It’s a one night commitment a week…but it could change a life for eternity.
About one and a half years ago, the CAST Street Ministry Team met a man named Johan at one of their weekly visits to The Nest shelter in Durban Central. Many of the team warmed to Johan’s friendly nature and dry sense of humour and over time he became a good friend to the team. He had not had contact with his family for years, and would never tell the team why, choosing instead to treat them as his family.
“He often had the ability to lift us up and encourage us when we were trying to do the same for him”
Johan was not a healthy man though. With ulcers on both legs and respiratory problems, he was an outpatient at Addington Hospital. After a while, his condition deteriorated. He was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with stage four cancer of the larynx, which was inoperable, and underwent a tracheotomy.
Once he was discharged from the hospital, Johan found he had nowhere to go– The Nest refused to have him back and he couldn’t afford frail care on his insufficient grant. Eventually the Street Ministry team managed to find a shelter that had space for him, although the conditions were shocking. The state of this shelter led to Johan’s health deteriorating even further and the team could only pray that somehow a miracle would happen in terms of better accommodation.
One of the ladies in the team continuously phoned all the institutions and homes she could think of until finally the Hillcrest Aids Centre agreed to take Johan into their care. The difference between the shelter and the Aids Centre was unfathomable: He was surrounded by Christian staff who loved and cared for him; fed nutritious meals daily; sleeping in a spotless general ward and given medication which included morphine. It wasn’t long before Johan had developed friendships with the staff and other patients, and on their frequent visits, the team would find a cheerful and positive man sitting in his wheelchair in the Hillcrest sunshine. The home was an answer to prayer.
Sadly, the cancer spread and on the 3 June 2013, Johan passed away in a beautiful and comfortable environment surrounded by loving friends. CAST rejoices in the fact that Johan had accepted Jesus as his Saviour and given his life to the Lord and that he did not have to suffer on the streets or in a dirty shelter.
Despite not being in contact with his family, the team managed to get in touch with them and invite them to the memorial service, which was held at Westville Baptist Church. His death has actually reunited his family and the team hopes that as a result of their friendship with Johan, they will have the opportunity to connect more with his family…who knows what ministry opportunities that may bring.
We see this story as a success, because Johan’s journey and the commitment of the team can teach all of us about how to love God and still have faith through suffering as well as show us the ripple effect that happens when we invest time and love and effort into the life of just one person.
If you think that God is incapable of using you to create a ripple effect of impact, then come and join the Street Ministry Team on a Tuesday night and let them prove you wrong.