At some point or another, we must all say farewell. Farewell if not to friends and family, then at some point to life. Working with Ithemba Projects (and Zanini Bantwana), has at times been a harrowing experience, challenging, joyful and draining. To say it pushed me to my limits would be a lie. Rather, it exposed me to the limitless boundaries that existed within. That in fact, where before I would have given up at the slightest hint of being unwell or fatigued, here I was, on an ‘appetising’ cocktail of antibiotics, cough mixture, Sudafed and tissues, still ploughing through work, straining out songs and encouraging a waning appetite.
As a process of becoming naked, it explored the flaws, prejudice and darkness within me. How I despised those who were unwell, disfigured, and how through extreme grace, I began to see the least of the least, through, as Jethro in the Prince of Egypt professes, Heaven’s Eyes. I began to yearn to remove blood filled mucus from my creche babies noses. A patience to control my classes overcame me. An excitement to prance around gardens singing and dancing consumed me. I grew and became hopeful of life, just as Ithemba Projects desires to bring hope to the lives of the people of Mpumuza, Sweetwaters.
Three years ago I flew into South Africa and partook on what, really, was an act of poverty tourism. I spent 10 days sightseeing Sweetwaters. Glancing at the work of Ithemba Projects, gingerly holding hands with little Zulu children. If i’m honest, when I looked at the money I’d saved all year and considered buying a plane ticket back to SA, something stopped my heart. Every young Christian does Aid work in SA, it’s so cliche. Yet, the thought wouldn’t leave me.
I hadn’t entered South Africa with an agenda. I didn’t know I was being particularly ‘affirming’ in anyway. I just wanted to return to a place I had seen in a hazy dream, and really invest some time, invest my skills, and serve an organisation that I admire and respect. One doesn’t have to travel half way across the world to experience poverty, pain, desperation, abandonment, or any of the experiences I’ve catalogued here. We live in a world that reeks of such experiences.
Yet often, our eyes become focused when we step outside of our own environment, and then step back. When we begin to convert our pound Sterling into Rand, when we remember how we survived on x amount of clothes, then peer inside our wardrobes that are brimming with unworn, unnecessary garments. When we make the choice to embed these memories and experiences into our very veins, and let the focused insight we have gained, pulse through our bodies, through our very beings, and let it transform our very lifestyle.
I want to encourage everyone that has participated on this journey with me to be hopeful. I began this 5 week ‘diary’, with the statement: Ithemba means hope, and for the people in Sweetwaters, Ithemba means life. May your lives be transformed by this experience, may your lives be filled with hope, hope for tomorrow, hope for your communities, hope for the change you desire to see and create. May these experiences inspire you, and where you can, can I urge you to support the work of Ithemba Projects and Zanini Bantwana in whatever capacity you can. Either by telling people about the phenomenal work they are doing in rural Sweetwaters, by supporting them financially, or by volunteering. Their ministry is life changing, their progress forward-looking, and their vision ever hopeful.
If you have been touched by the work of Ithemba Projects, then I would love to encourage you to continue being involved in their long-term journey, by liking their Facebook Page, and by following the blog: Bridging Hope, which is run by my former colleague Stephanie, who is working this year with the charity.
Thank you for coming along with me. Keep a look out on the Ithemba Page for an article I will be writing for them.
Prayer for day 34: May God Bless and Keep you wherever you are. May Hope reign in your hearts, and may you continue to pray for the work of Ithemba Projects. For their protection, for their provisions and for their incredible journey.