A new lease of life
Deborah, a Raising Families’ church volunteer, shares about the transformation her community has experienced.
Ekukhanyeni has always been an area where the community wanted to help itself. The greatest challenge was that we did know how to do this. We had no understanding of the hidden resources that God had placed within our community and only saw ourselves as very poor and destitute.
Most of the community ladies have never gone to school, and the men who have attended school usually drop-out due to a lack funds from their parents. We are challenged by HIV in our area, and our schools suffer a lot. We have many orphans and child led homes. There is a big lack of health care facilities especially for the children.
It wasn’t until our community experienced the impact of Raising Families that we realised the potential within ourselves. There is now a great awareness of most of the resources we have in our community. People are now starting to utilize these resources and are now taking more pride in their livestock and land. We have learned so much already through Raising Families and we now encourage our youth to take school and opportunities to make a living seriously.
Through our church, we have begun to do a lot of self-help projects, which we use to teach the poor and the destitute. This help that we give has done a lot in the spiritual growth of many people who used to view church as a waste of time. Now, people are curious and they come to our church to see how families are being helped.
We have been given the opportunity to learn from many specialists who have taught us how to manage our resources well. We started a fish project and a piggery that is doing very well. Many members of the community have come to see with disbelief what can be achieved when you allow God to help you apply your mind to something. The ministry of agriculture sends people to our house to see how to raise pigs and rear fish.
I never dreamed that this would ever happen. Families who have been lifted out of poverty are pouring their resources into helping one another. Our community is growing stronger each day as more and more families are moving out of poverty.
Feeding the 5,000
On the day that church members gathered to begin digging, the entire community came out to see what was happening. When they realised they were digging a fish pond aimed at providing a sustainable food source to feed the orphans and the destitute, they quickly collected what tools they had to help with the excavation. Each day, people brought food and clean drinking water to support those digging and during lunch local pastors gave inspirational messages. For the first time, the people of Nhlambeni were unified as they focused on meeting the needs of those in need. Being the hands and feet of Jesus to this community meant providing the tragically poor with food to survive.
After seeing physical and spiritual transformation in village, 42-year-old Florence shared the following: “For so long I thought only preachers, pastors and bishops had the blessing of God to do things that brought deep change to communities. Now I realise that even ordinary people can, with God’s help, bring change. The story of feeding the 5,000 in the Bible has come alive for me.”
A community comes together to farm to feed the hungry
As part of Raising Families, a church situated in heart of Swaziland were trained how, by working together, they could use their assets to create sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable families.
Motivated to see life-long transformation within their community, church members offered 13 hectares of their land to those who needed arable land suitable for crop production. The land was given to help widows, orphan-headed households, those with disabilities and the elderly who needed assistance with food and basic necessities. A church member offered a tractor to help plough and prepare the land. Other members offered seed, technical expertise and human resource to get the project started.
Divided according to family size, the land meets each family’s immediate food needs. Families are encouraged to harvest their entire plot so they can sell extra produce at the local market for self-sustaining income. Every affected family or individual who is physically and mentally fit joined in the preparation of their portion of land. Families, once struggling to survive, have experienced physical and spiritual restoration through Raising Families. An entire community has seen a revival as people have worked together, utilising their assets and training, to be lifted out of poverty.
Wanda, a church volunteer, said: “We were not aware that we could do something to change the face of our community. We always waited for the government hand-outs and feeding schemes. Now we know that we already have all that it takes.”
Widowed and alone, Malunge life was transformed when he learned how to make a living by planting and selling crops
Malunge’s heart was broken. Losing his wife and his five grown children was more than he could bear. The past eight years had been difficult, but by working together they had been surviving. AIDS had taken their lives, one by one, leaving Malunge alone in his sadness and hurt to care for his two grandchildren.
Their family had been torn apart by poverty and ultimately it was poverty that brought about such tragic deaths. Malunge’s late wife, Grace, worked in a local farmer’s field cutting sugar can that earned her a meager 60 pence an hour. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was money her family desperately needed. For years, Grace was victimized by the farm’s supervisor who deliberately left her out of the seasonal recruitment of labour to prove his position of power and demanded sex from her if she wanted to return to work. With a hungry family at home, she bowed to the pressure and slept with the supervisor. The damage did not stop then. Years passed before Grace learned that she had contracted HIV from this illicit relationship, and by then she had infected her five children and Malunge.
In what seemed like a lifetime ago, Malunge had worked as a gardener in a city some 90 kilometers away. His petty wages didn’t provide for all of his family’s needs, but they helped. Before his eldest daughter passed away, leaving her two children as orphans, she had work at a small grocery store to help raise her siblings and children. Losing his family and then his job, meant he and his grandchildren were barely surviving.
Hearing of Malunge’s anguish, local church members empowered by Raising Families began visiting him at his home. Malunge’s entire family was provided with psychological support as their family began their first steps towards recovery. Malunge attended Raising Families’ agricultural training at the local church where he learned how he could plant his 1 hectare field with vegetables. With the help of church volunteers, Malunge planted his field and now sells vegetables in the market to support himself and his grandchildren. Making a living allows Malunge to keep the kids well fed, in school, and accessing critical retroviral medication.
Malunge’s transformation did not end there. As a new Christian, Malunge clings to God’s promises and serves as a deacon at his new young church. His family is now thriving! He now knows how to take care of himself and spends his days farming and counseling others about HIV and AIDS. He is now a very active member of his church. Malunge says that without Raising Families he would have long died and at least 4 people would never have given their lives to Jesus.
“This has been a life and death situation to me. My family is now alive and well and God is in control. All I want to do is see people saved”.