The Personal Touch.

In September I heard about three families, living in the same house, who had lost everything in a fire.  Twanette Harmes who told me about this situation wrote this email:

“I find it hard to explain how this family has lost everything they worked so hard to obtain in a matter of minutes, It has taken my husband and myself a long time to get all of our belongings and truth be told should our fridge or our stove pack up tomorrow I will not be able to go out and replace it because in today’s life it is too expensive, now imagine losing all your belongings in a blink of an eye …”

After I read her mail, I had to stop and praise God for the people in our church who are always so ready to help, and I knew God had directed these families to us, because he knows our church is about reaching out to a lost and hurting world.

I asked Twanette to please give me a list of clothes required for each person and I passed it onto our clothing ministry team led by Sharon Vermaak. They sprung into action sorting through clothes that they thought each person would like, and within a few days I had boxes of clothes and blankets ready to deliver.

For the clothing ministry team, their job is so much more than shoving clothes into a bag, they imagine the person they are clothing and find matching coordinated outfits including belts, hats and bags.  The greatest care is taken to ensure that when anyone receives clothing from us they are clean quality outfits that make them look and feel special. When Twanette told me how overjoyed the families were with the clothes I could understand why, knowing what care the team had taken in the process.

If all of us do a little bit, so much can be achieved. This family was clothed because some people donated clothes, and others sorted and packed them. They are small acts of kindness but just look at what a huge difference it made. These families are now slowly rebuilding their lives and while we couldn’t provide all their needs, we played a very vital part.

God has many different instruments in His band and He calls us all to play his heavenly music while we march ahead to relieve pain and suffering. I am so proud to be a part of a church packed with wonderful God-loving people, who embrace the value of reaching out to people in times of desperation. Thank you everyone for playing in Gods band, whatever instrument you are, you are so important and so loved.

– Gail Whitear



The Story of Mandisa.

The 1st May 2010 was a life changing day for Mandisa Sithole: her dream of becoming a business owner was realised.

Mandisa’s husband died many years ago, leaving her to raise three children alone. Every day, after long hours of work at a local school, Mandisa would work far into the night doing bead work which she sold to neighbours to make extra money.

Mandisa’s life began to change when she came to the CAST Kwadabeka Business Forum in Jan 2009. The purpose of our business forums is to help people in disadvantaged communities to start businesses, or grow the businesses they already have, by offering training, mentoring and practical assistance. Kwadabeka is the site of CAST’s first business forum which started in Nov 2008. Only six people came to the first meeting, but numbers grew steadily since. While attending the business forum, Mandisa learned the skills needed to start and run her own business.

At one meeting she heard about an opportunity  to run an African craft shop in the new  King Shaka  airport.   With the help of ESS, Umsobumvu (Training Partners with CAST) and Brigitte Gonggryp (her business mentor), Mandisa submitted her application and won the tender. Then the difficult task of raising R1 Million for rental, stock, marketing, and shop-fitting began—no small challenge for a new business owner with no credit history. Without the coaching and assistance of people like Brigitte, it would never have happened.

Since opening in May 2010, Mandisa’s shop,  eM’Native Collection, has flourished and now turns over about R200,000 monthly. Because of the success of the business,  Mandisa opened a second shop  in Westville at Village Market.

Many of us have skills that are desperately needed by people in poor communities –simply helping with advice and introducing people to new ideas can change their lives forever.

CAST has launched a Business Development website which can be found at www.castbusinessdev.co.za or via the main website: www.cast.org.za. Here you will find profiles of people who want to start businesses, need help growing their businesses or are looking for work experience in a specific area.

You can also get involved by training, offering opportunities or donating to a project. If God has gifted you with business skills, perhaps He is calling you to assist and empower people to provide for themselves and for their families.


Seen in Green.

An outstretched ‘speak to the hand’ motion, averted eyes, an arrogant expression, and the stern icy words “I don’t need help”!

This was the stand-offish welcome that the green team encountered from Coleen*

It was a warm Tuesday night and the various street ministry teams, clad in their green Laduma Jesus shirts, were out sharing the love of Jesus, to anyone God put in their path. This night, one team had decided to focus on prostitutes.

It was already some weeks into the world cup, and the ‘green teams’ had become familiar to many who worked or lived on the streets. Some were drawn in by the love and talk of Jesus, which was easily shared by members of the teams. However, women involved in prostitution, who were heavily drugged and on a lucrative mission, saw them as invasive threats to prospective business, and their own safety. Our presence kept would-be clients at bay, and could jeopardize the safety of the girls, as their money-hungry pimps watched closely from lookout points. The teams were aware of this dilemma and so approached or passed by with caution, never deliberately putting girls in danger.

Soon the teams came across two girls waiting for business. One of the girls welcomed them and allowed them to pray for her—she was self employed, and so fearless. Somebody walked towards the other girl who immediately got defensive. We were clearly unwelcome in her space. The team member was unperturbed and went to stand next to her. At first the young girl, Coleen, ignored all attempts at conversation, but she eventually gave in when she realized it was a non threatening discussion.

At 21, Coleen hated the work she was doing, she was hungry and unhappy. The team member spoke about Jesus: his death and resurrection, and what it could mean for Coleen. Something inside her changed that night and she asked for prayer because she wanted to know Jesus and surrender her life to him.

We took her back and organised a place for her to live with other ladies who had once been in the same position. Coleen went through a detox programme, and found a regular job where she still works today.



Learning to Ride a Bicycle.

Every month, more than 30 CAST Food Parcel volunteers go out into homes looking for the poorest families in our city and its surrounds. Once these people are on our Food Parcel Programme, they are visited each month by the volunteers support and counsel, working with the families to find solutions to their situations.

At the end of 2011, Carel Buitendag—a member of Westville Baptist and volunteer with the business forum in KwaDabeka, called us to say he had ten bicycles for us.

Carel’s company, Fig Tree Consultants, ran an end-of-year team building exercise at Smith & Nephew: It was a race in which each team had to build a bicycle from the parts provided. The ten new bicycles were given to CAST.

As they were assembled by amateurs in a hurry, some of the bicycles needed a little fixing up first. Some men in the church got to work turning handlebars around, replacing tubes and reversing pedals. Soon they were ready for use.

We decided to use the bicycles for the workers who visit the homes each week. Three were allocated  to  Lamontville  and  Noodsberg,   and two to KwaDabeka and Cato Manor. When we handed them over to the excited volunteers, we discovered that several had never ridden a bicycle before. The practice runs were hilarious!


Abused and Bruised.

We have all heard that saying, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt to prove it”! Well, this story moves that saying to a whole new dimension.

As the rains start to fall, the street ministry teams find it pointless to walk through the empty wet streets, so they focus more on the shelters. These places, which are privately owned, house many unemployed, underprivileged and lower income people, who pay a daily minimal fee for a bed to lay their weary heads. Some shelters offer 2 meals a day with tea which of course comes at a higher cost. The residents all share common space with each other. There is no privacy and lots of theft which causes many to sleep on their life belongings, as it is all that they have.

There is a lady in her late twenties who stays in such a shelter- her name is Neela.

She may be young but her life experiences hugely outweigh those of people already in their fifties. She is riddled with traumatic incidents, which have left her emotionally and mentally bruised. On top of all that, she suffers a severe medical condition.

By the age of five, Neela and her brothers were force fed excessive alcohol, which rendered them unconscious and conveniently “put them out of the way”. Her alcoholic parents were then able to continue their carefree life.

By the age of 10, Neela was watching full blown pornography, and even trailed after her parents in adult venues. Also by this age, she had experienced countless, painful sexual, physical, and verbal abuse; not only by her own parents, but by other partners they shared.

In her early teens, Neela was kicked out of her home and sent out into the streets. She was separated from her brothers at the age of 12 and has never seen them since. However, she does know that one is in prison and the other still resides in her home city of Cape Town. She was rescued and taken in after that by numerous families, some who claimed Christian faith, but behaved like those of the world. This of course embedded doubt in her mind about the supposed loving Jesus they spoke of, because of the contradictory ways they lived by. She did attend church for a while, and does know about Jesus, but she is confused with no direction.

By this stage of her life, Neela had become defensively bitter. And to top it all, she became extremely ill with colon cancer, a disease that eventually took her mother’s life. Neela was admitted to a state hospital where she underwent extensive surgery. She had to have her colon removed because it was riddled with cancer. There were no funds to pay for her medical, so the state covered all costs and she was awarded a state grant of R1000.00 per month. She worked for a while but left for unknown reasons. She has never received guidance so is ignorant when it comes to handling her finances effectively. She is very good in paying her monthly rent of R750.00 at the shelter, but thereafter, wisdom fails her.

Today she lives in the shelter and even after all she has been through, she bubbles over with joy in her heart just because she has a bed to sleep in, and people around her that don’t abuse her. She has the most beautiful smile which continually embraces her face when she talks, and even though she has nothing, she freely gives others when she has extra.

The team still needs a lot more time to help this wonderful lady in the ways of the Lord Jesus. She is a wounded soul who not only boasts ‘been there, done that and have the cap to prove it’, but more so, ‘been there, experienced everything, and have lived the life to prove it’!