MusaweNkosi means “God’s grace” in Zulu. MusaweNkosi was started in 2001 to show God’s grace particularly to orphans and their carers in the rural areas around Empangeni, near Durban, South Africa in the face of  the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Searching for purpose

After a year or two of feeling God wanted us to do something, and us saying but we don’t know what to do, we are only a couple and the problem is so big, we did an orphan count in a defined rural area and found over 160 orphans in a 10 square km area.

With Zulu community workers we got to know and assessed the households. There were many where the orphans were loved and cared for, but,also, many where they were neglected, used and abused. Initially we just helped the most needy get to school by paying school fees and providing stationery. We also had several opportunities through the year to meet with the orphans and their carers to distribute clothes and food and share the gospel. The community asked if we could look after some of the most needy children and, so, the first house opened in December 2004 and by the end of the year was bursting with 12 children and a house mother.

It has been a long and rocky road but, now, we are a registered children’s home that can take 40 children. They live in four houses with Zulu house parents and go to local schools. The children have Bible time and prayers every day, go to a local church and have the gospel lived out for them by many of the carers. It has been a blessing to see many become Christians and be baptised.

Practical support

A big problem is that most of the children are behind academically and struggle at school. To help them catch up we have an after school educational support programme to teach basics in Maths and English and to give children a firm foundation to build on and to get them into the habit of studying.

In Nseleni, a nearby township, we set up a feeding scheme in partnership with a local church. The “informal” township is poor, has many orphans, and the usual problems of neglect and abuse of many kinds. Two church ladies, led by Mama Shandu, visited set areas, getting to know households and needs. About 50 children were invited to the feeding scheme, coming after school for a hot meal, a time to hear a Bible story and learn verses, and, when we have the personnel, to help them with their school work. Mama Shandu and others visit the households the children come from once a month to take food and clothes when we have them and to help sort out administrative problems such as getting birth certificates and ID documents, and to share the gospel. Through this the Sunday School has grown, and care givers have come to church and to know the Lord.

Future plans

We have purchased land at Nseleni and want to build our own premises so that in addition to the feeding scheme we can have a pre-school using Christian content. Then we plan to develop other projects such as sewing, knitting, computer skills, music, sport, adult literacy. Through these we will make contact with different segments of society, to build relationships and to be able to share the gospel. In order to set up these activities we will need people with the skills to do them!

Volunteers needed

We rely on volunteers to run the education support programmes. These volunteers also go into local schools two mornings a week to help at a community level. As a result we have use of schools for Holiday Bible Clubs and the opportunity to share the gospel with 150 to 200 children per programme. To run programmes we need a steady supply of volunteers and we have been blessed to get them from Germany! We have been trying to get contacts to get people from the UK, USA and other English speaking countries on a regular basis, so far without success. We would welcome any suggestions about how we might do this!

Most volunteers are gap-year students coming for 6 to 12 months and they have done a great job. We would like a couple, or even two couples, to come full-time on a long-term basis. There are so many opportunities we could take up but, because we both have jobs and do Musa as a part-time ministry, we cannot. Other schools are asking for help; there is work that could be done encouraging and building up the house parents; there are opportunities in the local community and Nseleni has so much potential; there is also the possibility of another children’s home; we often turn away several children every week because the home is full. Any ministry has many needs. We need prayer and spiritual support; there are always financial needs, at the moment the biggest need is for the building at Nseleni, but we pray most of all for long-term personnel commitment.

Gavin and Elaine Charlton