The dirt road leading to 7 Rivers Farm, which is Kelly and Cherise Smith’s property, is long and dusty. You can begin to see the dryness of winter in the area, which we’ll see more of later. This road crosses the wayward and windy river 7 times before we’ll arrive at the farm. Zulu land is about a 20 minute drive from the outskirts of the beautiful ocean resort city of Durban, South Africa. As you’ll see, the difference 20 minutes makes is night and day!
The road from Durban to the Smith’s house intersects with the river that winds its way through Zulu land 7 times, which is where the name of 7 Rivers Farm originated. In this picture, the river is low enough, but it can by hairy crossing this river in a vehicle during flood season. The Zulu must do it on foot, since they generally don’t have vehicles. And oh, yes, there are crocs and other wildlife to worry about, too!
This is a hippo at Tala Game Park in South Africa.
There are no medical services for many kilometers, yet the people of Zulu land often need medical attention, especially in light of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the area. As Kelly and Cherise learned about the needs of their community, they sought to meet that need. They have been able to purchase and local church members helped them mostly renovate the small white building atop the steep hill.
This is the future medical clinic, a white beacon of hope for the Zulu community. There are still a few finishing touches to be made, but the next step is to procure supplies and equipment. They will also need to hire a full-time medical assistant, so they are hoping to raise funds for that person’s salary.
Zulu land is one hill like this one after another. They made my lungs just want to burst! For the Zulu, climbing this punishing grade is an everyday necessity. Since there are no vehicles in the area (save Kelly and Cherise’s Toyota bakkie), the Zulu travel these on foot.
Abandoned, run down buildings are abundant in this area. Many have abandoned this place, and I can’t say that I blame them. It is a place that is all but forgotten by all except those who live here. This place is so ravaged by witchcraft and HIV/AIDS that darkness, death and fear hang thick in the air, seeming to rule the land. The socially ostracized East Indian and Malaysian immigrants have decided that the social challenges faced elsewhere are preferable to the death and devastation of this area.
These are some children from Kelly and Cherise’s community whose young lives are already wrought with tragedy. Their father died of HIV/AIDS and their mother was murdered.
The hills in Zulu land are incredibly steep, but that doesn’t stop the locals from perching their rondovals on any ledge where they will fit. But the more precarious the perch, the more taxing is your daily trek for water, school or to the witch doctor.
This is a Zulu home in the country side, and good visual of just how precarious some of these rondovals seem!
An elderly man makes his way up a steep incline, carrying firewood. The locals must traverse these grades for water, firewood and other necessities. Its not unlikely that this old man’s children have died of HIV/AIDS or some other ailment and he doesn’t have anyone younger in his family to do the rigorous daily chores.
Kelly built this large rondoval for ministry helpers to stay in. Kelly’s construction skills are put to good use by his Zulu neighbors. In addition to this rondoval and the medical clinic, many enlist his skills to help build coffins to bury their dead.
Most locals live in a cluster of rondovals like this one, found in Kelly and Cherise’s community. A typical home has multiple rondovals used for living spaces, each one is designated for a different purpose, much like the rooms in our homes. A Zulu family usually has one for cooking, one for the “Head of the home” to sleep in, and then each of his wives and their children have their own rondovals for sleeping in. I was constantly amazed at the steep and precarious places you can find these rondovals.
Kelly is with an elderly woman from his community. The Zulu would call her “Gomo” which is their word for “Grandma.”
This is another elderly Zulu woman in a wheelchair. Getting around in a wheelchair in Zulu land is doubly tough. There are no paved roads or driveways (much less wheelchair accessible parking spots!) and the hills pretty much prevent any wheelchair transportation.
This is the whole Smith Family. Cherise Smith is South African. She grew up not far from the area they live in now, and has always had a heart and interest for the Zulu people. She and Kelly met in the States. When they left the States, they had a son, Wyatt (far right) and a daughter, Zoleka or Zoey (second from far left). When they arrived in South Africa, they reunited with Zoey’s biological family who live in Zulu land. Her grandmother was caring for the other three girls who are her sisters. They “adopted” the whole family and helped out however they could. Kelly built rondovals for them on his property. More recently, however, their grandmother has become unable to care for the girls any longer, so the Smiths gladly opened their home and adopted them.
This is a typical African Tree. I don’t know its official name, but you can find them peppered around most of the continent.
An African buck hides out in the bush. The wildlife in Africa is quite amazing…especially for photography enthusiasts. But the accessibility to wildlife also poses some danger to the locals, especially those who live in more untamed places, such as Zulu land. In Zulu land, I don’t know that they necessarily have to worry about buck, but Kelly did mention that the school children are afraid to walk to school during certain times of the year due to wild boar in the bush and crocs in the river!
The Smith’s ministry helpers are giving out soccer balls to the Zulu children. As in most of Africa, Soccer is a favorite pastime for the Zulu children. Receiving such a gift is very special for them.
This is Kelly with a Zulu baby. Can you imagine caring for a child in this environment? Just keeping them diapered alone could be a full-time affair! But I think this picture illustrates something important about the Smiths. They truly and deeply love the Zulu people. They aren’t removed from them or watching from a distance. They live among them, have community with them, and serve them continually.
Some of you may recognize this as a Macadamia Nut tree. The Smiths recently planted a crop of these trees on their property, in hopes that their bounty will provide for some costs of caring for the widows and orphans. The Smiths already do much of this, but of course are limited by their funds. This one is dried out because the water pump that provided them with water broke.
Kelly and some Zulu men are moving a water pump which is used to water the crops on their farm.
I of course didn’t take this picture because that is me (Steve Evers) helping fix the water pump. This is an example of the difficulty of just maintaining daily life in this area. But even with all of these chores, the Smiths find lots of time to spend serving and loving their neighbors.
Looking out over the rooftops of Zulu rondovals to the steep hills and twisted trails.
Although the kingdom of darkness has taken much dominion here, Jesus has not forgotten this place. He is still the true and reigning King on a mission in this place.
Thank you for joining me for this tour of Zulu land, South Africa. I hope it has provided you with an interesting glimpse into life in this tough place. More than that, I hope you will join me in battling in prayer for the great needs of the Zulu people as well as for the Smiths, God’s ambassadors of light, peace and love in this dark place.