“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I met Ongezwa in July 2011, when I first arrived in South Africa to stay. She attended the retreat/conference for the Tapestry Homes Safe Houses that I am now working with. She was the youngest one of the 12 girls and, with her energy and silliness, she definitely played the role of a “little sister”! Quite the little trouble maker, but BRILLIANT and hilarious and good with words. That’s why she always got herself in trouble…she made a joke and everyone laughed so she felt…encouraged. There were definitely times when I wanted to laugh, but I was trying to discipline her!! So, I had to keep it to myself.
Whenever I see someone like Ongezwa, I have so much hope and frustration all at the same time. I see their gifts and how beautiful they are but how the devil has used the person’s experiences and circumstances to twist them and make them into things that people scold them for…I can just envision what all that joy and humor and wisdom and energy and ability to speak and make people actually listen would look like if it were being used to glorify God.
Over the course of the last year, I have been able to pass different milestones with her, and it’s been totally humbling and such a blessing to be a part of the change God is doing in her life.
She was always jittery and had these crazy eyes, looking all over the place, all the time–always restless and hyper. I remember the first day she finally looked me directly in the eye and responded to a question I’d asked.
I remember when I left for America to see my family for the holidays. I’d been here in Kayamandi for four months, and as the time approached for me to leave, I started to realize that some of the girls, who’d I’d grown so close to, didn’t believe I was actually coming back. I said good-bye to two of them, and Ongezwa danced around making noise and wouldn’t even give me a hug good-bye. I had to realize that she was afraid, but I was so eager to prove her wrong when I returned two months later.
I remember when she was getting in trouble in school for not paying attention. Then, a couple weeks after a parent/teacher meeting about her behavior, I realized she couldn’t see the board. She needed glasses!
Every time Ongezwa has gotten in trouble for something, we would talk about it, figure-out the consequence, and I would make her repeat “I am not a bad kid, I am a good kid” over and over until she said it with confidence.
Since I met her, she has always been a wonderful singer and dancer. When I first moved here the Kuyasa Kids were having auditions. The Kuyasa Kids are a faith-based traditional Zulu song and dance group from Kayamandi who perform in different places in South Africa, and every year they travel to America to do a tour. Last weekend they even opened up for the band Switchfoot in Cape Town! Needless to say, it’s a great opportunity for any child to be a part of the Kuyasa Kids.
Ongezwa wanted to audition. But when the day came, she didn’t go. Six months later, or so, they held another audition. She told me she wanted to go. But she didn’t. I wasn’t sure why because she always seems so confident and she already knows all the songs and dance moves! Finally, about a month ago, they held another audition. She went. She made it for singing. She returned for the dance portion. She made it into the Kuyasa Kids!!
The first meeting they held was a Bible study, which she was terrified to attend. But she went. The next day she came to me.
I thought she had changed her mind.
“I need you to go to Bhuti Mbongeni and tell him I will be at practice today.”
“You will or you won’t?”
I just smiled and realized then how much courage it took for this girl to actually attend these auditions, show up to Bible study and rehearsals. I was so proud of her.
I’m so grateful to God for bringing her to us when He did. She is becoming such a beautiful, courageous young lady, and I couldn’t be more proud!!
This is only the beginning for her and I just ask you to join me in continuing to pray for the futures of the girls in the Tapestry Homes, every child at Kuyasa, every child in the community of Kayamandi and the townships of South Africa. They have been born in a time where there are opportunities for them, and I just pray for the doors to continue opening, but even more for them to have the strength, courage and encouragement from people who love them so they can step through.
As for the people in your own life, I encourage you to speak truth and life into those around you. Words are powerful weapons. The tongue can bring death or life. (Proverbs 18:21) Encouragement and affirmation can take you and those around you to their highest potential.