A study of at-risk children by the University of Michigan showed that children who said they had an older person that they could share things with were much more likely to finish school and succeed later in life than their peers.
The area of Mpumuza is lacking “safe people.” Apartheid, with its pass-laws which determined who could work in the city and who had to stay out, caused many men to leave their wives and children in order to get jobs. Even more than 15 years after Apartheid, the family structure in this area is very broken. Fathers are still absent. AIDS takes its toll in this community. Mpumuza has the second highest prevalence rate in Southern Africa (2001 stats), and this leaves many orphans and child-headed households.
iThemba wants to see this community changed by the power of Christ, and they believe the best way to do that is to educate and disciple this young generation, so the cycles of poverty and neglect can be broken. The iThemba Discipleship field workers are in the community every day, building relationships with kids and trying to be “safe people” so these children know Jesus and have the support they need to succeed. Many of these fieldworkers are young men who have graduated from UBI (the Bible College where my Dad teaches). This is great, because male role models in this community are lacking.
When I worked with iThemba four years ago, they had two Life Groups (Bible studies) and a Saturday Kids Club. Now, they have 8 Life Groups and the teenagers they have discipled lead the Saturday Kids Club. One Life Group has over 50 kids attending. Thulani, the leader, is looking for more help so he can divide it into a smaller group–what a great problem to have! Just this week iThemba started up a teens Bible club on Saturday afternoons.
My whole first week at work was filled with exciting discoveries like this one. Seeing how God has grown the ministry of iThemba over the past four years makes me feel like Paul when he speaks of the Thessalonian church:
“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 1:2-3)
I am just so honored to get to work with a team like iThemba. While I am not directly involved with the mentorship process, I get to help out at various groups, and the short-term volunteers I am working with will be participating and assisting the leaders of these groups. Please keep praying that God will keep using iThemba to bring his reconciliation and hope to this area.
Have questions about iThemba or want more information about something I mentioned in this post? Leave a comment. 🙂