Wow, this week went by so fast. We started it off by reuniting with the wonderful Johan, a long-time Outtatown partner, who explained to us what would be on the agenda for the week. I (Hannah) remember thinking to myself “wow, this is going to be a full two weeks, and they are going to be extraordinary”, and so far, our time here has been exactly that.
Monday through to Wednesday, we were divided into six small “service” groups and basically thrown into the Kayamandi community. Kayamandi is a suburb of Stellenbosch and a former township, meaning it was underdeveloped and segregated during Apartheid. Our intent coming in was building relationships, making an impact, and empowering people. Wow, what a mission.
Personally, I was overwhelmed with even the thought of the upcoming adventure. Every morning, we were dropped off at the Kuyasa Community Centre where we were joined by guides who were there to serve alongside of us in their own community, and where we received guidance from Johan and Simba – a leader at the centre. Each group spent significant time in prayer as we waited for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to where we were to spend time serving during the following week. The first portion of our time in Kayamandi was spent touring the area under the leadership of our guide Chuma.
My (Hannah) team ended up getting to know the mother of a local creche (daycare), and we are looking forward to building a shelter that will hopefully provide more shade to the 40+ children who attend. We were very moved, especially when we saw the relationship between our guide and her son Soso who attended the creche. He is a differently-abled child (a term used here instead of person with a disability), who knew how to laugh and love extremely well. We have loved getting to know the many children, aged 0-5, who attend this creche. We also loved the start of the planning process, as well as hearing the stories of those who worked there and having the opportunity to pray with the mother of the creche, Luleka.
At the beginning of this week, I (Sarah) felt incredibly encouraged by what we were about to experience; Johan inspired us to look beyond surface level relationships and to look for a project which empowers and impacts people internally. This was going to be a lot more work than your average community project but I was so excited to see the ways in which God would provide opportunities to develop relationships with those in the community. Nolita, my group’s guide, had many connections throughout Kayamandi, two of which were the local Gogos. This is a term used to describe the elder grandmothers in the area. Our first Gogo was a fairly close neighbour of our guide. We were able to hear about her experience with Apartheid and her hopes for the future. The second Gogo was someone whom Nolita often greeted whenever she passed her house. We were also warmly welcomed as she shared a bit of her life experience. It was amazing how much joy and love she had despite a difficult past, and when I asked her about her reasoning to find joy despite past suffering, she replied that Jesus was her source. I feel blessed to have heard a bit of their wisdom.
Thursday and Friday were spent learning from two different guest speakers named Dion and Eric. Dion touched on life in community and how culture shock can impact relationships, and we were blessed with the opportunity to hear Eric’s incredible testimony. He grew up as one of the leading gang members and said that at only 13 years old, he had almost 600 kids willing to die for him. After having been in jail several times before being 18 years old, he experienced hearing God’s voice for the first time in his bedroom with his bible open. He had struggled all his life with the belief that God was a “white man’s God” and couldn’t believe that God loved black men and women as well. In an evening of desperation, he asked God to prove him wrong, and he was directed to a verse in Genesis that proclaims the truth that God is the God of ALL the nations; Eric’s life was changed. He now leads an organization designed to help young gang members, young prostitutes and their babies, and many other young people from all over South Africa. He inspired us all with his story, which is living proof that God IS still working and IS still speaking to His children. We were all blown away by his incredible testimony to God’s power and unending love. I (Hannah) had the opportunity to talk afterwards with Eric, whose gentleness and humility was refreshing to me.
We finished the week off with a hike and some time back on the ocean, which brought great joy to our community.
This is a long blog, I know, BUT, one last thing. Sunday night, we had the opportunity to go to an on-campus church service. It was a beautiful time of fellowship where we learned what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. This particularly impacted me, as I’ve been praying a lot lately about how Jesus is calling me to pick up my cross and follow him. I’ve been deeply impacted over these past few weeks regarding God’s character and how God asks me to respond to His love in obedience and in true discipleship. I look forward to future intimacy with Christ and to see what this new call to suffer for the kingdom of God will look like in my life.
Written by Hannah McNeilly and Sarah Martens