Seed of Hope

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Lessons from the Gogo's

The two elderly ladies rested, sitting on plastic chairs by the window.  Beads of sweat formed on their weathered brows, and were quickly mopped up with a handkerchief or piece of towel.  The day was sunny and hot, and inside the house, the tropical air hung humid and heavy.  It was Tuesday- the day set aside for the Gogo's to come to Seed of Hope for a morning of shared stories, tea and cookies.

Heather and I, along with Gloria and Buli had prepared a large circle of chairs, anticipating a room full of elderly ladies for the Tuesday support group.  However just two ladies joined us on this particular day.  

"We need to have a meeting now," we were told by Gloria. "You can sit with the ladies if you like, until we are finished." 

Heather and I sat across from the ladies and observed them. The first wore a grey patterned skirt with a short-sleeved cream sweater adorned with delicate peach flowers.  On her head, as is the custom with many of the grandmothers, she was crowned with a brightly coloured head-scarf. She wore simple black shoes, low-heeled and practical, and her hands clasped her black vinyl purse in her lap.  Her countenance was peaceful, and she seemed quite at ease with us being there.  

The second Gogo sported a brown felted hat despite the extreme heat of the day. She too, stepped out in simple black shoes, and carried a bright red purse and a cane.  She was resplendent in a bold pink pinafore (like a house-dress or light housecoat) which she wore over a patterned tunic and leggings. She had kind eyes and an impish smile, and I suspected that a day spent in her company would yield laughter and fascinating stories. 

After a few minutes it became clear that the staff meeting was going to take longer than we anticipated, so we pulled our chairs closer and decided to try to communicate.  We started by saying "Sanibona", a simple Zulu greeting, and then pointed to each of us around the circle.  Three out of the four of us were grandmothers, so we began there.  "Gogo, gogo, gogo," I said, pointing to each of the other ladies in our circle, and then pointing to myself, "not Gogo... Mama".  They smiled, finding common ground with us, and we came to realize that the first lady knew a little bit of English...enough to share part of her story with us.  

She started telling us about what her life had been like growing up in South Africa during apartheid.  The reason she could understand and speak some English was that she had been employed as a domestic worker in a white family's household.  With a serious expression, she described how she was expected to clean and cook, as well as care for and raise the children in the home.  However, she was not permitted to eat from the same dishes as the family, or use the same toilet.  She described that she was not allowed to accept an impromptu visit from her boyfriend and that one time he had been caught visiting her without permission and was sent to jail.  Her story then extended beyond her own personal situation to describe how life was for black people during those years.  Separate drinking fountains. Separate schools. Separate public transit. Separate neighbourhoods. Violence and injustice. 

As she spoke of these things, I couldn't help but notice the sadness in her downcast eyes.  We sat quietly and listened intently as she described unimaginable experiences. Tears threatened but somehow I blinked them away- a difficult task in the midst of hearing a first-hand account of a life lived under apartheid.

Just then her story took a turn, and her face brightened as she told us about how much better it is now in South Africa.  She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she described, in her broken English phrases, how now everyone is the same; everyone is equal.  Her face shone with hope, and she was proud to educate us on how far her country has come since those darker days.  I couldn't help but smile back at her too, agreeing that yes, Gogo, things are much better now.  

But what really struck me was that here was an elderly, black South African lady, who had endured so much in her lifetime, who is CURRENTLY living in extreme poverty beyond what we could ever imagine in Canada, and yet she was happy.  And content.  And willing to share her story with complete strangers.  White-skinned, non-South African strangers at that. 

What incredible courage! And what amazing evidence of what happens when the transformational grace of God fills a life with forgiveness, love and restoration.  Amazing grace, indeed.   

Eventually Gloria & Buli joined us once more, bringing tea and cookies for us to share. Gloria translated our conversation so that we could share a bit about our lives with the Gogo's. We were humbled when our new friend rose from her chair to bring a plate of cookies over to where we sat, offering them to us. We gratefully accepted, and enjoyed this time of refreshment and fellowship together. We laughed, as we discovered that the Gogo's wanted us to take them home with us to Canada!  We told them that would be ok, but they'd need a warm coat and boots to step through snow up to their knees.  They were unfazed by this prospect, much to our mutual amusement. 

The time came for the gathering to end, so we hugged the Gogo's and spent a few minutes praying together. 

Cherished moments which will remain etched in my memory forever.  

My only regret is that we weren't able to catch their names.  But as I watched our new friends slowly make their way down the walkway toward home, I realized that God knows exactly who they are.  He knows their names, their stories, and every intimate detail of their lives thus far, as well as what is to come. 

I am thankful for the time spent in the company of these precious women, and whenever I think of them I will remember them with joy -  their incredible resilience, faith and hope will remain an inspiration for me, and I will continue to pray that God will hold them close always.


Tuesday 20 February 2018

Falling Over the Edge

As you followed our blog, you have heard some comments as to our "work" pertaining to the painting of the staff quarters. I felt somewhat isolated as I was given the job of edger and was continually being praised for the great effort. This made it difficult as I want to be more humble and compassionate, so as to allow people to share their stories and build better relationships.
    Then I hear from Kierra how great a job we are doing, but both Les and I were wondering about having young interns involved and perhaps working alongside. This disconnect continued for a few days.

    On the final day in a small room I was alone setting up my ladder and paint, then while climbing up, the ladder starts to fold up with me falling down still holding my brush and paint can, narrowly missing the roller tray full of paint. I looked around and realized everything was okay, no paint had spilled over the floor covering and I was not injured. I thanked God and realized that He had a bigger picture for me. We were invited by Kierra to do this work and it was to glorify his work through the Seed of Hope staff. Everyone of the staff feels encouraged and appreciated by having a better environment in which to work.
   There were ample opportunities to interact with staff. With the efficiency shown by our team and with everybody helping out, it became possible to also finish two bathrooms and a small adjoining room. Realizing God was already planning the purpose of our visit here long before we got here and continues to work in the lives of the relationships we encountered, always ends up resulting in a better outcome than we can envision from the start.

   Thanks for all our prayer warriors back home, as we start on our 31 hour journey home.

    See you soon,  Nico

Monday 19 February 2018

A Generation Rising Up

It has been a joy for me to spend quite a lot of time with the Seed of Hope interns throughout our time here. The interns, a team of 7 individuals ranging from ages 18 - 21, are working in the child and youth development programs of Seed of Hope.  Four of the interns each teach one of the Simunye classes. Simunye, Zulu for "Untied," is the after school program for the elementary level and is split into four groups based on grade level. The other three interns go to the high school as part of the Abaholi Bakusasa program, working with a different grade each day of the week. Abaholi Bakusasa, Zulu for "tomorrow's leaders," teaches students life skills as well as moral lessons from a biblical perspective, and helps to prepare them for the post-secondary world.

I am so inspired and encouraged by the interns. The interns are young adults who have come up through Seed of Hope themselves. They are from the local community surrounding Seed of Hope, Bhekulwandle, and are evidence of the great work that is taking place there. Getting the internship was no easy task either - the openings were posted, and it was a two interview process to get chosen. These interns are dedicated to serving their community and raising up a next generation that knows how much they are loved and valued. They bring so much laughter, light, and life into the lives of not just the children and youth that they are providing leadership to, but all those that they interact with.

Like any young adult, these interns have hopes and dreams. They have studies and careers they are hoping to pursue. Most of them are working at raising their grades to get into university once their internships are over. When asked about what we could be praying about for them, the general response was that they would continue to seek God's guidance and that they would have strength to overcome obstacles.

When I look at the group of interns, I see so much hope for the country of South Africa. They are leaders who are just beginning to tap into their talents, abilities, and potential. As they continue to seek God first, I know God will use them to do incredible things.

From left to right: Zama, Nosipho, Sne, Thobani, Zinhle (Mentor), Esethu, Aynsley, Erica, Wandile, Musa (Mentor)


Sunday 18 February 2018

Gogo Diane

Every once in a while you meet a person that changes the way you look at life.  A person that speaks something you hold in your heart and brings it to life. Gogo Diane is one of those people. She's a seventy five year old Zulu woman.  She sometimes can be found helping out at the Richardson's (the place where we stay). Last Sunday evening, she attended the church service at Oasis. She tucked herself right behind us. Even though the evening service is the same as the morning service, she came because she knew we would be there. Her face is always bright, her headdress usually colourful, and her spirit just shines brightly. She has a consistent fountain of praise that bubbles up from with in her, in word and in song. She is a delight!

When I asked her about her life under Apartheid. She said she grew up in it, and didn't know anything different, it's the way things were. But she did know who she didn't want to be and made decisions to keep herself from the vices of corruption that were so prevalent in the rural areas.  Growing up Zulu, meant that she also participated in Zulu worship of ancestors (read Isaiah 8:19), which also includes animal sacrifices. Despite the darkness of the political landscape and spiritual darkness that is part of Zulu culture, there was a longing inside of Diane, a heaviness that couldn't be lifted.

 In 1990, as she puts it, "Jesus found me!"  I love that phrase. Because it is a reminder that God is always searching, always looking for people. When she attended a sewing class at a local centre, another woman, who is a follower of Jesus, befriended her. This woman told her that she would be praying for her. And once a week, she eventually started praying with Diane. Through this relationship Diane was found by the God who created her for a beautiful purpose. Being part of a church family has enabled her to grow in her faith and develop in her understanding of what it means to express the joy of the Lord in all circumstances.

If you keep reading into Isaiah 9 it says that "on those living in a land of deep darkness a great light has dawned" and goes on to talk about The One to Come, a child to be born, a son to be given, A Wonderful Counsellor, A Mighty God, An Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace: Jesus.

It's always humbling when the words of God come to life right in front of your eyes!

I am thankful to have met Diane. I am thankful to be one on whom the Light of Jesus has shone, through her graceful spirit. I am thankful for a Saviour, Jesus, who continues to search for people, in all places, of all colours, that they too might allow His Light to Shine brightly in their lives.

Give thanks for Gogo Diane and continue to pray for the Light of Jesus to shine brightly through her!


Greetings from Heather

Greetings All!

We have just come back from lunch at the Wards (Kierra is the Seed of Hope Director). We were sitting out on the porch in the 30+ degree sun, watching monkeys play in the trees while being told that this wasn't a very good year for the mango growing in the yard. (The monkeys take a bite out of the mango and then throw it to the ground)

We had just come from the morning service at the Oasis church, where we praised God with some of the same choruses that we are used to, only they worship in both English and Zulu. Their church is so excited about moving from a school into their own building in just 5 weeks.  God is good!!

Some aspects of South Africa are about what I expected, some seem like 1950's Great Britain, while others are much like home. As a 'newby' on this trip, I have tried to visit/take part in a variety of Seed of Hope outreaches. I was able to visit shut-in Seniors in their homes, attend classes and share at the local high school, read stories in English to local children, sit in on a computer intro class and be part of a new "gogo" (grandmas) club. And, of course, did some reno work.

I can't begin to tell you about all the special people that we've met and their touching and often tragic stories. Yet they are a joyful, thankful people - full of laughter and hugs. Unbelievably, its almost time to head back to the great white north, so soon we will be able to share some of our stories with you in person.

Please pray for us as we travel back and begin to process all that the Lord is teaching us.

 - Heather

Saturday 17 February 2018


Ubuntu is an African term that is used to describe many things including respect, kindness and generosity. It speaks of the importance of community and is sometimes summarized like this: "I am because you are." It is a simple phrase that speaks to our capacity to learn and grow in our strength, confidence and virtue, through the influence of participating in community.

On a short-term mission team, our first community is always the team, as an extension of our larger home community. One of the challenges, on a trip like this, is to not restrict learning to an individual perspective. When we open ourselves us to learn from the perspectives of others, together, we all benefit.  In particular, as followers of Jesus, the Spirit of God is at work in each of the team members. Therefore, by taking time to also listen to each team member, we are listening to what the Spirit of God is collectively teaching us, which in turn can serve to strength us each individually. It's one of the reasons that I love working with teams of people!

This morning at breakfast seemed like a good time to reflect on what we're learning so far. Here's a glimpse:

  • the way respect is shown; there is an intentional listening to each other no matter what their role on staff might be. Everyone has input. 
  • There’s more than one way to do the same job; communication develops trust and it gets completed
  • I like the way that Angela is able to interact with the ladies
  • There are many ways that we are different but there also some ways we are similar (as we laugh and share and talk we realize we are the same)
  • We don’t have to have everything planned out. I am learning to trust God with the details. 
  • I’m learning to have conversations. It seems easier here. 
  • It’s interesting to see how my learning in school is coming to life through this real life experience. 
  • I’m learning to not be focused on success rather to focus on faithfulness. Hearing the stories of people’s lives reminds me that we are all incomplete, we carry struggles and hurts, and some may never be completed on this side of heaven.  But God is faithful and we can trust him and therefore serve freely and faithfully. 
How about you? What are you learning as you follow these blog posts? Your comments will increase our learning...


It's a Small World After All

Ah....a day to rest.  After a very busy week of learning, connecting, working, and soaking in the incredibly rich and diverse culture found at Seed of Hope, we enjoyed an unscheduled Saturday. After breakfast, we were so happy to receive a visit from Kerry and Dan Wiens, along with Joel Zantingh who is in South Africa right now too! Small world?  Absolutely.

Dan and Kerry caught us up with the news of what is happening with Farming God's Way.  They described how their focus has expanded beyond the community of Bhekulwandle to include training opportunities in Tanzania and Ethiopia. They are educating new trainers who will then teach FGW to others in their respective communities. It's very exciting to see Dan and Kerry's work extending further into the continent of Africa!

It was so good to see them again, and to spend time with Joel today.  We showed him around the oasis which is our accommodations here, and took him to the local beach for a swim in the Indian Ocean.  The sun was hot and the waves were high!  Joel shared about what he has been up to as the Interim Director of World Partners with EMCC- the places he has visited and different people he has been connecting with. 

In all, it was a great day- learning and just being together as our time here begins to wind down.  

A thought to close with, which has been rumbling around in my mind this week: we see evidence every single day here of the reality that we did not pack God into our suitcases and bring Him to South Africa.  It has been exciting to be able to recognize the ways He's working here and in Canada and to realize that in many ways, the work is the same all over this small world.