Zulu Natal, South Africa, where Kelly and Cherise Smith live and minister is an area riddled with death and disease. In this area haunted by death, Kelly and Cherise Smith are bringing a new message of life and hope.
South Africa ranks number one in HIV/AIDS deaths. According to the 2013 estimate of the CIA’s World Fact Book, 6,274,100 South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS. That represents only the reported cases.
There are many unreported cases of HIV/AIDS, because many do not know when they are infected.
The African Animism religion has kept is people in bondage for years, and it has been a big contributor to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, too.
The Smith's compassion for the suffering of the entire community in Zulu Natal, South Africa, has propelled them to plant themselves in the middle of it, and do whatever they can to offer light and life to their community.
Rondovals perch on a hill in Kelly and Cherise's village in Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Zulu Natal is hilly terrain.
A local navigates the hilly roads.
Entebbe Baptist Church
The Smiths were instrumental in planting Entabeni Baptist Church. They are still part of this church, which is now pastored by a local Zulu pastor! As it has grown, both children's ministries and youth ministries have flourished and enabled this body of believers to reach those of all ages in their community.
The Smiths have been involved in their community in a variety of ways. They visit the sick in the hospital. They teach community classes. They offer support to social service workers - and this led to their involvement in Siya's story.
Cherise teaching a community class.
They are also involved in the local schools through Project Christmas Blessing.
Project Christmas Blessing
Project Christmas Blessing is a day each year around Christmas time when the Smith family gets to solidify in the minds of the local rural community that they and the many outreaches of 7 Rivers Farm are Christ-centered while having the best interest of the people of the community at heart.
They do this by coming to local schools for their Christmas Celebrations, which are a big deal as the schools close for a break. The Smiths have the opportunity to give the school kids gifts, including a book in the Zulu language that explains the gospel.
Before the gifts are handed out, a Zulu pastor engages the group with an interactive evangelical message on the kids' level and a live praise and worship team leads everyone in songs. The school kids will have a rehearsed skit and dance for the big occasion.
Another way the Smiths are reaching and blessing their community is through their "Thursday Shop." Thursday shop is open to anyone from the community to listen to a multi-week series of Bible lessons and messages, then shop for used treasures they want or need.
Community members wait to enter the Thursday Shop.
The Smiths envision using the space and resources of 7 Rivers Farm, to set up a Children's Village.
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. One of the biggest challenges will be finding house parents that will fit the bill for the kind of homes they’d like these to be.
“We would like the homes at the children's village not to be a mock home or substitute home but to actually be a genuine home for the kids with a father who works and is the spiritual leader in the family and home,” the Smiths shared.
This will be a tall order. The Smiths describe it this way.
“The family structure within the Zulu culture doesn't have many married couples, especially in the area where we are! We're trusting God to provide these very special people to be house parents.”
7 Rivers Children's Village is just in the very beginning stages. Please pray with us that the Smith's vision turns to reality.
Each "house" requires $30,000 to build. That includes labor and materials, but not furnishing.
Giving Hope, Offering Life
It's difficult to minister in a community where you must look death in the face every day. Along with the Smiths, our hearts break continually for those who suffer in Zulu Natal, and who do so without the hope of eternal life in Jesus.
But the silver lining is that the people the Smiths are ministering too must also grapple with death on a daily basis. This can lead to some hope-giving, life-saving conversations if there are people around to have them with.
And, the Smiths...are.
- Reflect the light of Jesus Christ by declaring and demonstrating the gospel in their community.
- Offer hope to those whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
- Bring relief to suffering victims and their families.
- Faithful prayer warriors to ask our heavenly Father to soften the hearts of those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- Monthly support used for the living expenses of the Smith family.
- Support for the HIV/AIDS ministry’s projects, including Project Christmas Blessing and the Children's Village.
- ITMI to provide oversight and US presence exposing this ministry to those God has called to partner with it.
- The Smith's daughter and ITMI partner, Fifi Smith, ministers alongside the Smiths at 7 Rivers Farm.
- Serving In Missions, a South African based organization that is partnering with the Smiths in ministry.
In part 2 of this interview with ITMI’s Kelly and Cherise Smith, they’re letting us in on what it’s like sharing the Gospel as “white people” living in an African village, sharing some exciting new places God is taking their ministry, a little about their Thanksgivings in South Africa and why they’re now doing something they thought they wouldn’t do when they first arrived in KwaZulu Natal.
When Kelly and Cherise Smith arrived home at 7 Rivers Farm in KwaZulu Natal last June, winter holiday was in full swing for the cluster of three Zulu villages in the area. They’d done – once again – one of the hardest things about being on the mission field. They’d…
In this episode, Kelly and Cherise Smith are sharing what it’s like living among the Zulu tribe in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. They’re sharing some remarkable things Zulu women and girls do as part of their daily lives, the extents people are going to so they can attend Kelly and Cherise’s monthly “Bible Verse Shop” outreach and a few only-in-africa stories of snake bites, late night labors and extreme runs to the hospital!
“We spent this past weekend officiating a funeral, which is normal for our ministry team to do once – sometimes twice each month. It has even happened, a few times, where there’s two in one weekend.”
“When I pass away, I want Mr. Smith to bury me.” It took a great deal of courage for Mrs. Khawula to share this with just one member of her family. Mrs. Khawula’s health was failing. She had HIV. The elderly Zulu woman contracted the deadly virus bathing her daughter each day without gloves.