The work of CAST started about 40 years ago, when Westville Baptist Church developed a relationship with Ephraim Mzobe, a young milk-delivery man in Westville and a strong Christian. Westville Baptist Church assisted Ephraim in pursuing further education. After Ephraim had studied for the ministry at Union Bible Institute, he went back to his home in Noodsberg and established the Noodsberg Baptist Church. Since then Westville Baptist Church and Noodberg Baptist Church have been sister churches in spreading the kingdom of God throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
It was through Pastor Mzobe that a more than 20 year friendship and partnership developed with KwaDabeka Baptist Church, and later with Lamontville Baptist Church – this was the beginning of an alliance of churches, working together to find solutions to poverty, as well as to social and spiritual problems.
Sixteen years ago a social worker from Westville Baptist trained a group of community health workers in Cato Manor—the problem, they told her is that we give the people their medicine, but they have no food and they cannot take it on an empty stomach. As a result, CAST’s Food Parcel Ministry was born. Since then, CAST has distributed 30,000 food parcels—about 3 million meals.
Ten years ago, a few key individuals from Westville Baptist Church also began a ministry to the Durban inner-city: services for the homeless, street outreach, Tuesday evening programmes, and holiday clubs for the kids. Soon after the Clothing Ministry was started by a group of our young adults.
Then in 2006, Westville Baptist Church decided to employ a full time director of Compassionate Ministries to help the whole church move forward strategically and deliberately in the area of poverty relief and social development. Early in 2007, Jean-Ray Knighton-Fitt was employed in this position. At that point it was just Jean-Ray and and one other staff working together. They consulted, planned, and started to look for ways to synchronise and make sense of the existing ministries.
In 2008 CAST added three more staff. CAST’s Counselling Ministry and Sports Ministry were born, and later that year, the Business Forum. The vision God had given Westville Baptist Church started to take shape, but it was still embryonic, a lot of people still struggled to understand who we were and what we did.
At the start of 2010, CAST had just formally launched as an NGO with its own identity and six staff:
We had one Counselling Centre,
a Sports Ministry in one community,
one Business Forum,
a Street Ministry and Youth Ministry Programme on Tuesday nights in town,
a small and rather chaotic Homework Centre in Addington,
we supplied about 180 food parcels a month to five communities, but we had no community workers and no proper way of monitoring who was getting the parcels,
and we had two church partnerships and two school partnerships.
However, 2010 was a big year of growth for CAST. Especially when we mobilised over 100 volunteers and took the streets of the city by storm during the World Cup. CAST’s projects grew, new projects were started: we built a soccer field in KwaDabeka, we opened our very own counselling room—we started to develop an identity.
2011 was an even more tremendous year of growth for us, with nine staff, and about 40 volunteers. Our partnership with Cato Manor Mission Church was established, and in Durban Central we employed a Community Coordinator at Addington Primary School. We expanded our programmes in Noodsberg through Sports, Counselling and Food Parcels, and we built a Counselling Centre there.
In fact, that year we established four new Counselling Ministries, with three new Counselling Centres. CAST also employed a Counselling Centres Manager. We got our own space for the Homework Centre and completely revamped it, and later our counselling room in Addington.
Our Sports Ministry built up the Lamontville soccer team to be one of the top teams in their league – unbeaten the whole season and they played in the SAFA champs. Sports Ministry also expanded into Addington and Noodsberg, and boys2Men camp ran for the first time.
Our Clothing Ministry went from being in utter shambles to being well organised and effective with a team of volunteers which we still have today. The size of our Food Parcel Ministry dramatically increased and we started the process of what would eventually become Hearts to Hands.
We started 2012 with 13 staff, more than 120 volunteers and offices in all five communities except Lamontville—that was set up during the year. The Business Forum took on a proper structure for the first time with a Business Development Coordinator and was also launched in Lamontville.
In 2013, we built a new container at KwaDabeka and had a great team of social work students. We started to work at doing a better job of integrating our programmes and made some good strides forward in that area. We started the process of merging with Joy Chapel / RidgeCity in Mariannridge through a Community Coordinator. We also had the beginnings of a new Business Forum in Noodsberg.
CAST started 2014 with 20 staff.
One of the more exciting developments this year has been the merger with West City Fellowship (WCF) and programmes in Chesterville.
During this year we have also:
started a Business Forum in Durban Central,
opened a Community Centre container in Chesterville,
built a larger, more formal Coummunity Centre in KwaDabeka,
and started a girls’ tennis team in KwaDabeka.
With all the recent expansion, CAST’s new focus is on one key principle:
The Kingdom of God must become the central theme of everything we do.
Micah 6:8 was adopted as our theme verse:
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”
If the Kingdom of God is our central theme, then what we do is never primarily about us, or about CAST, or even about the poor and suffering.
It is about Jesus. It is about his ways and his standards, it is about his thoughts and his emotions and his agenda, it is about his rule and his Lordship and his glory.
And when he is king and the principles of his kingdom are lived out by his people, the church, then the darkness will flee before him: the darkness of addiction and abuse, the darkness of crime and corruption, and the darkness of depression and disease, of poverty and witchcraft and fear.
And the light of justice and mercy and equality will break forth like the rising sun.
This is why we are here. This is the heart of CAST.
“State of the Alliance” by Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt at CAST’s AGM 2014