Thick mud clings to the
shoes of pastor Xolani (Ko-lan-ee) Klaas and his church members as they walk
through an informal settlement far from the World Cup venues in South Africa.
There are few visitors to
the informal settlements, and the residents are wary of strangers. Most are
members of the Zulu people group, and a large percentage are hiding from their
families in the villages. Originally they came to the city to find a job or go
to school but were forced into the shantytowns when their money ran out.
“They do not want to be
found,” one of the church members says in visiting the Durban-area Newlands
East settlement with Klaas. The residents refuse to return to their families
empty-handed, and the only place they can live is in the informal settlements.
The needs are overwhelming
in these settlements, but Klaas and other Zulu Christians are seeking to make a
difference in the lives of the people in these “unseen” areas.
In the mud, Klaas and his
team slip as they walk up and down the hills past tiny shacks constructed of
scrap metal, tarps and cloth inadequately providing shelter for entire families
from the cool, wet weather.
Yet amid the struggle of
everyday life, the smiling faces of residents conversing with one another
reveal a measure of joy and happiness in their community.
Efforts in evangelism in the
informal settlements can be compared to how Jesus did ministry, Klaas ntoes,
because the needs of the people are so immediate.
“People, if they are hungry,
will not listen because their primary needs have not been met,” the pastor
Some of the people know
there is a God, Klaas says, but “they (do not) know that one can make a
decision to follow Christ, to commit your life to Christ.”
The residents in Newlands
East struggle to find food, water and other necessities. Klaas’ church, Hope
Restoration Baptist Church, has started taking food and blanket packets to
individuals in the settlement and talking with them about coming to church.
A 92-year-old woman receives
a blanket, and her eyes shine with gratitude and amazement as she unwraps it
and rubs the soft, thick material between her fingers.
After giving her the
blanket, Klaas prays for her, that she would have strength, healing and wisdom.
He emphasizes that all providence and glory go to God and encourages her and
her family to attend the Hope Restoration’s service on Sunday morning.
Leaving the house, the team
notices tiny wires strewn across the ground and suspended in the surrounding
bushes, looking much like spider webs. A closer examination reveals the wires
carry electricity to several shacks, but they pose a danger because children
who have no shoes can be electrocuted if they step on the exposed wires.
In the settlement, the
smells of decomposing trash, outhouses and sludge thicken the air, making it
difficult to breathe at times.
Plastic bags, bottles and
rotten food litter the ground.
Residents dodge in and out
of their shacks, curious about the visitors but also hesitant, knowing that it
is easier for many people walking past to ignore the poverty in the
But Klaas is confident in
the task he has undertaken, saying, “This is right. I have to follow God’s plan
for my life.”
He’s also confident God is
at work. “The same thing that happened in the Book of Acts, that is happening
in South Africa right now,” he declares.
“There’s so much of a
revival. You go everywhere, Christians are standing up. They are …
evangelizing. They can’t keep quiet, talking about Christ.”