This article was originally published in the July 2020 edition of ITMI Monthly.
When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions came to South Africa, it was the halted vital taxi service that impacted Zulu families living in KwaZulu Natal first.
“We don't have a lot of people here who have lost their jobs because we don't have a lot of people with jobs here,” explained ITMI’s Kelly Smith, who has lived and ministered with his family in the rural area for over a decade.
Traversing the remote and hilly terrain of KwaZulu Natal is challenging.
Parked taxis mean families who normally depend on them for the arduous task of getting to the nearest town to buy groceries, are without food.
Under normal circumstances, getting to town for groceries involves traversing steep hills by foot in hopes of finding a taxi with an available seat. All that must be done with groceries in tow on the return trip.
Kelly and his wife, Cherise, are joined in ministry by their 25-year-old daughter and ITMI partner, Fifi Smith.
A few weeks ago Kelly, Cherise and Fifi worked with a team of believers from their church in Durban, South Africa to provide relief in Jesus’ name with parcels of groceries to about 215 Zulu homes in their area.
The parcels were accompanied by a flier that explained the gift as an act of provision from the Lord, specifically presented the Gospel, brought it to bear on the current pandemic and invited recipients to attend the local Zulu church plant.
After much prayer and thought about how best to distribute the resources they had available, the team had decided they would give a small amount to each household in the area, which is about 215 homes.
Later, through our Project Joseph initiative, additional resources came in allowing the parcels to be big enough to feed families for 20 days.
The outreach involved days of logistics, multiple trips to town and long hours of hard work from quite a few volunteers.
Due to the number of deliveries, the hilly terrain and the spread out nature of the community, the deliveries themselves also took many people working hard for several exhausting days.
As the team visited homes to hand out parcels, they weren’t surprised to encounter recipients who, after expressing sincere thanks, attempted to position themselves to receive more than a fair share - even though that meant their neighbors might go without.
Kelly and Fifi estimated that about every third delivery someone would deceitfully try to convince the team that their household was bigger. They would point at a structure that wasn’t theirs to evidence their “larger” household and need for more.
In fact, the team knew to expect this dishonesty as they planned the outreach.
But they weren’t deterred.
Cherise and Fifi Smith prepare food parcels for families who could not get to town to purchase groceries.
The Smiths knew they’d need to rely on intense prayer each morning and the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout the day as they made deliveries in preparation.
If the distribution team had fallen for false stories, they could have run out, leaving some families without while most of the rest of the community was cared for.
The result could have been divisive and disastrous, not to mention drag Christ’s name through the mud. In short, help would have turned to harm.
“Praise God,” Fifi said, “we know almost everyone in the community, so we could recognize what they needed.”
This is why we’re grateful for our national partners. They are uniquely equipped to provide relief in situations such as this. They know their communities better than anyone.
An outsider attempting to distribute aid in the community would not have known the families and their needs like Fifi, Cherise and Kelly do.
Instead of glorifying the Lord by caring for people, they might have gotten caught in or unintentionally created animosity among neighbors... in Jesus’ name!
The focus could easily have shifted from the Gospel to politics and accusations of injustice.
But faithful, godly ITMI partners, like Fifi Smith and her parents, understand how to most effectively combine relief in service of glorifying the Lord with sharing His offer of redemption.
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.