Sunday, December 5, 2021
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Stories of hope — Part 1

The Taizé community held a Pilgrimage of Trust in Cape Town between 25-29 September. Each morning, the pilgrims gathered at the parishes of their host families for morning prayer and different workshops. At Holy Redeemer parish (Bergvliet), the pilgrims made sleeping bags for the poor, learnt about prison ministry, and wrote their own stories of hope. Sarah-Leah Pimentel has compiled their experiences about how they have overcome difficulties, discovered God’s plan for their lives and are making a difference in the lives of others. This is the first of a three-part series.

Puleng Mohale, Orange Farm

Puleng is a twin. Her twin died of complications from TB. She also became sick with TB, but says that her mother and her daughter gave her the strength to keep fighting, because she didn’t want them to grief the death of another family member:

I started my treatment. I got used to it and my body adjusted until I was given wrong tablets which turned out to be the test of my faith in God and myself. I was hospitalized twice. The doctors said there is nothing they can do for me. I had pictures in my mind of my sister, and [began] accepting that death was again going to hit my family in less than a year. Sitting in the hospital, watching people dying like flies made me think: ‘Hell, no, this disease will not be the end of me.’

I prayed like I never prayed before. I talked and cursed God about my disease. I had to fight for myself, my daughter and my twin, because she was not able to. I had renewed hope because of the love of my family. I am a testimony that God planted a seed of hope, resilience, and faith. [Even in] my little faith, God showed himself. Now I know I have a purpose.

Broken, Sebokeng

This young lady who chooses to remain anonymous relates how she was raped at the age of 20. Her story relates the journey from pain and suffering to forgiveness and new life:

“I’m not going to lie. You took so much from me. I wake up in the middle of the night because of what you did. You took my youth, broke my trust and left me to suffer. Yes, all these years, I wore my pain and suffering on my sleeve. I am done feeling sad. I’m done crying over what you did. I’m a mother now, and a damn good one! I forgive you, even though you took life without asking for it. But I forgive you. I hope you find peace, wherever you are. May your soul find rest.

Ronald shares how God transformed his life // Sarah-Leah Pimentel

Joseph, Tanzania

Joseph grew up in a family who taught him to share from the little that they had. He says that the “love and care they had for everyone and their teachings brings me hope.” These lessons have taught him to work hard and share what he has with others:

I was born and raised in a family of two sons…despite that, our house could be full all year round, with 10 or more people. We would share what little things we had, [no matter] if it is porridge, beans, maize or bread. The little they had from the small pay they got, they would let everyone have some. They taught us about praying and seeking God.

Now, I work as an engineer and we are still sharing…I think everyone should know too, if anyone has anything, to share with others, let them share because there is always hope in sharing. Don’t wait for it [wealth] to grow bigger to share, give part of the little you have.

Doreen Fleischer, Germany

Doreen is working in South Africa as a volunteer. After her first few months, she was feeling homesick. A priest invited her to go to Mass with a community of religious sisters. What she witnessed there gave her the strength to “keep going on because it showed me that there are people who care about others.”

[The priest] took me to the Little Sisters, who are close to Soweto. There are only a few of them and they have a very simple lifestyle in a small house. But you could see the joy on their faces…at the sign of peace, everyone was hugging me so tightly that I could feel they really meant it and were opening their hearts.

After the mass, we had tea and a cake Father had brought…Suddenly, a five-year old boy was knocking on the door. At first he seemed very shy, but when the sisters offered him a big cup of tea and an even bigger slice of cake, his eyes brightened. Afterwards, Father told me that the boy lives nearby but the mother isn’t capable of taking care of him. So the Sisters would give him something to eat and drink whenever he shows up, and they also managed to help him with education. I think this is a wonderful way of serving and taking care of others.

Thoba Mabuza, eSwatini

Thoba from Swaziland (they remind me it’s eSwatini now!) talks about being a role model for other young people. He says that although he’s still working through his own personal issues, he is trying to forgive “in order to live a peaceful life” and give back to his community:

I’m from a village in eSwatini. My main focus is the youth in the church and the community. Through perseverance, prayer and support I have restructured the youth in my parish. We have been able to visit the elderly, the sick and the poor. They are young and eager to work for the church and community, but some of them are on drugs and they smoke, drink and do other stuff. I believe criticising is not the best way, but to teach them to take care of themselves. So we organise workshops, retreats and adoration. Patience is the key to success in this work.

Young people writing their stories of hope // Sarah-Leah Pimentel

Petrina Ndaoya, Namibia

Petrina talks about her struggle to find the money to study after high school. She worked a full-time job and studied in the evenings to get her degree in Business Administration. She missed her graduation to attend the Taizé pilgrimage:

As a young person, I started having huge responsibility at home because my mother is a single parent and a domestic worker. With the little she had, she paid my primary and high school, but she could not afford to pay my university fees…I still had hope. I went out there and took a job as a waitress. I started to pay water and electricity to help my mother but also saving up to study. Finally I went back to school, and now I am done.

My future plans are that I would like to give hope to others who are in the same situation as me. I want to open a school where I want to help people who really want to study but cannot afford it. I know it is not easy, but God will provide one day so that my dream can come true.

Yonela Magengenene, Eastern Cape

Yonela writes about the difficulties of going to live with her father and later her aunt, who physically abused her. Despite the treatment she received, she believes that there is good in everyone and she continues to pray for her aunt.

My father denied me at birth, but at the age of 10, he claimed me back. He forced me to live with him. When I got to where he stays, he told me he was busy, so I got to go live with my aunt. [At first], all was well. But then she started abusing me. At first I didn’t mind, but she kept doing it over and over again. I told my mother and she took me back.

Despite everything that has happened, I still look for the brighter side. I look for something good in every situation. All I did at that time was pray and believe my aunt would come around. I still long to forgive her.

Sipho Dlamini, Harding

Sipho was an engineering student in Durban and he often struggled to make ends meet. He relates the story of the time he gave the last food he had to a street kid. God provided for him in unexpected ways:

One day, I was coming out of my flat and there was a street kid asking for food, not money. He was rejected by a group of other males passing by. Then he came to me and asked for my help. He said, “Please help me, sir, I haven’t eaten in three days.” The first thought that came to me as to say I don’t have. But something in my heart said ‘give him,’ not knowing what I would do the next day since I had nothing as well. I went into my flat and dished for him.

The next day, I was at school. A friend of mine deposited R200. He said, “here’s a small gift, enjoy yourself.” From then, I know that the Lord truly provides. I thank the Lord every day for the test he gave me, because it strengthened my faith and belief that he is really watching and will never forsake us in any way.

Getting ready for morning prayer // Sarah-Leah Pimentel

Basetsana Katane, Tsholofelo Community, North West

Basetsana was moved by the number of children wandering around the informal settlement near Rustenberg. Many of them do not attend school because their parents cannot afford to pay for school fees or uniforms. This moved her to start a school in the informal settlement.

When I first went into the squatter camp, I had no idea there were lots of informal settlements [in the area] and people living without hope. One thing that touched my heart was these innocent little children roaming around the streets. I went to look at the shacks with no electricity and water and I said to myself: “I personally would not survive…but these people survive without all these [things] but they still have smiles on their faces.”

Looking around, I saw there were no creches. I met a group of children and asked them why they didn’t go to school. They said: “My mother doesn’t have the money.” I said to myself, only education will help these families. The children can at least get the best education and that will take them away from the streets and they will be better people. Because they are the future of tomorrow. Giving hope to the children in the informal settlements was the greatest story of my life. It personally gives me hope, joy, laughter every day when I wake up, knowing they will put a smile on my face.

Moatshe Karabo, Tsholofelo Community, North West

Moatshe became involved in the Catholic Church at a young age, teaching baptism classes and working with the youth to keep them off the streets. Today he helps to run a youth development program for young people living in informal settlements:

At the age of 24, I joined the Tsholofelo Community and I met [many] different people. I started teaching ABET to the old people because most of them are illiterate. The good thing about them is that they were supportive and loving and they gave me guidance. In 2017, I started to work with young people to run the youth development program. We share our ideas about how to change the lives of the young people in the squatter camps so that they can develop their minds and change other people’s lives in their community.

Karabo Mlalele, Orange Free State

Karabo relates how her mother raised her as a single parent. For her, her mom is her source of hope because she “makes things happen.” She writes:

“I remember this one time when I had a school trip. My mom had no money and had no job, but she made it possible for me to attend the trip. Even now, she didn’t have enough money for me to attend Taizé. I had already given up and told myself I wasn’t going. A few days before the trip, she told me I could go because she made ends meet. I saw hope, she gave me hope that I should never give up.

Making sleeping bags for the homeless // Sarah-Leah Pimentel

Matome, Benoni

Matome relates the grief of losing her father at the age of 13. She says that after his death “I didn’t have faith in anything or anyone anymore.” But then her friend gave her some advice that renewed her hope:

A friend told me ‘Jabula uyandlula thina sisaya khona,’ which in English means ‘rejoice that you passed this stage, we are still getting there.’ These words made me angry but at the same time, they gave me hope and wisdom. I realized that I [had] passed another test that life gave to me.

Luke Goemans, Cape Town

Luke shares his calling to join religious life but also a feeling of loss at leaving the “life-giving religious community” that he belonged to. Nonetheless, he brings what he learned there to his new community with the Redemptorists:

I left a wonderful and life-giving faith community to answer God’s call to enter the seminary. I wasn’t there long, but it really felt like home. I still want to go back, but I know it won’t be the same. I am so grateful for the experience, which showed me what is possible within community life, and I reflect often on the key elements of that type of community. I am now trying within my own religious community to do what they did to lay the foundations of responsibility, trust, vulnerability in sharing, and a common goal.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.