Have you ever wondered what the people on the islands in the Indian Ocean think? There are still dozens of tribes and islands that have still yet to be explored, which is a crazy thought to us, right? We are taught from a young age that the Age of Exploration ended long, long ago, yet new groups of people are being reached very frequently. I am currently in a small forgotten town in the middle of the Free State, which is the central province of South Africa. These people are here for one reason though, and it truly broke my heart when I first heard it. Years ago, a dam was constructed here in order to feed power to Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, two of the largest cities in South Africa. The company which built it needed cheap labor, so they built a township
directly adjacent to the construction site and relocated thousands of workers. The damn was built, and all was fine and dandy, but the construction company just left the people in the township there to live permanently. This has created a vicious cycle of poverty here, which in turn has affected thousands of lives in a very negative way. At Oviston, the township we are working in, there is a sky-high percentage of young teen pregnancy, AIDS, and food deprivation. I have been forewarned, even as someone who has done lots of work in townships, that it will break my heart drastically. Although I feel prepared, I knowingly am headed into a place that the government would rather people not know existed.
Another heads up given to me was by Charl, my mentor. He told me to be prepared to be hung on and climbed on like a jungle gym all day. He explained that this is mainly due to the lack of male influence in the township, mainly due to the AIDS issue. Men that live to 40 are seen as old to these people, which is crazy because a lot of young parents are 40. It is not a long life whatsoever, and it is supported by the negligence of the government.
According to everyone who has done this trip before (I am writing this section the night before), these kids are amazed by the simplest things. It is mainly due to the lack of exposure to the outside world and the subpar education provided in Oviston. Most of the kids we will work with are illiterate and have a language barrier in their way. The main language here if Afrikaans, which is common in South Africa, yes, but English is a necessary skill towards making out of poverty. In this country, English is absolutely crucial to the workplace, but these poor kids are never even given a chance to learn it.
Our plan is to give backpacks and small amounts of food to the kids of the township. As hard as it is to swallow, we have to give the kids
little amounts of food at a time. They are so malnourished that a large quantity of food could cause them to vomit and react poorly to the over-intake. We have planned accordingly, however, as our schedule has food spread out lightly through the day. We are also giving them backpacks with school supplies that the congregation of the church raised. We needed roughly 150 of them to have one for each kid. As of Tuesday, we were sitting about 95 short, which was a few days away from a disaster. Through prayer, however, God provided and gave us another 150 on top of the ones we already had, allowing us to find other ministries to use the supplies in. God has blessed this trip beyond any expectations I could have set, and I am so ready to dive in head first tomorrow morning! I will write part II tomorrow night, recapping the experience and comparing my expectations to the reality.
It was somewhat what I expected. The town was seriously so impoverished….it was truly insane. These people are totally stranded and think that there is no life beyond their small town. There is lots of interbreeding, causing some genetic issues in some kids, as well as lots of drinking during pregnancy, causing other various defects. The kids were the happiest kids I have ever seen, though. They just wanted to hug and run around and be with us. Especially as a guy, the little boys were like magnets to us. Most of them have grown up in a home without a father, so attention from an older male is rare for them. They just wanted to be on our shoulders or in our arms…which was heartbreaking when we left because they refused to let go. The whole trip broke my heart, but in a good way. It gave so much perspective about what I have and how lucky I was being born into the situation that I was. These kids are taught to fend for themselves once they can walk…I am 20 and still rely on the advice and support of my mom. It just makes me grateful. Here are some pictures from the day and a half of ministry…words can’t describe it.