This article was originally published in the February 2021 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Trapped between inflated prices and low income, people start to buy on credit and go into debt.
“I can’t afford groceries this month,” Onthalie* mumbled, her eyes were glued to the tops of her shoes as she confessed her situation to a member of the le Roux family.
ITMI’s Gerhard and Elmane le Roux live and minister from Onseepkans Mission with their 8 children. The mission is located outside the town of Onseepkans, near South Africa’s northern border with Namibia, where Gerhard leads a small congregation of believers and ministers through hospitality programs and strategic outreaches to people of every social status in the remote community.
The le Roux family, 2020. (Two children not pictured here.)
“Many people in the rural town of Onseepkans rely on government [retirement] grants. The old age grant, for example is about R1500,” writes Gerhard le Roux. That’s about $90 USD. If there are children in the house, they might get an additional $26 USD per month per child.
Onseepkans is a small farming community at the end of a 36-mile washboard dirt road surrounded by miles of rock-strewn barren desert. Some work for low wages at the large, commercial farms in the area, but most live on welfare alone, so that meager amount must provide everything for the entire month.
Onseepkans, South Africa is in the Northern Cape area, near South Africa's border with Namibia.
Onseepkans is a small farming community at the end of a 36-mile washboard dirt road surrounded by miles of rock-strewn barren desert.
Onseepkans, South Africa is a small, remote farming community.
Onseepkans' local store.
To make matters worse, it is costly to travel the roughly 80 mile round trip to Kakamas, which is the closest town with larger retail stores and non-predatory prices, specially for the majority who do not have vehicles.
This forces most locals to depend on the small local shops.
“These shops sell their goods at high prices because they know people are dependent on them,” writes Gerhard, “Trapped between inflated prices and low income, people start to buy on credit and go into debt. In the beginning of each month, they must first pay for the previous month’s groceries, plus added interest. The amount left is so small that they end up buying on credit again. The vicious cycle goes on month after month, year after year. Pile on the COVID-19 pandemic’s inflation of basic goods, and now, more than ever, people are suffering.”
The le Rouxs minister to Onthalie and a few other elderly widows by purchasing groceries for them when they travel to Kakamas for groceries.
To attend a wedding in the community, Onthalie had purchased the necessary clothing on the high-interest credit offered by a local shop. Now, as the debt was due, she was left without money for groceries.
“It moved her very deeply when we came and gave her a Project Joseph food parcel. She experienced how the Lord provided for her family’s needs during a difficult time financially. She had tears in her eyes and said that she wanted to cry out of joy and thankfulness.
We could share that the Lord loves each of us and looks after our needs. As we were leaving, she asked us to pray for her and to thank the Lord with her for His provision,” Gerhard reported.
“It was a great blessing to us when we were given the opportunity to participate in ITMI’s Project Joseph,” Gerhard continues, “We prayerfully asked the Lord to lead us and show us to whom we should provide with food parcels. We felt led to start by assisting 15 families and later increased it to 18 families.”
As the le Rouxs were preparing to leave for Kakamas to purchase Project Joseph food parcels, Tom* approached Gerhard, wondering if they could buy groceries for him. Tom is a local man who visits Onseepkans Mission when he is nearby. He and his wife have befriended the le Roux family.
When Gerhard agreed, Tom carefully calculated the cost of each item on the list he gave Gerhard, unsure he’d have enough to buy it all.
“As we drove off I experienced the Holy Spirit prompting me that we should buy the groceries for them through Project Joseph. At the store, while we got the groceries for different families, I again experienced that God wanted me to buy him more than the quantities Tom listed,” Gerhard testifies.
When Tom came by the next morning to pick up his goods, the le Rouxs assembled his items on the large, homemade table in the center of the mission kitchen. As he watched, Tom began to look worried. There must have been some mistake. They’d gotten him more than he asked for and he wouldn’t have the money to pay for it all!
“I could see that he was worried that he would not be able to pay for all the groceries,” Gerhard recounts. “When I shared with him about Project Joseph and how much God loves him and his family, he sat quietly for a while.
Then we could see tears in his eyes as his emotions surged up in him. When he started to thank us, we told him we are only the couriers. He must thank the Lord for His provision.”
Later that night, Elmane got a message from his wife.
It read, “My heart runs over today with joy for what you have come to bless us with. I do not know how to thank you and how to say thank you to the Master from above because He provided for our needs and because He, through Mr. le Roux and his wife, worked to bless us beyond our expectations with the food. I told my husband last night, “...There is nothing in our food cupboard, but I know the Lord is going to provide.” This afternoon when I got home, a great blessing was waiting for me. … I will be forever grateful and today my faith only got stronger and stronger in the Lord.”
When two of the le Roux’s daughters went to deliver a food parcel to another lady, she had just come from the river, where she was fishing for small fish to eat. The minnows she caught - the family’s only source of food - were drying around the outside of her home.
“She was in great need and was ashamed that we should see the condition of her food supply. The Lord provided for her by leading us to give her a food parcel without us knowing anything about her challenging circumstances,” they reported.
“Project Joseph really makes a big impact in these people’s lives,” the le Rouxs share, “They experienced the Lord’s love towards them in a new and meaningful way. We appreciate your prayers for these recipients of the Project Joseph food parcels. We thank the Lord for granting us this great opportunity in which we can bring Christ to the people in a practical way.”
Project Joseph recipients, overjoyed with their gifts.
The le Rouxs ask that we pray that the Lord may continue to work in the lives of the recipients and open their eyes to His faithful love and care.
“Joseph was available so that God could work through him and use him to glorify His name during the difficult time of famine in Egypt,” reflects Gerhard, “Currently, we are facing the difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. May we be available like Joseph so that the Lord may use us to bring hope and peace to the people around us.”
*Name changed for privacy
Lives touched on the Zambezi Plains!
There’s not much to smile about for the villagers living in isolated villages west of the Zambezi River near Chavuma, Zambia.
Life here is hard.
The villages are nothing but a collection of huts - no clinics, no schools, no water or electricity.
Hauling water takes up most of their time and energy. Their diet is dangerously limited.
But, through the work of our partners, Johan and Lesley Leach and those who have supported Project Joseph, these faces are graced with smiles of gratitude.
A short service of thanksgiving and sharing God’s Word was given by local pastors who have been mentored by Johan’s team, then each recipient received their food parcel.
Many of the recipients spontaneously sang and danced, giving thanks to God and those He used to provide it!
Johan says, “To God be the glory! With Christ as the Head of the Body, and we being members joined working in response to Christ’s leading, together we made a huge difference in the lives of many.”
A local pastor, equipped by Johan Leach, shares the Gospel in the villagers' own language at the Project Joseph distribution.
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.
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