We are back people!
In case you are wondering why these blog posts came to a sudden halt, there has been a bit of faff going on (this is putting it lightly), meaning that I haven’t been able to update this blog about the rest of our time in South Africa.
Flight delays and transfers unfortunately resulted in 8 lost suitcases at the end of our trip. However for some reason my case decided to take the long way round back to Belfast and so took two weeks longer than everyone else’s to arrive. Inside this case was my pink notebook brimming with notes about our trip and quotes from people we engaged with. Something that these blog posts would be quite lost without. And so, unfortunately the blog had to be put on hold. But alas! The prodigal suitcase has returned and so we are back to business.
And what better thing to be writing about than Phakimisa.
The very first thing I wrote in my notebook whilst visiting Phakimisa was- ‘what joy in this place!’
We were greeted at the door with not just a hello but ‘come here, let me squeeze you!’.
Phakimisa is a ministry of Pinetown Methodist Church. Phakimisa describes itself as an organisation that ‘is all about people’. The organisation is built up of volunteers and paid employees led by their director, Thokozani Poswa. An inspiring and passionate servant of God.
On their website they state: ‘PHAKAMISA responds to the needs of adults and children from poor communities who are living with HIV/AIDS through our uplifting and economically empowering programmes.’
Phakimisa offers classes of training, in cooking, beading, and their educare programme amongst other things. Training pre primary teachers who then go out to work in ‘wandering schools’ in informal settlements.
These schools are generally made up of 20-30 children. Most of whom are orphaned or impoverished in some manner. The wandering schools are there to provide a safe space for children who’s parents or caregivers are looking for a job.
We were given the chance to visit two of the wandering schools. This was enlightening, eye opening, and humbling. But these kids. These kids could only bring joy. Smiles and excitement radiated out of both of the tiny spaces that are these children’s reality each day. On our second visit, we were helping to nail pieces of metal to the holes in the shack, in order to make it more sustainable. As we played with the children and spent time in this poor but unbelievably warm and welcoming community, Thokozani explained how ‘Phakimisa is doing whatever they can to give them life.’ Most of the children don’t know about Christmas. They were terrified to be in a car due to the unfamiliarity. They have seen a small number of white people. Thokozani said: ‘Even though the environment isn’t conducive enough, we are able to put a smile on their faces.’
Whenever we first walked into this school, it quickly became clear that English is not these children’s first language. I would be lying if I didn’t allow panic to set in for a few minutes. How would I communicate with them? How could I serve these children in this time we had together?
Well these thoughts were silly. Within half an hour I was swapping sunglasses with these children, playing hand games, they were teaching me how to pose, and I was teaching them how to dab. (Much to others dismay). A language or age or cultural barrier is not enough to stop the love of God being shared between people. This morning was probably my favourite morning in our time in South Africa. It taught us so clearly that joy is not found in things, it can be shared in the smallest of things, and to my delight this includes dabbing.
Because of the wandering schools, these children will be able to go on to primary school equipped. They are being given the chance that their home life would have never been able to give them
Phakimisa is serving beyond its day to day work. Phakimisa is serving 52 areas in Durban surrounding Pinetown. Through the connections they are constantly making, and the training they provide, God is working through Phakimisa to impact around 400 people daily.
Phakimisa is a community of people who are loving people well. A community of people that are truly trying to reflect Jesus in their ministry and how they treat others. I am so glad we got to spend some time with them.
As a team, leaving South Africa, our time with Phakimisa left a lasting impact. Even as we said goodbye, the laughs and the warmth pouring out of that room was indescribable. They are people that I will never forget.
‘As I have loved you, love one another.’ John 13:34
In love and in prayer,