Have you ever been through a busy period, and then at the end felt like you needed some distance from it, before you could analyse and reflect? I hope so, because that is my reason why this report was written some time later than the period to which it refers!! I (Caz) felt I couldn’t bear to sit and relive it all so soon after the event!! Thankfully sis Lauren Ghent was here for most of March to help carry us through the heaviest part, and we had a lovely visit from Caz’s parents for the last two weeks. (Not to mention the Scheepers with the WCF film crew for a great 36 hours!) Immediately after they all left we had a minibreak (i.e. didn’t go anywhere but did the minimum of work). We were given a timely warning against ‘burn out’ towards the end of last year so we are rigidly enforcing our ‘rest day’ and have booked a short trip to the Cape in May.
Our brother Themba Mkitika (Nelson’s nephew) has moved down from Durban and is a great help; we are looking forward to him being more involved in ecclesial and outreach work and developing his leadership skills. Ben is also helping him with interview skills to aid his search for work. This could potentially be developed into a ‘jobseeker course’ if resources allow.
Also our sister Fezekile needed more work to fund her rent and so we are very grateful to have been allowed to give her one day per week of COP Trust work – primarily in CUDDLE where Caz is hoping to train her to be more involved in teaching the crèche course.
Now we are back into our routine, but looking at our previous report there have been several changes since December. We are now having several regular visitors on Sundays and to Bible class. Some things which looked so strong have dipped and others have taken over – new ideas and possibilities arise, such is work in the mission field: praise be to our heavenly Father, for none of our work for him is ever in vain (1Co 15:58) but sometimes we need reminding!
We are hoping to have the help of brother and sister Josh and Josie Smith from New Zealand for a few months in the middle of the year, when it might be possible to convert some of our dormant ideas into projects.
A nice welcome on our return – a thank you card from one of the students who made the most of After School Club. This project is not currently running, but with both her younger siblings in Kingdom Youth who knows where this link may lead?
We try not to take our beautiful natural environment for granted; Ben communes with the ‘dassies’ on a rest day.
Sunday School continues as before, with one slight change – kids turning up early during our morning services were getting a bit disruptive outside – chasing chickens and getting into fights for example! – so we decided to close the main gate and make them wait outside until the morning service was over. There was concern they might just go home if they saw a closed gate (after all none of them wear watches) but thankfully a small group gathers outside every week waiting to come in. We seem to have a loyal core of about 8-10 kids but have struggled to get any more, especially in the teens/youth age group. We have decided to have a concerted advertising effort soon, and especially to try and draw more of our youth group to the Sunday School slot (which we call ‘Youth Bible Study’ obviously!)
Kingdom Youth was back and running well straight after the Christmas break which was lovely. Recent highlights include the purchase of a table tennis table from the SPCA 2nd hand shop (I don’t think any of them had ever tried it before), a beach trip (always popular despite the fact they all live really close!) and a clown teaching juggling (Ben bought 100 lemons for everyone to have a go!)
Gamalakhe Social Club (which when I look back at our last report was going so well,) came back with a disappointingly small number of youth – primarily because our core group are in their final year of schooling and have been scared by their teachers into spending every waking minute studying. After a discussion with them we stopped the Thursday session and started a Friday evening ‘study skills’ session, as we had picked up that they can be just reading text books every night until they fall asleep, and could benefit from learning smarter ways to study. We continued with the ‘regular’ Bible study/activities on Saturdays. However this only lasted a few weeks until our fears were realised and the ward councillor abruptly took back the keys for the hall leaving us with no venue and less than a week to get our furniture and resources out. As a result we have no Social Club going for now.
Saturday Bible Club grew again really quickly after Christmas with all the old faces and some new ones, all keen and bouncing up to the hall every week. Still one of Caz’s favourite parts of the week! When the hall was taken from us we were worried the kids would think Aunty Caz had just let them down, so Lauren, Nelson and Caz went up at the normal time the following week, with a plan to hand out flyers and snacks and explain the situation. However it was a nice day and when 15 of them were there we asked if they’d like a Bible lesson – a resounding ‘yes’ and we had to do some improvising. (Caz’s teaching usually relies heavily on paper-based activities but thankfully the lesson lent itself well to dramatisation!) However the weather would not be so kind on a regular basis so we sadly told the kids that we would have to stop Bible Club until we had a new place to meet. Some of them looked crestfallen, which made us feel even worse.
A great phone call in the middle of the following week came from the mother of some of the children, telling us her aunty had a garage we might be able to use. Her children were so sad about our losing the hall, she said. Caz was very pleased to hear she was the mother of some of her favourites (by that we mean she knows their names, they are always there and always know the memory verse! Of course she doesn’t have favourites….!) We went to check out this garage and so the following week we moved half a kilometre up the hill. The garage is dark with no space for tables so it is definitely a temporary venue but what a blessing to be able to continue in the same neighbourhood. Children keep coming – 38 is the record this year. When we drive up the hill beeping the horn, children emerge from homes and try to race the car up the hill! It is an amazing rush of a feeling to be able to teach such valuable material and feel that it is so appreciated!
Our friend Zama who helped us set up these projects in Gamalakhe has had a new job since December which has been keeping her away long hours, so although we had an emergency meeting with her immediately after the hall was lost, we have not spent much time with her at all. We had no obvious alternative venue so we are trying to petition the two local schools to give us a classroom and praying that our Father will reveal His will soon – we find it hard to accept that the great relationships we have been building in this community are meant to fizzle out.
With our two evenings in Gamalakhe abruptly stopped, it felt like a third of our work had gone in one fell swoop, but that feeling didn’t last long!
We held three days of Kids Club during the Easter holidays which attracted around 30 kids from the local area; this was on the theme of ‘Jesus choosing his disciples’. The kids enjoyed making puppets, gingerbread disciples and fish mobiles and taking part in catching the big load of fish, and Lauren found a catchy song to remember all the 12 names. A few of these children have started to attend Sunday School sporadically. One girl explained that her parents would like her to go to their church but she would try to come ‘every other week’!
Lauren’s visual lesson in KY
Playing the animal game
Table tennis on the veranda is a hit
Games on the beach
Open-air Saturday Bible Club
The garage where we are holding SBC for now
David dances before the ark in SBC
Kids’ Holiday Club: throwing the net over the other side
Themba helping with the outdoor games
Fun with water games!
Sisa, sis Fezekile’s cousin seems to have improved enough to return to school, which is good for him but means our visits have stopped. We are keeping in touch via Fezekile but haven’t seen him since our return.
Ben’s one-on-one visits with the man who had placed an advert in Port Edward, Arthur, continued for a couple of months, and Ben felt they were getting somewhere, until he invited Arthur to church on a Sunday morning – Arthur had to get ‘permission from his priest’, which of course he didn’t get. Ben feels he has reached a bit of a stalemate now, has he has covered all the basic principles but has struggled to get Arthur to renounce some of his own church’s practices (for example the priest’s seeming control, and the practice of baptism for the dead). He has arranged to keep in touch but visits have ceased for now.
Werner, our disabled regular visitor is still coming to Bible classes and most Sundays. Bible class topics have been steered towards answering many of his concerns in recent weeks, such as the Trinity, and Sabbath-keeping. We had a trying period when one of his beloved terriers was mauled by a neighbourhood dog and had a week in the vet hospital followed by daily visits by Caz to dose her with antibiotics.
Our regular visitor Freda has been absent most of this year due to a back problem but we are keeping in touch.
Another promising contact is bro Eddie Stallbom’s daughter-in-law’s mother, Moira. At her daughter’s request we had got in touch with her in early December, but she was due to go into hospital for an operation so we agreed to meet up when we returned in January. She is a lovely bright lady who had the attitude ‘I don’t know anything about the Bible, I just want to learn!’ which of course is a great attitude, and Ben had been doing one-one-one first principles with her. She is also regularly attending Sunday mornings, and has made good friends with our sister Amy Main who has moved down to the South Coast from Durban, so our little meeting has a new lease of life on Sundays.
Ben met an elder of a Gamalakhe church in the shopping mall, and that led to one-on-one visits happening weekly to discuss first principles. This man, Mthy, told Caz he very impressed with our way of proving everything from the Bible, and he has also attended a few computer lessons.
We also tried two new preaching ideas which have both gone down well by God’s grace; the first was a ‘How to Study the Bible’ 6 week course advertised in the local paper (with thanks to brother Paul Zilmer for the basis of that course), which runs straight after the computer lesson – 2 people attended as a result of the advert and 3 or 4 have stayed after the computer lesson on a few occasions. Our 3 regular attendees all asked us to continue when the six weeks were up so this is now a regular class; it is great to now have a regular event we can invite interested contacts to.
The second idea was a return to the tested format of the ‘special effort’. We advertised a Bible presentation entitled ‘What does the Bible say about Human Rights?’ to coincide with the public holiday of Human Rights day, plus we invited brothers and sisters who don’t attend and many of our community contacts. The hall was buzzing with 40 people attending, a really nice mix of Christadelphians and non-, young and old, with Ben using an interactive around-the-table format which really got people talking. It was great to see our brothers and sisters interacting with the visitors and a good time seemed to be had by all, with many staying afterwards to talk. Six of our Gamalakhe youth also made the journey down. It is definitely something we will repeat later in the year. It is also interesting that none of the visitors came from the newspaper advert – they had either all personal contact with a brother or sister or came in response to the SMSs we sent to our community contacts. It really seemed to validate the principle that the ‘touch and teach’ approach is successful in opening people’s ears to our message.
We held another successful graduation Sunday service, with crèche teachers and computer students all attending to receive their certificates.
Tuesday night study class
Our hall abuzz for the Human Rights presentation
Computer Learning Centre
Our set 6 week basic computer course on Tuesdays started up again after an advert in the local paper; we had good response and are into the second course now. Several of these people have decided to stay for the Bible study course immediately afterwards, including a lively Afrikaans lady called Rika who then came to the meeting the following Sunday with her son.
We are looking into setting up an ADSL line at the hall so that we can offer ‘Advanced’ classes including internet/email, in order to keep in touch with those who have been through the first course, and this might also lead to a renewal of After School Club if we can offer internet access for school projects.
The computer project has been such good value in terms of getting to know people in the area but is reaching a plateau; internet is now the next logical step to increase our reach.
Lorraine Development & Skills Centre
Ben’s Tuesday morning teaching now includes two different year groups, so he has doubled his time there, and the Friday morning computer classes are still going strong. Their wait for land is continuing, but Ben was able to get the school’s plight some much-needed publicity when he arranged for 2 children to get a flight in a small aeroplane as a reward for good behaviour – front page of the local paper!
Lauren was also able to teach a few science lessons during her stay.
The Lorraine pupil holding the story of himself taking his flight
Lauren teaches the Lorraine kids about ‘volume’
As the last two courses were not full, we decided to try something new and advertise the Crèche Teacher Course in the local paper at the beginning of the year. The response was quite overwhelming; the course was oversubscribed with about 6 people booking onto the following course. It has opened up new (more distant) areas to our contacts; it is amazing to see how far some ladies will travel for the course. Many of these ladies are not actually crèche teachers but see this course as a possible opening to future employment. As mentioned earlier, Fezekile is now helping Caz to administrate and teach the course, she is nervous about teaching her ‘elders’ but she is slowly teaching small parts of some sessions.
We were able to get Lauren and Caz’s parents involved in an outdoor play upgrade at one of our more remote crèches; Dumezulu Day Care are making sure all their teachers attend the course (two have completed it, two are registered for April) and have done amazing things in just one year in difficult conditions. The road to the crèche is one of the most difficult but beautiful journeys I have driven and their classroom is a dim leaky rondavel. It was a great way for my parents to really experience the ‘touch and teach’ method and now they understand the buzz we experience from helping others with things that can seem really small for us, but for which they are so grateful! We hope to help this crèche further with their classroom facilities once more volunteers are on the scene.
Creche ladies running the gauntlet in the obstacle course
The latest creche course group on the final day.
Good News Crèche
The saga of registering the Good News Crèche with Social Development continues; Caz is experiencing South African red tape first hand! She finds it difficult to get through to the local office and when she does the relevant person is not at hand. We are thinking we just have to prepare for a long process…. The new year brought ten new children to the crèche, which was interesting: they looked so small and they were so shy the first few weeks!…especially of white people who they had probably only seen at the clinic for immunisations before! Getting to know their names and then slowly their personalities has been fun, and they now delight in saying ‘Good Morning Aunty CASS’ !
The veranda is now partly enclosed making it easier for us to put the crèche outside on Fridays. Nelson, his son Manje, Themba, Grant Larsen and my Dad have all helped to get it working but the final blinds have been delayed.
Sister Fezekile’s personal circumstances led us to arrange one more day a week for her to work (so she is now doing 3 days) and enrol two more children in order to fund that extra salary. We had several people interested which shows how far we’ve come from the time when the crèche was struggling to find children to attend. One child was taken out of another preschool to come to ours, so we are thankful that our services are now valued in the local community. The crèche is slowly becoming a more sustainable enterprise, but we are grateful for the WCF funding that allows us to subsidise the children who attend from the Masinenge informal settlement. Fezekile’s national diploma training is also requiring her to arrange regular parent-teacher meetings which can only be a good thing in terms of helping our relationships with the community.
Jan (Caz’s dad) getting handy on the veranda
Creche kids tucked in on the veranda
Indumiso CB Group
We have not contributed to Indumiso’s work, largely due to not having Zama around much. However we did spend an evening at her place when she invited us for a braai, so we are glad we can keep in touch. With her very busy job we are unsure how committed she is to all the other projects in her life & we have had other things keeping us busy.
Time has not been available to us to spend any time in the gardens we were involved in previously. We are hoping that a visit of a volunteer couple for 3 months in the middle of the year might free up Caz to assess how the current gardens are going and whether we should rekindle this project or let it lie.
Caz’s veterinary work has increased slightly; her regular morning is now at the SPCA clinic where a newly graduated vet is glad of her input. It has been interesting for her working on the inside; there would be possibilities for a few animal care/education community projects under the SPCA banner if time allowed. Caz is also now on the rota for Saturday mornings at Margate Veterinary Hospital. They continue to fund much of the CUDDLE upgrade work in lieu of pay for which we are very grateful.
Ben’s morning in the Learning Difficulties Unit has taken a turn down; in the new school year none of his regular students could attend his available slot. He has only worked twice this year so far and so he may give up that slot in order to concentrate more on outreach: two new projects he has in mind are taking the Numicon training and resources to the poor government schools and also taking the study skills that we were doing with the Gamalakhe youth to high schools in the townships. Ben has already made contact with two of the high schools in Gamalakhe and they seem keen to use his project.
Emelia (vet) and Ayanda (technician) at the SPCA
Margate continues to be a wonderful place to work. The support from the members of Margate ecclesia has been very important. There has been a greater focus recently on teaching ‘first principles’, and the audience we have for this, has often come through the touch and teach process. It’s exciting to see members and contacts learning together at Sunday morning meetings and Bible class.
After a lot of heartsearching we have decided to return to the UK in December 2012. However the work here will not stop and so we pray that God will provide another couple of volunteers to continue the work in this wonderful place.
It was great to have members of the WCF team to visit, and record some of our work. This gave us time to reflect on what we do, and how much progress has taken place over the last year or so. We are looking forward to sharing the video with others, so they can see how Margate follows and fits in with the overall work of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God in South Africa.