Three years ago, I came to South Africa with little more than a brand new Bachelor’s Degree and a heart to serve the Lord. A year before I had been praying to see what God wanted me to do with my life. I had a vivid dream of working at a community centre based out of a church, where people could come and receive care. It wasn’t until I came for a visit to South Africa in 2013 that I realized CAST was the community-based organisation God had placed in my dream, where He wanted me wanted me to serve.
During my initial three month visit, I volunteered with CAST’s Homework Club at Addington Primary School and loved every minute of helping the children. However, the biggest thing that won me over about CAST was the organisational vision. First of all, CAST is all about working through the local church to impact the Kingdom of God. Instead of focusing on mere once-off “feel-good” relief work, CAST desires to mobilise the local church to provide long-term, sustainable development programmes to transform entire communities.
Another one of my favourite things about volunteering with CAST was the staff team. I came to South Africa only knowing one person, and found a true community of like-minded people at CAST. Before I came, I knew only a little about apartheid and the segregation that existed before freedom in South Africa. I was amazed to see a diverse team of people from literally every walk of life, working together with one common mission. The staff members and fellow volunteers welcomed me in, introducing me to the South African way of life and community development. I was amazed by how the staff and volunteers sacrificed of their time and resources to accomplish something far bigger than themselves.
The CAST vision and staff team was largely why I decided to stay on volunteering long-term, and gave up dreams of pursing a master’s degree in the States. It was an incredibly hard decision to leave family, friends and the opportunity to live the ‘American dream’, but I knew it was what the Lord was calling me to do.
Now three years later, I can say that volunteering at CAST has been completely worth it. However, community work in South Africa is messy, difficult, time-consuming and often heart-breaking. When you are dealing with the impacts of generational poverty, it can seem like the walls of spiritual darkness are too high to climb over. But we serve a good, good God who is big enough to break down these walls of racism, addiction, witchcraft, fatherlessness and divided families.
The staff, volunteers and clients at CAST are what have made my experience in South Africa so valuable. They are the people who have encouraged me to persevere when the cultural divide seemed too wide, or when I felt too homesick. This is a team of people who care deeply about what God is doing through the local church in South Africa, no matter the cost.
I have been with our organisation when God has blessed us abundantly, and when there is little. 2016 has been a year where we have had to boldly trust God for provision. Some programmes have been downsized, but as we have gone back to the “bare-bones” of our organisation, we have been challenged to come back to the heart of CAST, the local church. This is the hope of South Africa, and the world.
Most people I know are looking for a way to give meaningfully this Christmas season, and I want to challenge you to consider giving differently this year. Within the NGO sphere, most people want to give directly towards programmes, which is the most obvious way to make a difference. However, without committed staff members who are willing to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate CAST’s programmes, there will be no sustainability or long-term impact. I have the privilege of writing stories about clients who are involved with our programmes, and when I ask them about how CAST has made a difference in their lives, they don’t mention food parcels, sports, or business forum, but instead individual staff members who made the time to hear their story, get to know them and see how they could help.
Relationships are the currency to community development. And without dedicated staff, there would be no long-term trusting relationships with clients, volunteers or partner churches. Please consider giving towards a staff team who have worked incredibly hard this year, and want to continue the work we have started for 2017.
You can give online (even outside of South Africa) through Givengain at this link: https://www.givengain.com/cause/4933/campaigns/17462/