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Coach Bongani

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Coach Bongani (far right) with some of his team at Sithokozile High School in KwaDabeka

By Rolan Gulston

Originally from Harrismith, 25-year-old Bongani Tshabalala has made a home in the community of KwaDabeka, a township situated just east of Pinetown. Since joining CAST as a volunteer soccer coach last year, he now feels fully invested in the development of the youth in the community.

Growing up with an older brother and two younger siblings, Bongani sought to become independent from an early age. While he spent much of his time at the gym training for the game that he loves, he did not see playing soccer as being a long-term career. Instead, he focussed on education, and encourages his boys to do the same.

Bongani has been studying mechanics since October last year. He shares that, as a youngster, he was not always diligent in his studies and often influenced his friends to take up drinking, smoking and dating to fit in with his social circle. Even attending church was something he did only to please his mother. This changed when he turned 21, as he began to appreciate his faith and attend church regularly without being pushed. As he got older and strengthened his relationship with God, he realised that the only person he can compete with is himself. He now attends KwaDabeka Baptist Church, and plays an active role in the Youth Ministry.

He first heard about CAST through a friend last year after living with his brother in Joburg for a year and half. The community centre in KwaDabeka was looking for a soccer coach, and he immediately jumped on board, but what he found was a deep lack of motivation in the team.

Gradually, through implementing the uBabalo Whole-life Coaching Programme, the boys have developed a close bond, and have learnt the value of supporting each other, “Because when you are playing soccer, you’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing as a team.”

Under his coaching, the boys won their first 10 games, and are now placed in the Pinetown League. Bongani believes in pushing the boys beyond their perceived level of capability by organising for his teams to play matches against older age groups as a way of helping them to adapt and gain experience. “God is here and anything is possible,” he tells them.

The team is steadily growing in number as the word spreads. The Under-15 and Under-17 boys train together three days a week. As part of the uBabalo programme, the team spends time reflecting on scripture before each training session, and many of the boys have shown great spiritual growth.

“God is always there. He is always watching you. I know it’s not going to be easy, but if you work hard, it won’t go away. If it’s easy, it won’t last.”

Bongani tries to always be an encouraging voice for the team, “I have never disgraced them. I tell them they should believe in themselves and trust each other. When I’m sharing myself, I am healing too.” His supportive, yet disciplined approach to coaching and mentoring has endeared him to the boys, who often tell him, “You are part of the family, you are always open.”

This year was his first time attending the annual boys2Men Camp. As a leader at the camp and in his community, Bongani took this time to mentor the young boys in the group of 60 that were selected to attend the camp. It also gave the boys a chance to talk about the things affecting them. He helped them to recognize bad influences in their lives, whether it be the people in their social circles or even the music they listen to. After sharing his testimony, he also taught them about making wise choices, not giving in to peer pressure, and rather than trying to change their friends immediately, start by telling them about the camp and share Bible verses with them.

Bongani found that previously, when selecting a captain, the boys would often choose the loudest player in the team but, lacking in respect for others. He soon drew out the quieter boys who showed leadership potential, and once placed in captaincy, began to change the mind-set of the team; leading by example in their dedication to the sport and their school work. Others have since also improved in their school results, and with Bongani’s guidance, have been applying for bursaries for tertiary education. He has also made time to help them form a study group for Maths and Science.

Between studying, training at the gym and playing matches, soccer keeps the boys busy. “They are no longer bored.” Bongani, too, feels that he has changed. For the past year, he has abstained from drinking and smoking.

“You should accept the way you are, and change the way you do things. Just having fun and buying lots of clothes won’t take you anywhere. Only education. God will provide everything later on.”

Bongani has a passion for youth development, especially empowering the young boys entering adolescence. Bongani’s dream is to empower them to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. He, himself, has tried to set an example of this by seeing to his own groceries and rent of R550 a month. May was a particularly difficult month for Bongani, without money to afford food and basic necessities, but he still committed himself to training at the gym with the boys. He now receives a monthly food parcel from CAST’s Relief Services, which has been a great help. He hopes to one day have the means to support the boys in buying their soccer boots and kit. “I know I’ll accomplish that, but I know the path won’t be easy.”

Bongani would like to continue coaching, as he feels he is gaining a lot of experience, especially when working with the younger boys. “It’s something different, I am adapting.” To support Bongani in his mission to empower the youth, contact George at CAST on: 031 266 8830 or george@cast.org.za

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Moving Beyond Charity: Making a Spiritual Impact

During the past month, CAST has witnessed tremendous spiritual growth in the lives of our participants, both through special events and regular programming.

Holiday Clubs

During the October school holidays, CAST had the opportunity to partner with two local churches, Joy Chapel Ministries in Mariannridge and Lamontville Baptist Church, to host holiday clubs in these areas.  The clubs provided a unique opportunity for CAST to assist the local church in providing a few days of fun, faith and fellowship in a safe place for children within the community during the school holidays.

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In Mariannridge, 80 children aged 4-14 years old attended the holiday club.  For this event, CAST was able to partner with the Mariannridge International Citizen Service (ICS) Team, which is a programme offered by Tearfund and Zoe-Life that brings together volunteers from South Africa and the United Kingdom to work alongside local organisations in projects aimed at helping children in vulnerable communities to become more confident and skilled in order to inspire hope in their communities.  The ICS team worked alongside CAST staff and volunteers to ensure children were cared for and experienced the love of Jesus.  After working in this community for several months, the ICS team has seen the damaging impact of crime, alcohol and substance abuse on families in Mariannridge.  However, the team also experienced the power of reaffirming Christianity and spirituality in the lives of children during the holiday club when 60 children gave their lives to Christ.  The Lamontville holiday club had similar success, with 178 children attending.

Boys2Men Camp

Also during October, CAST hosted our eighth annual boys2Men camp.  Sixty-nine young boys (Grades 8-11) were selected from CAST’s youth programmes to attend camp.  The camp was facilitated by thirteen leaders currently involved in CAST’s Sport & Youth Development programmes in each community.

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This year’s camp theme was centred on “Abiding in Christ”, taken from the passage in John 15:4-5.  The boys were encouraged to experience God through worship, prayer and quiet time in God’s Word.  In response to an open invitation to accept Christ, 35 boys made first-time commitments to follow Jesus.

In the past few weeks following boys2Men camp, CAST has been able to follow up with the boys in each community regarding their spiritual journey.  The question everyone is asking each other is “Are you abiding?”

Below is a testimony from a camp leader:

Coach Bongani Tshabalala attended the recent boys2Men camp for the first time this year, where young men from local township communities came together to learn what it means to be resilient and walk together in their spiritual journeys.

As a facilitator at the camp and in his community of KwaDabeka, Bongani actively encourages the youth to develop their relationship with God, “Because He is the one that is always there for you.” Through implementing the uBabalo programme in his soccer coaching, he has seen how ongoing mentorship and support has positively impacted the young boys’ lives. Since beginning the programme last year, the boys now occupy themselves with training, playing soccer matches, attending church and meeting as a study group. 

Bongani’s dream is for the boys to grow spiritually and learn to be self-sufficient, productive members of their community.  

Food Parcel Ministry

At the end of October, CAST’s food parcel recipients also experienced what can only be described as a spiritual revival.  Each month CAST’s Relief Services HOD and Community Co-ordinators organise Ministry Days for the food parcel recipients.  At the Ministry Days, recipients not only receive their food parcels but are also encouraged to use their God-given skills and talents to lift themselves out of poverty.  Every month when CAST has Ministry Days, we faithfully pray that God will transform the lives of food parcel recipients, heal families, and provide for their needs. This month, CAST had the privilege of having guest speaker Tryphena, from Vukukanye Children’s Home, lead devotions at Ministry Days. Thirty-eight food parcel recipients came to know Jesus and committed their lives to Him. God’s spirit was very present, working in the hearts of those we serve! 

22730380_1464772373611468_6368805972482206700_n22730485_1464772400278132_2685624964510935931_nHere are some ways you can join CAST in praying for programme participants:

Holiday Clubs

  • Pray for Joy Chapel Ministries and Lamontville Baptist Church as they continue to disciple children in the community who made first-time commitments to Christ.
  • Pray for the children who attended holiday club, that they will continue to experience the love of Jesus.

Boys2Men Camp

  • Pray that the boys will continue to abide in Christ, spending time with Him through prayer, worship and devotions.
  • Pray for CAST’s community leaders as they continue to mentor these young men in CAST’s ongoing Sport and Youth Development programmes.
  • Pray for volunteers that are able to disciple the boys on a regular basis.

Food Parcel Programme

  • Pray for CAST’s Relief Services HOD and Community Co-ordinators as they provide support to food parcel recipients in reaching their individual and family goals. Pray that God will provide for the food parcel recipients and their families.
  • Pray that the food parcel recipients and their families will grow in their walk with the Lord.