Think of South Africa and words such as ‘rainbow nation’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘Nelson Mandela’ are probably some of the first that come to mind. What is probably less well known is that South Africa is the country with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDs in the world. The knock-on effect is felt in the education system, economy and results in elderly grandparents providing for their orphaned grandchildren. Although there is freedom there are still large inequalities in the living conditions between town and rural areas and the quality of public services such as healthcare and education. Spiritually it is needy. According to Operation World, ‘75% of the population would identify themselves as Christian, but nominal Christianity is widespread as well as false teaching and mixing Christian with traditional African religion.’ There is a desperate need for faithful Bible teaching and discipleship, making the connection between the gospel and their everyday life.
How it all started
MusaweNkosi is Zulu for ‘God’s grace’. This is the name for an orphan project based in rural Zululand, South Africa. It was started in 2001 by Gavin and Elaine Charlton, originally from the UK. Following a cholera outbreak, they started visiting homes in the community. Through this they became increasingly aware of how HIV/AIDs was devastating families. Initially they started delivering food parcels and providing clothes and blankets. However, in time the community asked that they start a home for orphans. In 2004 the first home was opened with 12 children living there.
The project currently has 28 children aged 7-21 who are orphaned or from abusive family backgrounds. Children now receive three meals a day, go to school, and have a loving, caring family and a place of safety. Here is their chance to hear the Bible being taught daily and the opportunity to attend church every Sunday. There are four homes with 11 full-time Zulu house parents who care for the children daily. MusaweNkosi also has a full-time Zulu social worker who liaises with the Department of Social Development and provides much needed counsel to the children.
In 2009, MusaweNkosi was asked by Nseleni Baptist church to help co-ordinate a feeding scheme for children in the community who were orphaned or living in poverty. Today, they provide a hot meal five days a week, daily Bible lessons and help with homework. The scheme is run by five members of Nseleni Baptist church and overseen by Elaine.
MusaweNkosi and Wales
MusaweNkosi has long established links with Wales. Susanna Clarke, of Carmarthen Evangelical church, helped run the feeding scheme for two years. I am originally from the Bay Church, Cardiff. I am a qualified primary school teacher and I am currently working at the Orphanage.
I initially came to South Africa in September 2014 for a three month mission trip with UFM. Very soon after arriving I began to pray about the possibility of returning longer term as I was struck by both the social needs, particularly educationally, and the spiritual needs. In February 2015 I returned, initially on a three year visa.
One of my responsibilities is to oversee the education of the children at the home and co-ordinate an educational programme. Every year we have German, and occasionally British, volunteers in partnership with UFM worldwide. One of their roles is to help with homework. It is my responsibility to oversee the homework they prepare and guide them on what to do. At the moment I am also trying to help the high school children, particularly with English. Most of the children are behind academically, often when they come to MusaweNkosi they have not completed a full year of school and due to neglect or abuse often there are development delays which means they are behind educationally.
Another challenge for me is developing a literacy programme at the local primary school. The children from the home all attend the local schools but the equipment is basic and limited to text books only. Many of the teachers are poorly educated and not fully equipped to teach. We are trying to give the neediest children some additional help with English on a one-to-one basis or in small groups.
I am involved in a local Baptist church, helping to lead the Youth group of about 40 teenagers. The majority are from rural areas. We are going through the ‘Your Word is Truth’ syllabus (DesiringGod.com) trying to show how God’s Word impacts on different areas of their lives such as school, leisure, family, etc.
However, it is not all about the social needs. The prayer of myself and MusaweNkosi is that through this work we may practically show the love of Christ and have opportunities to share the gospel with both the children at the home and school and the staff. There are many social needs but we also know the greatest need is for them to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour which we hope in turn will positively impact the community. We have had some encouraging opportunities, both in one-to-one conversations but also by running two holiday Bible clubs at the school with 200 children attending and hearing the gospel.
At the moment Elaine, Gavin and the board are looking into developing the work at Nseleni by buying some land and building a hall to be used as a base for the feeding scheme. They are also considering opening another home, a social worker’s office and a skills training centre as an alternative work training for those who are not academic. There is also a desire to develop some of the buildings at MusaweNkosi so they can be used as independent living accommodation for the older children who will be working but have no family to return to.
There is much to pray about; we need God to provide godly men and women who will commit to the work as it develops. We need financial provision. We need us to be faithful workers who love God first. We need the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the children and community so people repent of their sins and come to faith in Jesus. We need those who are saved to be discipled faithfully. Please pray that the God of all the earth would provide for the harvest.
MusaweNkosi also welcomes volunteers for a minimum of three months commitment. As a volunteer you would help the children at the home on a daily basis with homework, help with the literacy program, visit homes within the local community, help at the feeding scheme and also do some practical jobs for the project such as food shopping. We would especially welcome anyone with teaching experience whether you be a retired teacher who wanted to try something different, a teacher wanting a career break or even to use your teaching long term on the mission field.