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Ayanda’s Story

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Ayanda’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

Two years ago, twenty-nine year old Ayanda Mkhwanazi would never have envisioned that soon, he would be the proud owner of a maize meal production company. One of 13 children at home, he grew up in the humble farmlands of the Umgungundlovu District in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

After matriculating from Wartburg School, he pursued his passion for sport and studied Sport Psychology for two years. Although this helped Ayanda in developing a strong sense of focus and determination, he faced daily challenges in journeying home each evening after late lectures when public transport had already closed operations for the day.

Sadly, he did not have the financial means to further his studies as his grandfather, who had taken the role as his primary guardian since the passing of his father, already had the responsibility of supporting Ayanda’s two younger brothers.

With his dream of becoming a professional soccer player slipping further out of reach as he got older, Ayanda made a decision to go a different route and work as a promoter for a well-known liquor brand, but continued to play soccer socially for a local team. He developed a close friendship with one of his team mates, Bradley Bester, who welcomed Ayanda into his family. Bradley’s mother, Nicky, in particular, played a strong, supportive role in mentoring Ayanda.

The Bester family moved to England for two years, their absence strongly affecting Ayanda’s sense of stability. He began drinking and smoking to cope with the pain, negatively affecting his behaviour and attitude to the point of being kicked out of the house by his aunt whom he was living with in the city.

With nowhere else to stay, he returned home to live with his grandfather on the farm. In this environment, job opportunities were scarce. Having few other options, Ayanda asked a friend living in Pinetown if he knew of a room available to rent. He received a positive response, with the owner generously agreeing to keep the room for Ayanda until he could raise funds to pay the R820 ($63) rent.

By God’s perfect timing, the Bester family returned to South Africa the very next week. In seeing the stagnation of Ayanda’s progress since their emigration, they assisted him in raising the rent money by paying him R200 ($15) an hour to train with Bradley for soccer. Soon, not only did Ayanda have enough money to pay the rent, he could also afford to furnish the room with a fridge, bed and kettle.

After soccer training, Ayanda and Bradley frequented the then newly-opened Talkhouse Coffee Shop at Westville Mall for coffee and breakfast. Shane, the owner of the coffee shop, soon took an interest in Ayanda and offered him a job. Without prior experience as a waiter, Ayanda began working part-time as a ‘runner’ cleaning tables, but, gradually, under Shane’s guidance, grew in skill and understanding of the business. During this time, the Westville community took a strong liking to Ayanda, his humble and gentle manner resonating especially with older customers, who urged Shane to hire him as a full-time employee.

A frequent customer at the Talkhouse from a local Westville church would seek out Ayanda especially, and came to be known as his ‘granny’. She gifted him with a brand new Bible, which Ayanda accepted, but admittedly first started reading simply to pass the time after work. His view changed as he found himself engrossed in scripture for hours at a time.

One Sunday, Ayanda accepted the invitation from a friend to attend a service at Westville Baptist Church after his morning shift at the coffee shop. This is where the Bible “came to life” for Ayanda, who was new to this style of worship. His exposure to the teachings of the Christian faith led him to become more consciously aware of the areas in his life where he was not following a Christ-like path. Within two months, he joined a cell group and signed up for the Alpha course, which helped him to gain a clear sense of direction and inspired him to take another bold step forward in his personal growth.

In 2017, Ayanda made the difficult decision to leave his job at the Talkhouse and start his own business. Bradley Bester came on board as his business partner, and together they launched “Numzane Super White Maize Meal”. Growing up, the maize grown on his grandfather’s farm was a main source of nutrition for Ayanda, and the brand name “Numzane” meaning “sir” in isiZulu also carried with it a sentimental meaning as the title his grandfather often called him as a term of endearment.

In the months following, Ayanda and Bradley worked closely to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of running a business. They decided to primarily market the product to suit the financial constraints of those living in rural areas. “I don’t care about the big shops”, Ayanda asserts, as he works long hours to personally deliver the maize directly to customers in the KwaZulu-Natal region. His dream is to make a meaningful impact in helping to end hunger in poor communities. CAST has partnered with Ayanda to supply the maize meal for food parcels distributed to seven local communities each month as part of our Relief Services Programme, made possible by generous donations in funding. This programme benefits 280 families living in poverty, 77% of which have a household income of less than R2 000 ($154) a month.  CAST empowers these families through Poverty Stoplight, a visual survey that helps the families to self-diagnose their level of poverty and develop a personal strategy to lift them permanently out of poverty.  Through CAST’s Business Development programme, food parcel beneficiaries are also empowered with the tools to start their own small businesses like Ayanda.

For others wanting to become entrepreneurs, Ayanda advises that it starts with good mentorship, because “you need someone who can help you understand where you want to go, and what you can do with your life.” CAST’s Business Development programme offers the opportunity for those with the knowledge and skill to mentor others like Ayanda to reach their business goals and become strong leaders in their communities. To get involved in this programme, or sponsor a food parcel for a local family in need, contact CAST at: 031 266 8830

Additionally, if you would like to support Ayanda through purchasing Numzane Super White Maize Meal, please contact Sandy Reid at: sandy@cast.org.za

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Remembering Ernie

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CAST Sunday at Noodsberg Baptist Church, 2013.  From left to right, Bongani Mkhize (CAST Noodsberg Area Co-ordiantor), Ernie Calder, Pastor Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt (CAST Executive Director), Pastor Ephraim Mzobe (Noodsberg Baptist), Debbie Calder

Often we think that “social transformation” is all about big events, speeches and important people. But in reality change happens gradually through many, many seemingly insignificant conversations, friendships and acts of love.  It is these consistent, daily acts of love that make an eternal impact in the Kingdom of God. About thirteen years ago, two volunteers began to reach across the economic and cultural divide and develop friendships with people and churches in Noodsberg and KwaDabeka.

Year after year Ernie and Debbie Calder delivered food parcels, driving their bakkie out as far as Noodsberg (90 minutes away) every month, providing hundreds of thousands of meals every year.

But it was never only about the food, deep and lasting friendships developed between the Calders and members of these communities. Over time these relationships evolved into training programmes and food gardens. These were the beginning of CAST’s programmes in these communities. As CAST ministries spread out from Noodsberg into the surrounding areas of Appelsbosch and Chibini so the legacy of the Calders grew with them – now serving almost 2000 people every month in these communities, through nutritional support, educational programmes, children’s ministry, and the development of farming and business.

Last year Ernie celebrated his 80th birthday, but Debbie and Ernie continued to serve as core volunteers with CAST right up until the end of 2016.

Last week, the CAST team were deeply saddened to hear that Ernie had gone to be with the Lord on Monday after a seven hour heart operation. While the CAST team is heartbroken, we will always remember his humble, serving spirit, genuine love of others and concern for our neighbouring communities.  Debbie is also in our prayers.

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Holiday Club Season 2016

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This year CAST took our annual holiday club season to a whole other level by partnering with local churches to host clubs in five of our communities.  A total of 1100 children were reached with the Gospel.  The adventure started off in the rural communities where kids came to learn more about Jesus at Noodsberg Baptist Church.  Then, the attention turned to Durban central, where CAST continued our long standing partnership with Addington Primary School to host a holiday club for learners.  Volunteers from both Westville Baptist Church and local partner churches were key to the success of the programme.

This week CAST made a new record of hosting three simultaneous holiday clubs in KwaDabeka, Lamontville and Mariannridge!  CAST was only able to accomplish this through the hard work of volunteers from Lake Pointe Church (Texas, USA), KwaDabeka Baptist Church, Lamontville Baptist Church and Joy Chapel Ministries (Mariannridge).

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Below are the stories of two high school students from Lake Pointe Church who gave of their holidays to volunteer with the clubs at Lamontville and Mariannridge:

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Paige, a volunteer from Lake Pointe Church

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Kylea (on right) with a local volunteer

Paige and Kylea came to South Africa for the first time last year.  They served at the holiday club in KwaDabeka, and fell in love with the culture and people.  Despite the language barrier and challenges of running a holiday club in a different setting, Paige and Kylea felt the Lord calling them to return to South Africa this year.

As Paige explains about serving, “You have to prepare your heart and be open to learning new things.  You also have to be open to the flow; things don’t always go the way you planned.”

Kylea also shared, “Even coming to the other side of the world, the same God is Lord everywhere.  You have to get out of your comfort zone.  I’ve learned how to be a better leader.”

CAST’s partnership with Lake Pointe Church is also vital for community volunteer training.  Instead of just implementing holiday clubs once-off, Lake Pointe has the long-term goal to empower church volunteers to serve their own communities.

Last year Lake Pointe provided volunteer leader training for local community members in KwaDabeka.  This year KwaDabeka Baptist Church was able to implement their own holiday club with entirely local community volunteers.

CAST would like to thank all our partners, volunteers and donors who made this holiday club season such a huge success!

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Photo Credit: John Benn Photography

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A Garden for All

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Last Sunday, the children of Promise Land got their hands dirty!  Recently, CAST started up a community garden for those in need.  With the drought and rising prices of food, many people who are living on the streets or battling to find employment come to CAST’s Westville offices asking for assistance.  The community garden is a great opportunity for those in need to come tend the garden, and take some veggies home in return.

But CAST needed some helpful hands to weed and plant the garden.  The kids of Promise Land were happy to volunteer, and spent Sunday learning about how God uses even the smallest members of the Kingdom of God to take care of God’s Creation and to help our neighbours.

If you would like to help out with the CAST garden and support this great initiative, contact Amy Benn at: amy@cast.org.za

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Showtime 2015

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Every year Westville Baptist Church, CAST, and an amazing team of volunteers partner to put together a fun and exciting holiday club for children who attend Addington Primary School.

This year was no different!  The theme was “Showtime” and the kids were part of the ‘live’ show. The theme focused around how God loves us and all about how to be a good friend and have good friendships.  The messages centred around making real life applications from movies clips.

Daniel from the Bible also came to visit our kids at holiday club, and shared all about his story!

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Lastly, CAST hosted a Parent Evening last night at Addington so parents could come and see what their children had been learning at holiday club.  Parents also received special gift packs, and were encouraged by guest speaker, Moira Longe.

Please be in prayer that the kids at Addington Holiday Club continue to grow in their relationship with God and are able to be an awesome friend to the people around them!  Thank you to everyone who gave of their time and resources to make this holiday club possible.

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Advancing the Kingdom: Promise Land Style!

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At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Oftentimes we can learn a lot about the Kingdom of God from children. Some of the children in Promise Land at Westville Baptist Church have decided to show the love of Christ to their neighbours in a very practical way.

It all started with learning about helping the poor. As the children learned more about the needs of those around them, they decided to act. With the help of their group leader Wayne, the Grade 1-3 children in Promise Land made a plan to raise R500 by Christmas to donate towards CAST food parcels.

As Wayne explained, “They bring offering every week, but they are not sure where it goes to.”

The goal of this project was to encourage the children to bring offering for a practical cause they learned about in Promise Land – helping the poor in our community.

CAST food parcels cost R140, and contain enough food to feed a family of four for two weeks.

As the children brought in their weekly offering money to Promise Land, they tracked their progress towards R500 on a chart.

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One child brought his entire allowance for the first term, a total of R150, to give entirely towards food parcels!

Recently, these children reached their goal of R500. Meeting their goal earlier than expected has encouraged the children to continue to give towards food parcels.

Jesus rightly said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

So often we make excuses for not giving towards the needs in our community. What a great challenge from the Promise Land children to use what we have to advance the Kingdom of God!

If you would like show the love of Christ to a local family in need through a food parcel, please contact Amy Benn at amy@cast.org.za or 031 267 1716 to find out more about the Snowflake Drive. Let’s follow the humble example of WBC’s children in Promise Land and give with a cheerful heart!

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CAST AGM 2014: Building the Movement

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On Tuesday, CAST celebrated what God has done in 2014 through our Annual General Meeting.  The focus of the night was on CAST’s commitment to building a movement of Christians and churches who build the kingdom of God every day, in simple, ordinary ways by bringing peace, justice, compassion and salvation to everyone we touch.  CAST celebrated our staff, volunteers, donors, and members, and their commitment to becoming part of the movement.

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Before the AGM, everyone enjoyed a light dinner of soup and bread.  Then attendees were entertained by two local choirs from Lamontville who performed songs in both English and Zulu.

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If you missed out on hearing this amazing choir, make sure to check out this link:

https://www.facebook.com/murry.pieterse/videos/vb.624348453/10153311216693454/?type=2&theater

In addition to hearing updates from various CAST staff, attendees also had the chance to hear a few testimonies from individuals who have been empowered by CAST, including Mbali Sontsele, a woman from Lamontville who lost her home in a fire, Lydia Gayiya, an Addington CAST volunteer, and Sizwe Blose, a young man from KwaDabeka who has been mentored.

“Give Your Brain a Hand” artwork, created by students from Addington Primary School, was displayed in the foyer for guests to see.  Most of the artwork was created from recycled materials.

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Overall the night was a great success, celebrating what God has done in the lives of his people.  Thank you for being a part of the movement!