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.
Nobuhle, or "Fifi" Smith is a member of the 7 Rivers team, started by ITMI partners, Kelly and Cherise Smith to reach the people of this community.
Rondovals perch on a hill in Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Zulu Natal is hilly terrain.
A local navigates the hilly roads.
Nobuhle works daily with young ladies who have dropped out of school for varying reasons - teenage pregnancy, rape or problem with finances - to name a few. These young ladies come to 7 Rivers daily to make necklaces from beads that grow on the banks at 7 Rivers Farm.
Before they begin their work, Nobuhle leads them in a Bible study.
Nobuhle and a young lady from the community making beaded necklaces.
Nobuhle and her brother run an after-school soccer program for the kids of the community.
"This part of ministry is really nice because I’m able to spend one on one with some of these young kids, just find out how they're doing at school, and at home. Some of them do speak up and share about their lives and I always get an opportunity to share Christ with them."
Nobuhle visits elderly who look after their grandchildren because their parents passed away or spend their days in town working.
"When I visit them I clean, pray, cry with them and spend time with them. It always humbles me how much they appreciate to be visited. The time spent means a lot to be able to tell them about the only way to heaven and how much Jesus loves them," Nobuhle says.
Other ministries of the 7 Rivers Team:
Entebbe Baptist Church
The Smiths were instrumental in planting Entebbe 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 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 come 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
Nebuhle grew up in this community, so she is uniquely equipped to reach them with the Good News that Jesus, the Great Healer, wants to walk next to them through their sorrows and joys.
- 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.
- ITMI partners, Kelly and Cherise Smith, local project leaders.
“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.