For the past four weeks I (Lydia) have been in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa in the town of Mpophomeni. Mpophomeni is a large sprawling township set in the midst of beautiful hills. I joined five other girls: Corinne, Charlee, Naomi, Sadie and Evelyn. We went with the organisation Tearfund who have sent many teams over the years to Ethembeni.
Ethembeni is a HIV and AIDs ministry which seeks to bring hope in the Name of Jesus to vulnerable people in the community of Mpophomeni. The two main issues in Mpophomeni are unemployment and HIV - around 80% of people are unemployed and over half are HIV positive. Ethembeni works in both of these areas. Ethembeni has three main areas of ministry: the family centre, which cares for 70 children and young people, providing food, fun, spiritual and emotional care. The children who come are all affected in some way by HIV so the family centre provides a safe place of love and care. The care centre: which has four beds to care for patients who are very sick. And home based care visits program: providing food and spiritual and emotional assistance to families and individuals in their homes. They also have a mobile HIV testing and counselling service which goes into Mpophomeni. Ethembeni is helping to transform a community which is broken by showing God’s love and being Jesus’ hands and feet in this area.
Our team spent the majority of our time at the family centre and had a wonderful time getting to know the fantastic staff and some of the most ansl children I have ever met. We had varying roles here, although our main role was leading the children’s devotions for between 15 and 30 minutes every day. During our time we taught the children about The Fruit of the Spirit. God encouraged us that this was His plan for our time in a very special way. Before we arrived there had been another team who had produced a folder detailing the work they had done including what they had taught. We had hoped to look through this folder immediately but were only able to 10 days into our stay. During this time we had decided to teach on the Fruit of the Spirit and started to plan for this. When we eventually got the folder and looked at their teaching schedule, we saw that the next topic they suggested was the Fruit of the Spirit! It was such a wonderful encouragement that God had directed our thoughts. The main language of Mpophomeni is Zulu and whilst children do learn English at school, the age range of the children means some can understand more than others. This meant all of our devotions were completed using a translator. To try to ensure the children understood our message we used a lot of practical demonstrations including one devotion I taught with glow sticks! Leading the devotions was a privilege and God taught us a lot as we prepared for them.
During our time we also organised a pamper evening for the girls and staff of the centre. We also did lots of washing up and making sandwiches! Although these were only small things that we thought were insignificant, God taught us that nothing we do for Him is wasted. Finally we created a vegetable garden for a lady whose son is at the family centre, this was enjoyable, but hard work! None of our team had really done any gardening previously so we’re praying that the seedlings we planted will grow!
During our time we were also involved in home based care visits. These weekly visits are to support families in the community who are in need. All the people we visited were affected in some way by HIV. Every Thursday, we joined a home based care team to give out food parcels, each family is visited every two weeks with food and a time of Bible study and prayer. These visits were challenging and encouraging. There were 3 other ladies in my team all who spoke Zulu so I was reliant on a small bit of translation to understand what was being spoken of during the visits. One such visit was when we went to a house and the person we were supposed to visit wasn’t in; instead there was a man the team had not met before. Originally the man asked for prayer for his leg which had been injured in a car accident, so we prayed for that. Then there was a lot of talking in Zulu with no translation so I was a bit lost. Then I heard one of the ladies praying and the man repeating the prayer after her but it wasn’t until one of the ladies prayed in English that I realised the man had just become a Christian! Most visits were more challenging, seeing and hearing of the difficulties people are going through. The work of Ethembeni here is essential as they are able to support the family over a long period of time helping them physically and supporting them spiritually.
If an individual or family is visited by Ethembeni they enter a contract, part of which specifies that they must enter some form of the income generation project. These projects include making jewellery from paper beads, sewing, growing a vegetable garden or sorting recycling. This ensures that the family has a viable source of income which will help them support themselves in the future when Ethembeni no longer visits.
God taught us so much during this trip through His word and through the people we met. The staff at the family centre taught me so much about unconditional love, through other people I saw the importance of relying on prayer in every situation and the importance of thankfulness in every situation. God also spoke to our team through the verse John 15:4 ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you’ and the importance of remaining in Him throughout the trip and afterwards. These are just a few of the things God taught us, there are many more!
I would like to thank all the people who prayed for me during my trip we had so many answered prayers which we praise God for.