I’m proud of You

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Photo credit: Emily Bak Toldam, iThemba Denmark Team

Sometimes encouragement comes from the most unlikely of places. I probably would have shooed him away. He was drunk. Not drunk enough to be aggresive, just drunk enough to be honest. He decided to join in on Sizwe’s Life Group last Friday. He had seen my car (and the car of the Restoration Hope team), and figured it was about time he visited. The teenage boys had gathered on the back porch of our host’s home, and we were all discussing the journey of faith, and the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus. The topic turned to the fact that these young men could make the journey of faith easier for their own children one day, through their example as good fathers and good husbands. The whole reason Sizwe and the other discipleship field workers spend so much time with kids and youth in the community is to be role models for them, to build relationships with them and give them the support they need to make wiser choices.

Then he (this unknown drunk man) showed up and sat down in the circle with us. He had plenty to say. “I am just so frustrated.” He repeated over and over (in English, since there were a lot of us umlungus there). “I have four children, all from different mothers. I don’t have a job. I am just so frustrated. I need counselling.” He was about thirty, maybe a bit younger. He was pretty well dressed, but he never smiled.

Sizwe very skillfully explained the teen boys had homework, so we would talk with him after we wrapped up the lesson. The lesson finished and we all left, but Sizwe stayed to talk with the newcomer.

We are told stories in the Bible of entertaining angels unawares, of welcoming the “least of these” and really welcoming Christ himself. I think maybe one reason is not that we will be rewarded with a good feeling for helping them, but that these people actually have the ability to bless and encourage us. Our iThemba team has been pretty discouraged lately with some very serious situations in Sweetwaters/Mpumuza with the kids/teens we work with relating to suicides, AIDS and poor choices. Everyone has been running low on energy, and on hope.

Our new (slightly drunk) friend sat Sizwe down and explained, “You know, you guys are making a difference. I have seen you come here to this road to meet with these boys every day for the past three years. And I told myself, one day I will visit. You know, even though we parents don’t really speak much with you, we do appreciate what you are doing. And it is impacting even us at home. My child always stops me now to pray before we start eating. That is from learning about God with you.” Then he said something which has been ringing in Sizwe’s ears all week. A message from the God on high who sees the work iThemba is doing, who understands the long, hard road it can sometimes be, an echo of what will be said one day at the end of time: “You know what?” the man said. “I am proud of you. I am so proud of you.” 

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Farther Together

Nompilo competing during a race. She was NOT running this fast when she was helping me. :)

Nompilo competing during a race. She was NOT running this fast when she was helping me. 🙂

When we have a team visiting us, it means I get to go be involved with every aspect of iThemba’s work for a few days. This week, that meant I visited running club for the first time since I got over my mono (glandular fever). I have posted about running club in the past, but for those who don’t like hyperlinks, running club is a group of students from a local high-school coached by Thulani, one of our discipleship fieldworkers. There are about 40 of them, and this term they are competing (and winning) against super-priviledged schools in the area.

I took the team to meet the club and join in with the practice– and hopefully encourage the kids to keep going and be dedicated. Thulani had us start by running a few warm-up laps around the stadium (which also doubles as a cow pasture). Since I didn’t want to be lazy, and I wanted to set the example by participating, I decided to run one lap. My friend Nompilo, a student in running club who also was in art club last term (and is one of the fastest on the team), was very kind and slowed pratically to a walk so she could jog with me. Then, as we approached the end of the first lap, I was going to stop, when she wrapped both her arms around me and said, “No, it’s okay, I’ll be with you, you can do it! Keep going.” And so I kept going. 

On my own, I would have done just one lap, but with Nompilo  I was able to do two. 🙂 What a beautiful picture of encouragement, teamwork, and the fact that we really do go farther together. We really do need each other. 

Many of the discipleship fieldworkers have been facing very serious situations in the community with the kids they work with: suicides, abuse, death from AIDS– and all of this has been taking a toll on them. Thankfully, this team we recently had from Restroation Hope was able to pray for them and encourage them to keep going. To see the American church come hold hands and gather around the South African church, praying for the Spirit help them finish strong was a beautiful picture of Christ’s body at work.

  • Pray that the discipleship fieldworkers will continue to be encouraged. 
  • Pray that the running club will become a group of students who support each other in making wise choices.