Every Tuesday night, Cheryl Robbins walked the streets of Durban with the rest of our Street Ministry team, eager to see the four young boys who had captured her heart. One of them, Maxwell, would run up to her with his arms outstretched, shouting, “Mom!”
That’s what happens during street ministry. Relationships and bonds are formed. Why would a young, black street child regard a white woman, whom he sees once a week, as a motherly figure?
It’s because, in Cheryl, he sees love like he has never known; love that is unconditional, unassuming and without expectation or judgment. The racial and class divides no longer exist. It has nothing to do with Cheryl or Maxwell, and everything to do with the love of God.
Cheryl clearly remembers the night she met Maxwell. She and the team were walking in Durban central when four young boys happened past them. Spontaneously, Cheryl approached them and started up a conversation. It was during this time that one of the boys opened up to her, telling her about a tough life that no child should have to endure. This boy’s vulnerability prompted another boy, Maxwell, to come forward and tell his story as well. Cheryl soon discovered that these boys were being isolated by their community and her heart broke for them.
She and the rest of the team realised it was time to turn this into more than just a once-off conversation.
They organised to meet up with the boys the following week in the same place. Cheryl baked chocolate muffins and took a basket of food as well hot water and soap. She had made each boy a bag which was filled with a blanket, a bible and three sets of clothes for each of them.
When the boys arrived, Cheryl noticed that they looked a lot cleaner than they had the week before – they had washed and bathed themselves for this “special” occasion.
Through the night, other kids joined in with the feast that the team had prepared and towards the end of it, Cheryl gave the four boys their bags and bibles. On the inside of the bibles, she had written “a letter from God” to each of them, reminding them how special they were and how much Jesus loves them. The group prayed together, the boys read a little of their bibles, and they made plans to meet up with each other again.
Following that wonderful time, Cheryl met regularly with the boys, got them connected to the Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre as well as Umthombo Children’s Home.
But as we can all imagine, life on the streets is never easy.
The boys would often bathe at the showers on the beachfront promenade, washing the clothes they had been given and making sure to keep their bags and bibles with them always. Sadly one day, all their stuff was taken from them and they were beaten badly.
It was after this that three of the boys lost touch with Cheryl, falling back into their old habits and living patterns… but one boy still remained.
Maxwell continued to pursue God. He started attending surfing lessons and eventually was granted a scholarship. He still sees Cheryl, or “Mom”, regularly, his arms always outstretched. And even though the other boys do not have the same story to tell as Maxwell, seeds have been planted in their hearts, they have encountered God and their journey is still unfolding.
One night, one spontaneous encounter with those boys was all it took for a relationship to develop. And it had nothing to do with Cheryl or the Street Ministry team, but everything to do with God and his unfailing, unchanging love and merciful grace for the poor, the broken and the thief. Out there on the streets, where it’s scary and unfamiliar, God met with a group of normal people and used them to have an eternal affect on the lives of rejected and hurting children.
When we step out of the comfortable environments, we are able to join in and get involved in the work that God is already doing in the uncomfortable ones, and this WILL result in an eternal impact
To volunteer and be apart of our Street Ministry team, get in touch with us. We cannot wait to meet you.