gave me a new vision." . . .
"There was no light at the end of the tunnel and yet now I am standing in the light."

These are words spoken by Yolanda at the share and prayer at our meeting on Sunday.  A very special person – Yolanda – and I was amazed at her confession – because whenever I have met with her she is always laughing and so positive…

I was sitting waiting in the car for Liezl to finish her crèche class at Molly when suddenly there was a tap on my window.  Now – if you are sitting alone in a "high-risk" car, in the middle of a township and you know that you are most probably the only white person (other than your daughter) in a 5 km radius , and you are a woman – a tap on the window does wonders to the heartbeat.  It soars to limitless heights and the adrenaline flows.  Caught between fleeing and leaving Liezl or just turning my head – with a prayer I did the latter.  And there was Yolanda.  A friendly grey haired Gogo.  "I have been watching you – and would like you to come and visit me".  She lived 5 houses down the road.

And so began our relationship with Sinekhaya (meaning "This is home").  For the past 18 years Yolanda Pama and Frederick Kekesi have provided a place of safety for abandoned and vulnerable children in Tembisa (Gauteng).  They are part of a project to rather provide cluster fostering in a home environment until the children can be adopted – rather than being placed into orphanages (which the SA government is phasing out).  At the moment the 5 boys and 3 girls are all under the age of 3 – which means Yolanda has a very busy and active day.  She hand washes all the clothes, cooks and feeds, cleans her home and manages to be a loving mother to each child.  Lighle – the latest addition is only 6 months old.  She was found abandoned in a dustbin in centre Johannesburg.  Yet under Yolanda's care – within 7 days she was fatter, relaxed and smiling under a tiny pink grazed nose.

Yolanda and Frederick have devoted their whole home to these orphans and semi-orphans.  Sinekhaya is not a big home.  You enter through the kitchen door and the first door to your right is to the older boys bedroom and a bathroom.  2 beds and a cot will generally have at least one sleeping child tucked under a blanket.  Neatly folded t-shirts and pants are on the shelves across from the door – and blankets packed in a rickety cupboard behind the door.  If you decide to rather walk straight through the kitchen into the lounge - there is another bedroom just off the lounge.  This is actually Yolanda's room – but in an alcove there are 3 cots for the youngest children.  It is small – but compact -  always neat with an atmosphere of caring and family living.  Compared to living on the streets or in an informal settlement these young children have a safe haven in which to play and sleep.

The semi-orphans are allocated to Sinekhaya by Lifeline, Childline or children's courts.  Yolanda is a qualified social worker with much knowledge and experience regarding child welfare, child abuse and group support training.  This stands her in good stead to provide a safe home for vulnerable children – as well as teaching these semi-orphans values, morals and the importance of relationships.  Sinekhaya is a registered non-profit organization – but – this does not bring in any finances.  Yolanda and Frederick are very dependant on donations – be it financially or in the form of clothes, food, toys, blankets – as the government grant per child barely covers the cost of the monthly nappies.

Their dream is to add an additional 2 rooms to their home.  This would mean that she and Frederick could have the privacy of their own bedroom, while the children could sleep in their bedrooms.  Then to top it all – the second room could become a playroom where they could play, eat, be taught and generally mess (as young children should do); and the lounge could again become an adults visiting area. 

We were blessed to have a P2P team in September doing general maintenance at their home, plant grass and even sponsor a jungle gym for the kids (normally they play in an area of 1m x 2m in the lounge – never venturing outside as it is stony and dusty in the yard).  But the biggest bonus of all – both Yolanda and Frederick did the Bible Correspondence Course – and then Frederick started attending Bible classes at Aphiwe – and the meeting on Sundays.  And now – when we have the opportunity to provide transport – Yolanda and all the kids attend the meeting as well.

With the "touch and teach" philosophy we have reached out to people we would never have even met.   We have never needed to preach to Yolanda.  She has seen God using us as instruments in answer to her prayers – and now her thankfulness has created in her and Frederick a desire to be closer to people who serve and love God. 

Similarly to Ruth they are saying
"I want to know your God"
"I want to thank Him for giving me hope"
"I want to be people who have a vision and walk the talk".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New shoots in Margate....

Since we came to live in Margate at the beginning of November, we have had plenty to thank our heavenly Father for.

The ecclesia here is very supportive of our work and we have had 2 meetings with the whole meeting (which now numbers 9 with us!) to ensure we have their approval for our plans.  It is our aim to involve them so we are working as a team to reach out to the local community.

Our Good News Crèche, which provides 10 children from the Masinenge Informal Settlement with free preschool education, had a lovely closing day function, despite a power cut, with many parents attending.

One of our primary goals was to increase the youth activities available from our Good News Centre.  The Sunday School has grown from 2 to 9 (400%!) and we had a very successful Kids Club in the first week of the summer holidays, with 25-30 children attending every day.  Thanks to Phil and Naomi, who came down from Durban to help.  Great friendships were formed at the club, and this helped to fuel our first CYC night which had 12 teens attending to watch a movie & discuss what they wanted from their CYC next year.

We have made links with 2 community projects in the area, which we are hoping to support via the COP Trust in the New Year.  The first is Masinenge Informal Settlement community, which runs a soup kitchen for TB/HIV patients, a food garden and a crèche.  We observed the soup kitchen, where proper hot meals are handed out to about 35 registered patients (checked by the Community Health Worker).  It is very well organised but they are struggling with a camping stove and the new shed donated by a local church cannot be used until some money is found to finish concreting the floor.  They would like to offer the patients a place to come and spend time sewing or beading etc, but currently do not have the funds or materials.  Their food garden is used to provide vegetables for the soup kitchen but needs more workers to keep the weeds at bay!  There are lots of areas we feel we could support these kind-hearted community volunteers.

Brother Nelson and Caz spent an afternoon weeding – the sight of a white lady working in a black person's garden raised a few comments – hopefully the GNOTKOG logo on our T shirts and car were noticed too!

The other project is Usizolwethu Community Development Association, which has recently started a Care Centre for orphaned and abused children, and a crèche.  This crèche was started largely to bring some income to the Care Centre, but the teachers are untrained volunteers.  The care centre is struggling to pay utility bills and badly needs furniture and training for the caregivers, and advice on approaching commercial organisations for funding. Again we feel that advice and capacity building are key areas we can work on with these people, by sourcing skills development and helping them become a more efficient organisation.

Caz is hoping to start the CUDDLE project, as run with considerable success in Kempton Park, in the New Year, God willing.  This will benefit the crèche held in our own Good News Centre as well as numerous other facilities in the area.

Ben is hoping to offer a similar service to primary schools and remedial educational facilities soon.  He will start God's Master Plan seminars in January with brother Alastair Clark; we have already had 8 people register their interest.

Please keep these projects in your prayers, and if you know of any donations of 2nd hand goods that can come to Margate, particularly: large cooking pans, children's furniture, clothes and toys, pre-school educational materials, gardening tools – please let us know!!

Ben & Caz Parsons 
Ignite 2020 team, Margate 18/12/10

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kempton Park Ecclesia - Container class room

Christy, Hendri and myself (liezl) decided to spend a Saturday at our Ecclesial hall to upgrade the container that the Youth use as a classroom and sometimes the SMAC (Sunday morning adult class) is held in there too.  The ceilings paint was tearing off and the containers walls were dirty and looked very run down. The floor was just cold metal so you couldn't really sit anywhere as there are no chairs all the time. The outside of the container was also just plain and didn't look very inviting...

So we decided to do the following. We took all the unwanted boards and wood off of the walls, scraped the ceiling, washed the walls and repainted them, repainted the window frames and painted verses on the walls. We decided to make a reading corner where Hendri put up a book shelf and we put in a carpet for the children to sit on while reading.  Painted on a notice board where they can stick up all upcoming events, and Christy painted a graffiti mural on the outside. We hope that this will bring the youth together and let them bring along their friends.   
- Liezl Scheepers (Kempton Park ignite2020 team)
Love the Lord your God.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Forgive us Lord - for we are all sinners. I am so sorry"

So – was the singing too slow at the meeting today?  Or perhaps the meeting was noisy?  Or should we bring up our unhappiness regarding the colour of the curtains, and maybe even throw in how dirty the carpet is; the taste of the wine; the quality of the bread?  Did we remember our Lord today – or were the peripherals too much of a distraction?

We met with our Congolese brethren in Pretoria this afternoon.  They rent ½ a lounge of an apartment/flat on the fourth floor of a fairly poor area of town.  The lift doesn't work – so it's a 72 step climb.  As you climb you are assailed by a variety of smells – washing hanging over balcony railings smelling like washing powder; rotting rubbish stuffed into different corners along a corridor; some porridge burning and the faint whiff of urine as you go up the stairway.  Does anyone complain?  No.  We are only too grateful to have a fixed place to meet and share some fellowship.

7 people were at the meeting today – Brethren Paul, Paderi and Djuma ; and 4 students – Selemane, Wabo, Pascal, Shelolo.  All of them are battling with finding fixed employment.  In fact only Paul has fixed work at the moment.  Paderi's contract ends in January and Djuma is a pavement hairdresser – with plenty of competition.  None of the students are employed.  There were actually enough plastic chairs for everyone today – no-one needed to sit on the floor and try avoid the cockroaches.  Lucas dealt with 2 questions – "Why do we only read of baptism in the Name of Jesus, and not in the name of the Father, son and Holy spirit?" and "What is the role of women in today's church?" There is only 1 single low wattage light bulb lighting the room – so it makes reading quite difficult – but every reference was looked up and studied.  I can understand now why our Brethren and students want Bibles with white pages – and not light brown or any colour for that matter.  The white at least reflects some of the minimal light available and the contrast of black and white makes it easier to read. 

While Lucas led the studies I prepared the emblems for the breaking of bread.  The cupboards in the small kitchen are bare – of crockery, cutlery and food.  Oh except for a piece of something which had a fair number of cockroaches and ants scrambling all over it – but I didn't spend time investigating.  I am not an insect person.  There was not even a slice of bread in the flat.  Fortunately there was a loaf in the car – so down 72 steps – and up 72 steps – and then to find a knife to slice the bread.  Shelolo found a buttering knife somewhere which he rinsed under a most interesting tap.  In actual fact – there is no tap.  You open the handle – and then water spurts out of a pipe.  Takes some aiming to wash what you need to wash.   And to dry?  Well – it was a play-off between Shelolo's shirt or the only cloth squashed right on the top of a kitchen unit.   Not a very clean cloth.  Quite dirty in fact.  After a quick glance in my direction – displaying sheer horror I think – the dirty cloth won.  Before hacking at the bread I gave the knife a quick wipe on the plastic bag over the bread praying that most of the germs would be removed.  Quite an interesting challenge to cut a neat slice of bread with a smooth buttering knife.  Try it one day when you have some time.  With hind sight I should rather have just torn a chunk of bread out of the loaf.  This is called living in poverty and in a flat occupied only by men.  No easy amenities.  Just subsisting . . . surviving.  Oh how we need our Lord to return.

The next challenge – to sit with your feet just off the ground.  Not a gym exercise.  Rather to avoid giving the cockroaches – today there were only 3 – the opportunity of finding a place to crawl up your legs.  I did ask Lucas to squash a fairly large one – and it did seem quite dead – but then just when we were going to leave it seemed to revive.  Horrors.  How I feel for our brethren.  They sleep on mattresses on the floor and the cockroaches are a never-ending problem – and there is no money for insecticide.  So what do you do?  You live with it.  You kill where you can; avoid what you can and then live with the rest.  And then as the meeting progresses - you forget about it.  Interesting discussion; a zeal for learning the truth; sharing life experiences; singing with gusto; remembering our Lord – and truly longing for his return – seeing the need, the desire and hope for a better life all around you.

Today we brought food parcels for our brethren and students – and isn't it a wonderful God moment when you have brought 7 parcels – and there are 7 persons present.  Do we dare bring 20 parcels next time – and hope for the same 1:1 ratio? 

So – just a practical tip if ever you should be visiting a poor area for a breaking of bread – please take a drying cloth, sliced bread, extra Bibles, wine, bottle of water for washing cups/plate.  Oh – and the title of this piece – it was said in the prayer for the emblems.  It just brought home to me how often we go to remember our Lord –and then even there lose focus so quickly.  " Lord I am so sorry.  My thoughts have strayed . . . yet again.  I am a sinner – forgive me as I come to remember your son."

With abiding love from the Ignite2020 team in Kempton Park

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Our God is an awesome God

Meet Molly

Molly is a single mother with three children. She lives in Tembisa and attended the first crèche course that was run by the CUDDLE project. She is a lovely lady with a wonderful disposition. Because of a broken marriage that arose for reasons beyond her control she struggles to make ends meet by way of running a small crèche. She built the minute little room that serves as a class room herself out of second hand throw away materials. After the crèche course we started to help Molly and replaced the roof of her little crèche. The class room remained inadequate however and she did not get the numbers in term of school children she needed to make the crèche viable.
When the Aphiwe community centre opened Mollie started attending the Bible classes on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday night the 31st of March Molly approached Leona and asked for advice as she wanted to try and obtain a loan from the bank to build a double garage to increase her crèche space. She had no regular monthly income at that time and Leona advised her not to get into debt and explained the potential pitfalls involved. Molly understood this and they decided to rather pray together and continue praying to God to give her a solution to her problems. The VERY next day (Thursday 1st April) I received a phone call from the Bright Kids foundation informing me that they found us via the COP Trust website and that they had a donor who wanted to donate a 12m x 3m EDUTAINER to someone bone fide that they wanted us to identify for them. Needless to say, we were in awe as to how quick God did answer our prayers. In the month that followed Leona and I accompanied the donor and the Bright Kids foundation representative to Molly's place on three occasions for them to investigate if she would be the suitable candidate for their criteria. We continued to pray fervently that Mollie would be the one out of three candidates to receive the Edutainer. 
Our joy was HUGE when we received the news in October that Molly was chosen to receive the EDUTAINER and that it would be delivered in December. Yesterday was the big day and what a day of joy and excitement it was! When the container arrived all the little kids shouted for joy and Molly broke down in tears. She found it hard to believe at first that she was receiving a fully fitted and brand new classroom that was three times the size of the one she had. She continued to thank God throughout the delivery process and after the initial tears could not stop laughing and cheering. Her life has been changed. She will no be able to attract more children, give them a better quality education and make the crèche a feasible income earning venture. God made our and her dreams come true. Something amazing happened in Tembisa yesterday and it was such an amazing privilege to be part of it. 
With God all things are possible and we are so thankful to have been the channel through which he worked this miracle - All praise to him and Jesus. 
The Ignite2020 team in KMP