Note from GapFill.org’s Founder: I just received Kay and John West’s newsletter and thought you would enjoy meeting some of their helpers in South Africa. To God Be the Glory for all the work He is doing!
Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:29-30
Most of you are parents, and know full well the joy when someone wants to hear about your children! So you will understand our delight that so many of you responded so positively to our last newsletter, which featured some of our interpreters. These darling young women have become like daughters to us, and most even call us “Mom” and “Dad.” We thank you for wanting to “meet” a few more of our helpers, not only because are they a vital part of the ministry here, but also because we have a very special place in our heart for each one!
The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to
much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands,
to love their children, to be discrete, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands,
that the Word of God may not be blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5
While we respond in ministry to wherever the Holy Spirit leads, the focus of the ministry to which God has called us is primarily to women. It is African women who nurture and shape the next generation, and our vision is that as we pour the love of Jesus and the Truth of His life-giving Word into their lives, their communities will be transformed from places of violence, death, and despair into neighborhoods reflecting God’s Kingdom culture of peace, life, and hope.
They say “there is no hurry in Africa,” and we have learned this to be overwhelmingly true! It is especially pertinent to discipleship; discipleship always takes time, commitment, and patience, and happens not only in overt ways like teaching the Bible, but also in simply “doing” life together. So while these young ladies serve alongside us, we are honored to disciple them as well, and we are so blessed with the beautiful fruits God is producing in their lives. Please forgive us if we sound like bragging parents! 1 Corinthians 1:17 tells us, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. Yes, to Him be all the honor and glory!
Nomvula Mdunge is a 31-year-old single mother of two daughters, Onke, age seven years, and Kuhle, age three years. She works as the head teacher at “Under His Wings” preschool in the community of Emanzana, and also oversees the cooking and feeding of approximately 100 children every weekday. She is smart and sassy and exuberant in her love for Jesus. She was able to finish three years of college before she lost her husband and had to quit in order to support her young children. Someday she hopes to complete her degree in education, and have her own home, as currently she is living with her sister and her sister’s family.
Nomsa Nhlabathi is the 33-year-old sister of Nomvula and has three children: Sizwe (boy), age sixteen, Mfanafuthi (boy), age fourteen, and Lindiwe (girl), age three. This quiet but brilliant young woman completed three years of college and now works for Emoyeni (“In the Spirit”) Ministries where she is in charge of the administration for five care points serving over a thousand children. Nomsa is also a single mother and prays for wisdom in parenting, especially to her teenaged boys. Her dream is to have her own bakery someday.
Zenzile “Constancia” Maluka is a 33-year-old single mother of two and has a strong drive to make a difference in her community and in her country. Constancia currently works as a facilitator at Kingdom Shines Ministries where she oversees a preschool and feeding program for approximately 150 children. Her dream is to someday go back to school and become a social worker. In the meantime, this feisty and spirited lady is making a huge impact for the Lord right where she is planted. She recently lost both of her parents, but is undaunted even in her grief. In her words, “God is good to me all the time. No one is sick in my family. He protects us every day and He guides us along the way.” Constancia also wants “more strength to serve the kids at the care point and to give them love and a smile every day.” Last but not least, she also wants to “encourage other young women. They must be strong in the Word of God and they should not rush into everything that is not good. They must wait on God’s right time.”
Nomcebo Anne Shongwe is 32 years old and works as a facilitator in her home village of “Lonhlupeko” which means “suffering” in siSwati. While Lonhlupeko is an area of much struggle, the preschool and care point where Nomcebo works is an island of joy and light for the children. Nomcebo comes from a large family and is blessed that her mother and father and her father’s second wife (remember that polygamy is practiced here) are all still alive, as are her six brothers and two sisters. The father of her eight-year-old son, however, died of AIDS-related causes when her son was still a baby. She has recently remarried. Her income is R1,000 (roughly $75) a month. Part of her job is to visit all the care point kids in their homes regularly to check on their welfare (reporting abuse, teaching parenting skills to caregivers, ensuring medication compliance, monitoring that the children are getting enough to eat and their health, encouraging cleanliness of living environment, etc.) She says she is very emotional about women’s rights in Swaziland and sees far too many women being physically and sexually assaulted. She especially hates it when abuse happens, as it often does, in front of the kids. Nomcebo says Jesus has changed her life, and that, “He is my Everything, my Provider.” When she was a child, she dreamed of being an accountant but she is glad she is working with children now. Kay will never forget watching Nomcebo frantically chasing a two-year-old toddler who was in her care. The little girl was having a colossal temper tantrum and was running away from the safety of the care point at an astonishingly fast pace, with Nomcebo in rapid pursuit for at least a half mile. Nomcebo caught up to her just in time to prevent the still-screaming child from heading right into the dam where crocodiles lay in wait. Just an average day in the life of a preschool teacher in southern Africa!
Nomsa Debra Nkwanyana is twenty-eight years old and works alongside Nomcebo as a preschool teacher and care point facilitator. Nomsa’s father died of AIDS-related causes and her mother is HIV positive and getting sicker. The father of Nomsa’s only child, a nine-year-old daughter, was abusive to her and they are no longer in a relationship. Nomsa also recently adopted her young nephew when Nomsa’s brother died, leaving the young boy as on orphan. In spite of all the sorrow she has experienced in her few short years, her faith and joy in the Lord are unshakable. She wishes everyone would believe in Christ because He is “the only one to trust—He provides all I need. He is everything to me. He means a lot to me because He is the reason I am alive today.” When she was a child she dreamed of being a high school teacher and owning a car and a beautiful home and being married to a faithful husband. Now her dreams are to “serve God as much as I can, each day learning new ways of praising Him.” Nomsa is also a hero to us. When Kay was training women in the community in prayer via the ministry of Moms In Prayer International, she was helping Nomsa set up chairs for the women who were participating. The chairs were stacked in the corner of the small rural classroom. Suddenly, Nomsa grabbed Kay’s arm and roughly shoved her away from the corner, shouting, “cobra!” We thank God for her seasoned eye and quick reflexes which enabled Kay as well as herself to escape unscathed. It takes a lot to scare praying women, and the training continued once it was ascertained that it was safe and the snake was out of the way!
Actually, to us, all these ladies are heroes, exhibiting a faith in the Lord that blows us away. They walk miles to work whether in the hot African sun, or the torrential rainstorms, or the surprisingly cold winter winds as none can afford a car. They survive the untimely deaths of family members, illnesses with substandard medical care, and rioting and strife in their communities, and yet their confidence in Jesus is unwavering and strong.
There are no quick fixes to the many challenges facing our brothers and sisters here in southern Africa, but with the selfless service of women like these, God is moving towards His inexorable plan of salvation for those who hear and believe. And our lives are immensely richer for being allowed the privilege of serving alongside them.
For His Kingdom,
John and Kay West
We hope to see as many of you as possible when we travel back to the US for the holidays, though our time with family will be paramount. We will be sharing more about the ministry at these venues:
- Love of the Lord Community Church, 11:00am, Sunday, January 3, 2016
- Jesus Cares Ministries, 6:30pm, Wednesday, January 6, 2016
- Bridgeway Community Church, 9:00am and 10:30 am, Sunday, January 10, 2016
- Safe travel to and from the US
- For all the new groups of praying women!
- Ability to effectively communicate the wonderful things God is doing here in Southern Africa
- God’s wisdom as we face some challenging situations with family in the US
- God’s covering for our home, dogs, and ministry here in SA while we are back in the US
John and Kay West are missionaries in South Africa. Visit the “Items Needed” tab on the GapFill.org website to see how you can help the West Family. To receive GapFill.org’s blog posts automatically via email, enter your email address in the “FOLLOW GAPFILL VIA EMAIL” box on the right-hand side of the blog and click “Follow”.