Blessings from our new home in Back Door, South Africa! Forgive us for the many names, but one of our first cultural shocks was sorting out the many names for the area. Back Door is a small, impoverished community that shares a high hill with Mbonisweni (where the future children’s home will be). Back Door overlooks Kabokweni (the larger township) and many hills and valleys dotted with homes. We are blessed with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area (perfect place to pray for transformation and revival). People often refer to our base as the ‘Nelspruit’ or ‘White River’ base since these are the larger urban centers within easy driving distance. But before we tell you more about our first week in SA, we want to share a testimony from our last week in Pemba!
Like any “mundanca da casa” (moving of the house), we were overwhelmed with all the details, goodbyes, and last minute needs of the ministries in transition. I (Teisa) was furiously trying to fulfill any commitments I made within the Mercy Ministry so the new leaders would not have to deal with, “But Teisa said/promised…”. This included purchasing 2 wheelchairs, 2 home improvements projects, and buying a bed. Any one of these projects (except buying the bed) normally would take 1-2 weeks separately to accomplish, so we knew it would take a miracle to get everything done (including packing, goodbye parties, and lots of administrative loose ends, etc). Praise Jesus, we serve a miraculous God!
The mercy ministry team (myself and 2 Makua youth) set out to buy the wheelchairs and the many needed items for the 2 houses. We spent three days searching the city for wheelchairs and nothing could be found. While searching, we bought the necessary rock, bamboo, matufee and chappa (roofing material), and other items for the homes. Wondrously, we were able to deliver the materials and arrange for workers with relative ease…no bribes were asked, no truck breakdowns, no stealing of the materials- Yeah God! One of the widows, Lucia, gathered her 7 children and demanded us to dedicate her new home. We were very happy to comply! After prayer, Lucia kept thanking God for His favor and love for her family’s new home. The other widow, Maria, was equally elated when the provisions for her roof were brought to her door. This family would now be properly sheltered from the cold rains during the rainy season.
Little did we know, word was on the street that Iris Ministries wanted to buy wheelchairs. To our astonishment, several were brought to the center for us to choose from! We were so blessed to give these vital gifts to two boys within our church who desperately needed them.
We were down to the wire and had one more item to go- a bed for a blind woman and her two kids. We asked the woman to return on Wednesday to pick up her bed. This would wrap up all the projects and give me all of Thursday to pack (our departure flight was Friday morning). Sure enough, the family was waiting at our office door Wednesday morning. We found out that Christina was a widow and that her home was in the city, so we arranged for a truck to take her family and the bed home. They were loading the truck when the Holy Spirit told me I needed to go with them…I was thinking, “Really? I don’t need to go…I have so many other things to do.” But the Holy Spirit was clear, so I hopped into the truck. Boy was I glad I obeyed!!!
We discovered that Christina and the two kids lived on the side of a guard shack. They had no walls and only a tattered makeshift roof to shelter them as they slept on the ground. The kids began joyously dancing around as we moved their new bed into the small space. I could not help the tears flowing from my eyes as I watched their precious joy over the simple thing like a bed. We began to question Christina and found out the kids had never been to school; instead, they take turns leading their mother around town begging. The oldest girl, Isabella, was most likely being abused to pay for the rent of the little space from the guards. My heart was so broken for this family, I knew I could not leave Pemba until this family was safe.
My team talked about the options….we could rent a mud hut near the Iris Center, but that would not take care of other needs of the family (food, school, safety for Christina and Isabella). Then we stopped talking and prayed…duhhh! The Holy Spirit reminded me of the Noviana Village, so I called the director, Don Kantel. The Noviana village (an extension of Iris Ministries Canada) is a small community of widows and their children near our Iris base. Two years ago, I was present when the first family moved in—a widow with two young daughters. I knew of the two other families who also had moved in, so I knew there was little hope that there was space. Gloriously, Don told me that there was a single room left and we could move the family in the next day!!!
Thursday morning, instead of packing for our move, I packed for this new families move☺ In a few moments, their worldly possessions more than quadrupled by simply throwing extra cloths, plates, sheets, towels, etc. into a few trash bags. Excitedly, our mercy team went to pick up the family and move them into their new home. Christina was eagerly waiting outside the shack with her new bed and a small bundle containing everything she owned.
Friends, words cannot express the joy of seeing a family lifted out of the pit of hopelessness and set upon the rock of love, Jesus! We watched this family as they settled into a real home, lovingly embraced by their neighbors who were merrily preparing food for them. We explained how the kids would go to our Iris school and how Christina would no longer have to beg. They were safe. There would always be enough food. They did not have to do anything to earn it. They were loved. They had an amazing Father who simply wanted to know them and take care of them. We all cried as we prayed over this new family and the beginning of their new journey in the Kingdom.
And guess what! Later that day, Jean and I packed up our whole house up in around 5 hours. Delighted to give away more than we were taking with us, things came together rather easily.
We are now getting settled into our new home in South Africa. As expected, Jean left two weeks ago to accompany Surprise Sithole (International Director of Iris Ministries) on a preaching/fundraising tour of the UK. I stayed back to help in various areas. As for specific prayer needs, we really need divine wisdom and favor as we move forward with the new children’s center. Without really knowing the local culture and people, we need the Holy Spirit to impart heavenly strategies so we know what steps to take, what issues to take a stand on, when to keep quiet, etc. As always, there are some interesting dynamics and problems that prevented major headway for the new children center. We need to renovate the 4 current buildings and receive approval from social services and town planning (plus getting the proper licenses and the property rezoned). Please pray for these details and our leadership team as we begin establishing the children’s center core values, staff guidelines, house rules etc. And pray for the dear children who are anxiously waiting for a home. Lastly, please pray that we find God’s chosen house parents who will love these precious children as their own.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt 20:16
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Rev 22:12-13