This article was originally published in the August 2021 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“Currently each family is taking stock of whatever food we have in our cupboards for rationing since grocery store shelves are quickly emptying.”
by Kelly Smith
A BIG thanks to so many of you who have reached out to check on our health and well-being. Here is a quick rundown on the situation which has brought us to this point.
One week ago the former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was arrested on charges of contempt of court. Many Zulu people who are loyal to the former president have vowed to bring the country to a standstill, at any cost, until he is released, "Free Zuma" is their battle cry.
For the past 3 days there have been mass looting, rioting and burning of buildings in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.
In response, multi-racial communities have banded together to form a type of militia to stop the looting and destruction as well as protect essential water, electrical and fuel sources. The official South African police have accepted and welcomed our assistance along with private security companies.
Currently each family is taking stock of whatever food we have in our cupboards for rationing since grocery store shelves are quickly emptying.
The trend now is for customers to text a purchase order of 3 items only, the store will then text you several hours later when and if your order is ready for payment and collection.
Trucks for replenishing supplies are not coming soon since they are intercepted, looted and burned. All gas stations are closed unless you are an essential patroller or equivalent; stations that do open to public are inundated within a matter of minutes then all chaos ensues which then causes the station to close again.
There are police, media and private aircraft constantly flying overhead to help keep the peace. Myself and several men from our local church have joined together to protect our residential area and larger community.
Each household sits huddled around their phone listening to the radio chatter of where the hot spots are so as to know when to be ready to defend their property and lives. The volunteer militia are highly disciplined, well organized and quick to respond when trouble begins.
The main road the church sits on is a major passageway to where many of the rioters live. Last night the four road blockades in front of the church captured 20 loads of stolen goods, illegal firearms and drugs, also many of the vehicles were stolen with missing license plates.
My current schedule is to try and sleep as much a possible during the day to arm the blockades at night.
We’ve just been told by our local political officials that we are one of the last areas still standing which has not allowed our commercial areas to be burned to the ground.
We’ve had requests from our Zulu brothers and sisters in Christ to pray as they are also locked down in their homes frightened and rationing food / supplies.
Many of the Zulu living in this area live in clusters of structures, often round.
The Smith Family: Kelly, Cherise, Wyatt, Zoe and Fifi
Our children, Slindile and family are safe and their electricity has been restored after 24 hours being out; Fifi and others are also fine at 7 Rivers Outreach but will need food soon.
There are too many items to list when asking you to pray. Ultimately we want all this to stop and peace to return.
We pray that these events would open the eyes of many to see their need for Christ as Savior and likewise we would be bold in proclaiming the Gospel of peace.
South Africa is Burning!
by Charl van Wyk
South Africa is burning! We are currently enduring riots, arsons, and multiple deaths; also, gunfire and warfare tactics waged from taxi minivans.
Shopping centers, motorcar showrooms, retail stores, and factories are being burnt to the ground. Numerous people are losing their livelihoods because of a group of gangsters perpetrating violence due to their leader being incarcerated. Others are shooting and killing each other over the fierceness of competition for taxi passengers and lucrative taxi routes.
For communists, social regeneration takes place through violence and anarchy. Close observers of history know this is always shrewdly orchestrated but manipulated to appear spontaneous. The resulting carnage and confusion are blamed on capitalism, the greed of the wealthy, western imperialism, racism, etc.
Moreover, media outlets serve as handmaidens for these merchants of destruction. They dutifully churn out misinformation and disinformation, further frustrating a fearful public and priming them to embrace the “solution,” which is always more state control.
While the Christians are building up, the communists are tearing down!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
A Wet, Frigid Winter
My western friends readily associate Africa with civil unrest, but rarely do they realize how cold it can get here. Right now, [in addition to rioting, COVID-19, lockdowns and loss] we’re contending with a wet, frigid winter.
Olga [Charl’s co-worker] explains what winter is like in a shack in an informal settlement:
“The freezing cold air seeps into the shack homes through many small gaps and holes making sleep exceedingly difficult. Some residents rely on paraffin space heaters - which caused me to get seriously ill [from the exhaust]. Family members stretch out their hands over small stoves to get some heat.
“I know people who have been in the informal shack houses for longer than 15 years, but still aren’t used to the cold. Every winter feels colder than the previous.
“On occasion, floods from the rain cause shacks to be soaked from the ground up. Residents have lost blankets, furniture, appliances, and, most importantly, documents such as birth certificates and ID books. After the flood, some of us must put our blankets and mattresses out to dry in the sun. [Difficult when the winter rains dominate the daily weather!]
“During rainy season water and mud are everywhere. It gets so cold you can feel it in your bones!”
We’ve already performed ministry outreaches with blankets, sleeping bags, and mattresses in Stone Hill.
They were gratefully received and extremely beneficial, both to the recipients and our ministry.
Mattress outreach in Stone Hill informal settlement.
Giving a gift blanket in winter establishes rapport with the community, showing them that we really care. (James 1:27)
We’d like to do more and help further afield! We want to also help those suffering in the “hottest” areas of civil unrest.
Winter can be extremely uncomfortable for those living on the streets or in shacks. It’s even more agonizing when the last warmth you felt was the fire from your place of business burning to the ground.
Delivery of blankets will take place in homes, where the Gospel is presented at the delivery. Or if on a large scale, through doing research and finding the neediest in an area and ministering to them at their point of need.
Bibles or Gospel tracts will accompany the blankets and specific needs prayed for.
A Bible costs $13, a blanket $14.50, and a Space Blanket - a lightweight, compact first aid thermal blanket - $3.50.
So far, where we live, besides gunshots ringing out we have experienced none of the present violence; we do however sleep with one eye open and firearms at the ready!
ITMI's Charl van Wyk with his family in South Africa.
Please keep our country and continent in your prayers. And search out reliable news sources on our story. Sadly, what’s happened here for many years is now starting to more noticeably unfold across the West.
That is why so many Christian brothers and sisters in South Africa and elsewhere are praying so fervently for America.
News outlets are already claiming the true cause of the riots is inequality, hunger and joblessness. These are issues our partners have been working tirelessly to address, but from a Biblical perspective rather than a political one that seeks to grab power.
We’re proud to stand behind our partners who have been undeterred from answering their Biblical calling to honor Him with generosity to the poor.
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults His Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.”
Proverbs 14:31 ESV
They’ve been doing this by responding to the urging of ITMI Director, Steve Evers, to storehouse food and basic needs, like Joseph in Egypt, to advance the Gospel and spread peace and hope.
Fellow believers, between the crisis in India and the riots in South Africa, our partners need us to stand with them now more than ever. There’s never been a better time for our partners to be on the ground, in the trenches, faithfully declaring the Good News to the hurting and suffering.
Whatever you find yourself blessed with, whatever resources you find yourself equipped with, whatever time you find to pray, it has been given “for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14
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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