by Summer Kelley
The unassuming "Yes or No Bench" sits on Kelly and Cherise Smith's peaceful 7 Rivers Farm in Zulu Natal, South Africa.
But its occupants are likely anything but at peace.
As they wait, their lives hang in the balance. They wait to see if the dark ominous storm clouds looming on their horizon are going to plow through their lives or move along. The wait must feel unbearable. Every excruciatingly-slow step must feel like eternity before the bearer of news approaches with the news that may change their lives forever.
They wait to hear, "Yes, you tested positive for HIV/AIDS," or "No, you tested negative for HIV/AIDS."
A "no" answer gives new meaning to the phrase, "Good News!"
It also sheds some light on our word, "Gospel," which means Good News. Because all of humanity once sat on the proverbial "Yes or No bench." Would life be redeemed? Or would it be a worthless series of painful events, only to end with the punishment we deserved?
Jesus answered that million dollar, life-and-death question for us on the cross.
"Good News!" the messenger shouts, "Yes! Your life will be saved! Your heart can be changed so you will be able to follow Jesus!"
ITMI partners, Kelly and Cherise Smith are being that messenger in Zulu Natal.
It's true that while they are there, they also have to deliver bad news about positive HIV/AIDS tests. Often.
But they are also the bearers of good news, too.
This life may not have turned out the way it was supposed to, but God will return and make it right! You may have to suffer as a result of this disease, but if you follow Jesus, he will give you a new body that can't get sick. He will right the wrongs of the world.
And when you live in a corner of the world where HIV/AIDS is so common that you test for it so often it calls for a bench just for that purpose, well, there's a lot of people who need to hear some good news.
The Smiths stand in the face of this kind of world daily - where death is imminent for many and families are torn apart by disease - battling, pushing back at the darkness in Jesus' name, reflecting the light of Jesus into a very dark place.
The Smiths are reflecting the light of Jesus into a very dark place.
Reflecting the Light
The Smiths have several facets to their ministry - ways they shed light in their community. They were instrumental in the planting of Entebbe Baptist Church, which is now pastored by a Zulu pastor! They've fostered and adopted. They visit the sick in the hospital, they teach community classes.
Project Christmas Blessing
Each year they bless many school children in local schools at Christmas time, with a Christmas event that includes skits, games, gifts and a speaker sharing the Christmas story with them.
7 Rivers Children's Village
The Smith's newest light fixture is to build a Children's Village on 7 Rivers Farm. This would be multiple houses where 6-8 children who have no one to take care of them. Their plan is to start small, with 1-2 houses and grow from there.
Currently, they are in the paperwork phase of forming an NGO and writing proposals.
One of the biggest obstacles is going to be finding house parents. The Smith's vision is to have a married couple who has trusted Jesus and speaks Zulu. This is a tall order because the family structure within the Zulu culture doesn't include many married couples.
Will you pray with the Smiths for God to provide the right people to make a huge impact in the lives of children who have no where else to turn?
Will you pray for the Smiths as they work in Zulu Natal, South Africa, where HIV/AIDS is destroying lives?
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.