This article was originally published in the September 2018 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Sunlight falling from the wide, blue sky above the hills of Zulu Natal, South Africa glinted from the water as it tumbled from the small spigot into the black plastic 5-gallon bucket.
The community water source is atop one of the many steep hills that envelope this Zulu settlement. From the high vantage point, the surrounding bubbly terrain stretches to the horizon. Traversing the hills is tough, even for the young.
But for the elderly to do it while carrying full buckets of water is nearly impossible.
Water for daily use is a big challenge faced by residents of Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Most families haul any water they need for household consumption from the community spigots to the round homes where they reside, called rondavels.
Bracing her small frame, 24-year-old Fifi Smith raised the bucket into the air and rested it on her head. For a Zulu woman, Fifi is petite. Petite, but mighty...in more ways than one.
Stepping carefully along a path that is at some points barely wide enough for one foot to pass by the other, she carefully descended and climbed until she neared a rondavel.
When she reached the rondavel, the elderly resident eagerly greeted her. She was overjoyed! Her excitement overflowed in laughter. She was so grateful to have water.
Fifi set the bucket down inside the home, calling happily back and forth with the recipient in Zulu. Without hesitation, Fifi began filling tubs with water for washing dishes.
There were no chairs in the one circular room this family lives in. The “gogo” or grandmother, situated herself on the floor in front of two bins of dirty dishes. The volume of dishes revealed that she had been without water, unable to haul it herself.
This is what we want you to know about Fifi. She works hard. Period. She is a true servant, pouring out her strength and energy for her people.
All week long, she visits the “Gogos” who live in the area. The elderly ladies struggle to perform the tasks required by life in this area. They are the ones others have forgotten about.
She returns week after week, to chat, to bend her back and to serve. She hauls water for them. She cleans their homes. She does their laundry.
Fifi truly loves those she serves.
Fifi visits with a "gogo" and the children she cares for.
Week after week, she returns to visit even those who verbally berate her out of their own past hurt and trauma. Even if she leaves in tears.
Why would she return, over and over again, to love and serve those who dish out verbal lashings?
When asked, she said simply, “I want them to know Jesus.”
Fifi has a unique opening with this Zulu community. She was born there. She was raised there. She is one of them. She speaks their language. And she can do and say things that outsiders cannot.
She is a living and breathing demonstration of how a person - a Zulu person who faces the challenges they face - lives differently when they aren’t enslaved by terror of their ancestors, but instead is a willing follower of Jesus.
Fifi is a stark contrast to the fear many live with. She brings a tantalizing ray of sunshine and hope.
People are open to the love and freedom she offers them in Christ. But the tenets and beliefs they’ve steeped in for years are not easily revoked.
This isn’t unique to the Zulu. We all - around the world - are often unaware of the influence of our cultures, and find ourselves struggling to let go of the beliefs held dear to our culture.
Although Jesus is faithful and good and wonderful to His own, He demands to be our only Lord. One cannot have the freedom and life Jesus offers while clinging to or harboring a greater fear of anything else.
May we all be reminded that He is more than worth it, and may all peoples, from every beautiful nation on earth discover and proclaim the goodness that is found in following and serving Christ alone.
About the Authors
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 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.