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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Advancing the Kingdom": A trip Home/Vanderbijlpark, South Africa

Today's article in the series "Advancing the Kingdom" comes from fellow blogger, Nelieta Mishchenko. Her travel blog always has an amazing way of taking me to another place and sometimes another time. I encourage you to visit her site, you are bound to leave it knowing a bit more than when you first visited :   http://nelietatravellingadventures.blogspot.com       

In the following post Nelieta relates her experience of returning back to her hometown, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, and witnessing the dramatic change that it has experienced since her childhood years. Neighboorhoods that were once beautiful and safe are now devasted by crime and poverty. Churches that once thrived with vibrant communites are now desolate.

Nelieta shares with us the story of how one man, amidst huge obstacles, refused to give up on those around him. He had been personally touched with healing and hope through the power of God and sought to manifest the light of Christ to those suffering in his community. He truly serves as an inspiration to all who hear his story of how any of us, no matter how seemingly limited, can make a huge difference in our communities and the individual lives of others. Bringing hope, bringing joy. All the pictures in the article come from Nelieta's trip to her hometown and her experience with an unlikely hero. Here's her story:

"Moments" sometimes punch you in the stomach and leave you breathless. I've had my moments. I remember a visit to a concentration camp in Germany, a battlefield in France and standing in front of the great pyramids. 

The story I want to share with you is about life. A story about miracles and hope. The story of Cor, a blind man, whose eyes were touched by the Hands of God.

Can you imagine spending your days in darkness with no more than a flicker of light every now and then? God works in mysterious ways. When Cor prayed for an improvement to his eyesight, God answered his prayers and gave him 20%. Some people would argue and say that a 10% improvement is hardly a miracle. For Cor it was. Now he could see shapes and make out people. But the true miracle was yet to come.

He was so grateful for what God had done for him and wanted to give back to the community. The neighbourhood where Cor lives is run by drug dealers, prostitutes and shady characters. Many homeless people hang out there. Poor people of all race and color. People that the world had turned their back on. Closed the curtain. Shut the door.

It is impossible for one person to change the world but one person can make the world of a difference.

Instinctively he knew what had to be done. He wanted to prepare a home-cooked meal every day and feed the hungry. This was easier said than done.  Where would the food come from? Where would he cook it? He lived in a very small apartment and didn't he doesn'thave the space or finances. But God provided and quickly donations were rolling in. Biker clubs were helping. accept any money. Pots, cutlery and eventually a freezer was donated. Word spread and the lines became longer. More people to feed. At night people from the neighborhood would help him to peel the vegetables.

Some days the lines were very long with a lot of mouths to feed. They would start to panic. Will the food be enough to feed them all? But you know what? The food were always enough with second helpings for those who wanted more. You want to tell me this is not a miracle?

We arrived just before 10 am on a sunny Thursday morning. A lump was forming in my throat when I saw how this once beautiful neighbourhood had deteriorated. I remember driving past here every day to school on my bicycle. Around the corner is the church where I was christened. It has closed it doors due to the fact that people were not going to church any more. I still remember the last time I was there. When did all of this happen or was I also one of the people who have turned my back on it all?

People were already hanging around, waiting. Cor knew we were coming so we headed over to greet him. He is a very tall men with gentle features. I told him that I wanted to write about this amazing project that he had undertaken. Some people went back inside the building when I took my camera out. They were ashamed to be photographed in a line, asking for food. This was understandable. If this was me, I imagine I would feel the same.
I respected their privacy.

The caretaker came out and asked me if I was from the Press. She was not friendly but warmed up when I told her that I grew up here and now live in Argentina. I had no intention to embarrass anyone. She told me about how this neighbourhood had changed over the last couple of years. Soon more people joined the conversation and pointed out the pimps and drug dealers. They explained to me how drugs exchange hands every day. How corrupt the
police force is.

The conversation moved on to the food and the people outside. They are regulars. Some days more than 60 people come to eat here. One woman told me how children stand in line to eat. That nearly broke my heart. From here they move on the Red Cross or the hospital where they also get something to eat. But they all tell me that the food is by far the best here. Cor is very particular about the food. They get a balanced, home-cooked meal. The food is clean and well prepared. He takes pride in that.  There are no food on Sunday. That is the day when he rests.

It was time. The pots were carried out one by one and placed on a table.  The people were forming a line. It was time to pray.

 This food shelter was not about a specific religion. You did not have to be Catholic or Protestant to get food. I liked that. I watched the people. I got handed a plate to taste the food. By now it was difficult to hide my tears. As I was talking to Cor and the other people I pretended to have sun in my eyes. Fact was, I was crying. I was so humbled by what I have seen. I quietly thanked God that I never had been in this situation. I thanked God that I always had food to eat. An unbelievable sadness came over me. Something that I couldn't
explain. I felt like hugging all the people and sob like a little child but I kept my pose.
After everyone had eaten they washed their own dishes. The water was thrown in the drain and the cutlery counted. People left. It was time to go.

I gave Cor a hug and told him what a wonderful thing he was doing for the people. I got the impression that it was the other way round.

                                       Nelieta with her mother-in-law visiting Cor's outside soup kitchen.


  1. this is so inspiring jessica... i always had this dream to live with the people in africa but i think i didn't mention to God that i wanted it to be in the south, so He put me in the north...

    africans have many beautiful traits along with their culture (that we don't understand easily)...

    while walking on my way home yesterday, i was absorbed in thoughts and i was asking God my "why" questions again... and Cor came to be an answer... he might have his own questions but had chosen to give than to become the receiver... he has put his faith into action and this is very humbling on my part as well... cor touched me in many ways...because good works are far more better than good intentions... i love this jessica... it has shown me greater paths to take ...

  2. Nelieta, you have been changed by this visit, no doubt. When we see Cor we are beholding one of God’s most humble and fruitful servants. A walking talking miracle – and yes, his life story is a miracle.

    If we are rewarded according to our works, imagine Cor’s reward… But it sounds like he’d be the kind to say that serving the needy is reward enough – and that it’s he who is being blessed.

    Thank you Jessica for sharing, and thank you Nelieta for this shining example of the love of Christ in action! ~ Much love

  3. True inspiration from a man with limited vision yet who probably has more vision than most of us put together.

    Beautifully told Nelieta, if you have the photo's somewhere I would love to see them.

  4. Inspiring thanks Nelieta and Jessica.
    But the photos???


  5. Hi Everyone, thank you for the kind words. Jessica, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to tell this story. It has taken me more than a year to write this but it was time. I promised Cor and the people that I would write an article and send it to them.

    It touched me deeply and I got quite emotional again when I wrote the story. My prayers and thoughts are with Cor and the good work that he is doing!

    Nelieta travel blog

  6. Where are the photographs??
    As usual,your post is beautiful..time for self introspection..