Our team arrived from the states safe and sound. After a long drive to the Transkei, the team settled into the Bambisana base and had a great night planning for their first full day of outreach and getting comfortable with our new electronic health records system. The night ended with the team playing guitar, singing and worshiping together.
The team had an early start today for their first full day of the outreach. After a good breakfast and devotion it was time to head out to the village of Mtimde. Mtimde is a rural village where Village South Africa has a soup club and recently was given land by the Chief to build a community center. The entire village knew the medical team was coming and was excited to greet and welcome them to the community.
The team worked tirelessly all day and got home only after dark. The need is so great in Mtimde and the team was very busy. God is good!
I met a woman of great faith at Jehovah Jireh Haven, Molly Bam. She is a woman who is close to my age and for the past 24 years she has given her life to children. Not just donating time once a week to a homeless shelter or teaching Sunday school on Sunday, or even teaching school 5 days a week. She LIVES with 100 plus children of all ages. She wipes their noses, knows each one by name, loves them daily with hugs and kisses. She provides food, clothes, birthday celebrations and Christmas gifts. She comforts them when they hurt. Molly and her husband Neels started with 3 children that needed help, in a small home. That same home has been added to and enlarged to accommodate over 100 children. On the two days we visited the home was neat, beds were made, little clutter was observed. Children were all smiles and hugs, laughing and singing praises to God. Molly recognizes each child’s need and talents. We heard a 16 year old girl named Asher play guitar beautifully. She writes music and sings like an angel. A 14 year old boy, Elijah, has amazing artistic skills and one of her “children” Nyrocco, has grown up, received her teaching certificate and has returned to teach preschool at Jehovah Jireh.
Molly gives no credit to herself. She is a humble woman and gives all credit to God. She willingly shares her testimony about receiving Christ as her Savior. Molly admits it wasn’t easy in the early days of her belief. She says ‘God had to get rid of all the “bad stuff” in her life”. She couldn’t understand why things didn’t change right away, but realizes now it was God’s way. When she surrendered to Him, He showed her His plan little by little.
Molly is a woman of faith like I have not experienced. It says in Matthew 8:10 “Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and said to those following Him, I assure you I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith.” The centurion’s daughter was healed because of the father’s faith. Molly display’s the same sort of faith. When she needs something for her children or the home she asks and trusts God to supply what is necessary. As we spent time with her, I kept thinking how God must be watching from heaven and smiling. He is probably saying “yes. That is how I want my children to love others.”
I can’t help but think on the day when she arrives in heaven it will be a day of rejoicing and God will be waiting to say, “Well done my dear faithful servant!”
The next time I am felling full of myself for helping in Vacation Bible School or AWANA, or I feel sorry for myself for not having enough “me” time, I will remember Molly and her life of generous service.
Of course when you visit SouthAfrica, the expectation is to see lots of animals and we weren’t disappointed. Beginning with our car trip to the Transkei and seeing animals as we passed and having to stop because of cows or sheep crossing the roads, our group gained a lot of education about SA wildlife.
Rufus was kind to take us out in his bakkie (truck) to tour his land and point out the wildlife he has in abundance. We stopped to take a walk and thought he left us because he was so far in front of us but actually he was setting a fast pace bc he was concerned we would get caught in the dark. We got to see a beautiful sunset and learn about a lot of things including Spring Hairs and the fact that is you give them a good whack on the head with a stick they fall over and die. I thought it was another story about snipe hunting but when we actually saw them on a night safari I realized they were real.
We spent the next night at the Schotia Game reserve and got to see another beautiful sunset and 4/5 big game animals of South Africa… Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Elephant and Lion multiple times… My favorite was the “friendly” elephants especially because the baby was so cute and it was sweet to see how fiercely they protect their young.
I never in a million years thought that I would make a trip to South Africa. But apparently God wanted me to look outside ‘my box’. We have seen God around every corner here. The land and sea are beautiful – and the people are so happy. Many of them have nothing to call their own, but they smile every time we see them.
There are Christian people in South Africa showing God’s love to the people and the children – some giving their lives to raise the children of this land. Such an example to me and the rest of our team. Molly and Neels Bam at Jehovah Jireh Haven (JJH), for example, work 24 hours a day to give a Christian influence to the 100 +/- kids who come or are brought to JJH. Twenty four hours a day dealing with the physical, mental and spiritual issues of kids that are not even theirs! Think about that – non-stop, unpredictable issues of 100 kids. No such thing as a full nights’ sleep, no saying I’m not feeling like helping you right now. What a life-changing sacrifice Molly and Neels, and their small staff, are making!!
Our whole trip has been about the beauty of the land and the beauty of the people who are giving their lives to help others. Jesus must be very happy with His South African disciples!!
What will we do when we leave this county and return to our homes and the frustrations of our lives? Will we remember how the people who have nothing always smiled when we saw them? Will we have more patience with our kids or grandkids? Will we be more accepting of people that look different than us? Will we bring home what we saw and learned and loved in South Africa? I pray that we do!!!
Today the team and I spent time in Wells Estate and Motherwell townships. I served with many mamas in this area when I lived here and was so blessed that many of the mamas I worked with took taxis to come and see me today. Mama Nozakhe is the mama shown above was proud to show off the community center she runs and to tell us all about the ministry.
Sitting around the circle this afternoon we started talking about health. I had noticed that Mama Nozakhe had dropped quite a bit of weight since I saw her last and I was worried. She said it was because of diabetes and since we had a nurse on our team, she took blood pressure and blood sugar finger stick tests. Nozakhe’s blood sugar was 532 and another mamas was in the 300’s. We sat talking about health and nutrition while acknowledging that the healthy foods are not cheap and are truly not accessible to most people in the area (including themselves). It’s a powerless feeling to know that all you have to offer in terms of nutrition education is for naught. It is what it is. I get that but it still stinks.
As we were sitting around chatting I was getting updates on various families I worked with and I nearly lost my breath when the women told me that the “walking stick makhulu” (a grandmother who used a crooked cane) had died. Not only had she died, she was raped and murdered over a parcel of food. This was one of my favorite women and I had a very tender heart towards her and her granddaughter. Several years ago when I was visiting her home, I smelled alcohol and in speaking with her realized that she was making traditional African beer to sell to help provide for her granddaughter. Unfortunately, it was bringing an unsavory group of men around the home and really creating risk for the child so I spoke with her about this openly, directly and compassionately. On that day, she poured out the alcohol and sold it no more. In the weeks to come she and her home became so much more peaceful. We prayed together and she accepted Christ.
When I picture her beautiful, old, wrinkled face I could cry a bucket of tears to know how she spent her final moments on earth. This is a woman I truly loved and was proud to call a sister in Christ. I know one day I will see her again but for today, my heart just aches.
I’m in absolute heaven! While the team was at Schotia Game Reserve, Rufus, Johann and I visited Door of Hope today. I was bursting with joy to see Mama Gladys and the kids. I love them so much and have missed them deeply. Mama Gladys is one of the women who would often pray for me and for my family when I became weary from the weight of the work we were doing. One look at my face and she could always tell how I was doing. What a blessing it is to be known in that way.
After the initial hugs and greetings with the children, I walked into the back yard and Lungisa (one of the Door of Hope board members) gave me a great big hug and said “Welcome home, Mama.”. My heart melted in an instant and that piece of me that was left here years ago clicked into place once again.
Mama Gladys and I were busy catching up when Johann said we must come inside and see something. As we walked into the living room I could see the kids swarming around a chair and upon further inspection I realize they were swarming around Rufus (who is known to say he is allergic to children) and having a fat chat in Xhosa. The kids were fascinated that Rufus, a white Afrikaans man, could speak their language so flawlessly. I couldn’t resist and had to take a “Where’s Waldo” pic of Rufus and the kids.
We were invited to dinner by the Door of Hope Board of Directors. What a great group of people with a heart for children. They spoke of their struggles as well as their vision for the children’s home in the future. We were able to think strategically with them about accomplishing their mission and offered encouragement and prayer. One of the board members told me he was given a name for me, Mama Wesizwe, which means Mother of the Nations. Not quite sure I deserve that name but I am honored and humbled by his kind impression of me.
Today we took time to start our day with a good breakfast at a cute spot, Shelly’s on the beach at Gonubie. There was a vendor set up and we purchased some cute South African items to sell at the run Village South Africa is planning for the spring to raise money for the South African missions. We spend the rest of the morning driving to the Jehovah Jireh Haven Children’s Home.
It’s hard to express the experience of that visit. As soon as we got there, the gate swung open and there were a pack of kids jumping up and down… The first thing I heard was “Uncle Jeff” repeatedly shouted enthusiastically as he was swarmed by kids wanting his attention (this was Jeff Cooks 6th trip to JJ). It wasn’t two seconds before they were on me as well. They were so happy to see us and it was so great to see how happy they were considering they wore tattered clothes and have such a sparse living. The founder of JJ, Molly and Neels Bam, raised three kids of their own while taking in kids for over twenty years.
One of the greatest problems in this area is alcoholism because the unemployment rate is so high. Since Apartheid, the government gives 280 rand/month (about$20) to a mother for a child and this motivates them to have babies… It’s not uncommon for girls to have had 3 babies before they are out of their teens. The Social Development and police know that Molly feels like any child brought to her was sent from God so she takes all of them in. The miracle I witnessed was the love Molly has for God has been taught to the kids and is so evident in their behavior. .. they all know more Christian songs than any kids I have met in the US and also have such shining smiles. We left JJ promising the kids we would be back tomorrow and I am going to focus on giving them as much love as I can during our last visit.
This evening Mike and Marika Kirby hosted a dinner for us with the Board of Directors from JJ and it was nice to meet the people who support them because they certainly have a daunting task!