This article was originally published in the April 2012 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“Someone contacted me about a neglected and abused boy this week. She said it was urgent,” Lendiwe began as she walked up and stood next to ITMI’s Kelly’s Smith.
They were at a Project Christmas Blessing Party - an opportunity for the Smiths to bless South African school children whose needs are often overlooked in their families’ struggles to survive. It’s also an opportunity to share the story of Jesus’ birth. Kelly and his wife, Cherise, raise funds and provide these parties annually through the local schools.
Kelly looked over at Lendiwe, the health worker he and Cherise employ to help them minister to the most desperate and forgotten Zulus. She continued, “But its outside our area, so I think I’ll let someone else worry about it.”
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has ravished the Zulu in Zululand, South Africa, ripping families to shreds and destroying lives in its path. There is no one it hasn’t touched, and the children suffer the most. This is one of the needs that moved Kelly and Cherise relocated their family half way across the world to 7 Rivers Farm in Zululand.
Knowing that as much as they’d like to, neither he or Lendiwe could ever save every one of the vast multitude of children in need even in their own area, Kelly nodded with a regretful look on his face.
The Project Blessing Christmas party continued, and the children who participated received blessing after blessing, thanks to the generosity of the Smith’s supporters through ITMI. The children left happy and he and Cherise left tired but fulfilled.
The children left the Project Christmas Blessing party happy.
Children stand in line to receive gifts at Project Christmas Blessing school parties.
Project Christmas Blessing gifts for children.
The next day, Kelly received a call from Lendiwe. “I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” she said, “All I could think about was that poor neglected boy.” She asked Kelly to accompany her on a house call to the boy’s home, as he’d done several times before. Kelly agreed.
After some intense 4-Wheel drive travel over steep muddy roads, they hiked a single track muddy path to reach the abandoned-looking, run down mud structure. There were entire walls missing. The floor was wet and muddy. Inside, there was a 10-year-old boy and a few blankets that served as his “bed.”
Siya was listlessly laying on the blankets. He had existed by begging food from the neighbors, one of whom had been the one who notified Lendiwe of the situation. He couldn’t remember his last meal.
Lendiwe walked next door. She returned with Siya’s mother. Lendiwe asked her why she did not care for the boy. She made some unconvincing excuses about being unable, but it was clear that she just had no interest in him.
When Kelly offered to find him a place where he could be cared for, his mother flatly said, “That’s fine.” Then glaring at her 10-year-old son, she threatened, “Don’t come back here!” then turned on her heal and left.
Siya came home with Kelly, where he was taught to eat with a fork and spoon, use a toilet, wear shoes and participate in normal human interaction.
“Siya has always been thought of as mentally handicapped, but that no longer seems to be the case since coming to our home. Its amazing what food and water will do for a boy - oh, and a bath, medicine, much love and prayer,” Kelly says.
At first, Siya swallowed chicken bones and carried everything they gave him - shoes, toys, etc - around with him in fear that it would be stolen. But as he adjusts to a normal home, he is learning english phrases. “Thank you,” is one of his favorites.
Please remember Siya and the Smith family in prayer as Siya transitions into life at a children’s home that the Smiths have developed a relationship with.
The gospel tells us that we are filthy sinners, wallowing in spiritual mud, unable to clean or help ourselves - or even take care of our own basic needs.
Siya’s story reminds us what we’d be without Jesus; we were outcast children, with nothing to offer. The Smith’s actions demonstrate that in Christ, we become adopted children of the Father, and royal heirs.
Kelly and Cherise have so many opportunities to declare and demonstrate the gospel to a people languishing in poverty, disease and hopelessness. They are limited only by their resources.
Please prayerfully consider adding to their resources, that more may see and know Jesus Christ.
Summer Kelley is a writer living in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She’s had the honor and privilege of telling ITMI’s stories since 2006. She’s a homeschooling mom and a T-shirt and jeans aficionado who likes all things simple. When she’s not writing or homeschooling, you can find her honing her skills as what some might call a "suburban survivalist" as she learns to thrive in the suburbs with 3 kids. As a productivity and organizing enthusiast, she may or may not spend hours attempting to use technology to "save time.” Summer loves reading, the outdoors and Coca-Cola Classic from the fountain.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.