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Christmas in South Africa - Part 1

Joseph Bistachu

One of our goals for this year was to challenge and assist those that we have been teaching and working with over the past years to do something for others in their communities. To inspire and motivate our friends and members, at the beginning of the year, we held 3 one-day seminars on organizing and running volunteer projects. It was encouraging to see everyone’s enthusiasm. The events this Christmas were largely organized by our volunteers in response to this input and training.

Christmas Party in Evaton West Township

10th of December
Total people served: 90

Evaton West is a township about 40 km south of Soweto. About 80% of its residents are unemployed and therefore rely on the social grants that the government offers to those that have children. It is very common in South Africa that the whole family tries to survive and get by on this little amount. Due to the widespread unemployment problem many have little hope of ever bettering their lives in the future.

We have visited the Evaton West township throughout the year and have tried to provide some of the 40 poorest families registered with us with food, mostly bread but also mealie meal (a corn-based porridge), vegetables etc. We have seen first-hand the deep hunger and appreciation for God’s Word despite the dismal situations many find themselves in.

In November Elijah, our project manager who lives and faithfully witnesses in the area, set out to arrange the use of the community hall to organize a Christmas event for some of the children while we busied ourselves with raising the needed funds and/or finding sponsorship for the gifts, snacks and food needed.

As soon as we pulled up with our bakkie (pick up truck) and trailer filled with food and gifts for the children as well as sound equipment, props for the games and activities we had planned, the hall started to fill up. No event takes place without tackling some challenges, especially in Africa, or so it seems. And so the first half hour was taken by running a long extension cord to one of the adjoining houses to get electricity and finding enough chairs in the neighbourhood for the 80 children in attendance. Some of the parents attending helped prepare the snacks and food for the children while others helped some of the children to dress as angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and wise men. We wanted everyone to actively participate and be there for the children.

Soon after prayer, the program started. We sang some Christmas carols together, told and acted out the Christmas story, ate and played games. One of the highlights of the event was a simple activity centred around a Christmas tree and some Christmas baubles we had brought. We explained to all how at Christmas time we should remember to thank God for sending us His Son and how much Jesus appreciates it when we remember to give Him gifts on His birthday. It was touching to hear each of the children giving the gift of praise to Jesus. They came up one by one and after sharing something they were thankful for hung a Christmas bauble on the Christmas tree. Once the tree was fully decorated we learned this song together:

I’d like to be a Christmas tree
With lots of coloured lights on me
I’d shine my star so bright above
To tell the world of Jesus love.

We each had such a wonderful time and enjoyed all the noise and the children’s cheers, laughter and smiles. We were able to distribute to each child a STEP booklet and some other booklets sponsored by Activated Ministries. The children were delighted and eagerly started to page through the booklets. We had also given them stationary gifts and colouring pencils to make full use of the inspiring colouring pages.

Some of the mom’s commented how it was their very first Christmas party in the community and how grateful they were for the lovely gifts, especially the booklets that will last well beyond the delicious hot dogs they ate that day.

The memories of the fun and love we shared and the lessons of the STEP booklets that each of the children received will stay with them forever. We’d like to give a big thank you to Activated Ministries whose donation of the STEPS booklets was a big encouragement and help.