St Francis, Social Concerns

By Tim Wilson & Esther Malia

In the Bible, we read about Jesus’ ministry. He healed the sick and performed miracles in Matthew 14:13-21.  But, what we often fail to see are the lessons he is trying to teach us through those acts. Jesus’ deeds taught us about many Christian values, such as kindness and compassion.

Feeding at Zoo Lake:

Soon after the Covid-19 lockdown started, Donne Duffy started to feed homeless people five days’ a week at Zoo Lake. Tim Wilson heard about this, went to see, and suggested that people from St Francis should be able to provide on Saturdays and Sundays. Bart Cox agreed to find volunteers to make soup and sandwiches and the weekend feeding started at the end of May. At first people were nervous about serving the food, although the risks are small when outside and everyone is wearing masks, so soup and sandwiches were delivered to Tim and Ilse who then distributed it at Zoo Lake. Soon however they were joined by Sue, Caitlin and Jonathan Taylor, Esther and Namanda, and the Ferusa family. The atmosphere was lovely, much more like a picnic than a soup kitchen, and it felt more like solidarity than charity. Over the next weeks about 30 people came to see and to help, from people walking past and from different churches and different faiths.

Donne, with support from a restaurant and help from Mientjie continued to feed people at Zoo Lake during the week for 6 months, often on her own. Late in September she decided that she could no longer continue with this. St Columba’s are hoping that they will be able to re-start in October to feed at St Columba’s during the week.

Feeding at St. Francis:

At the weekends, heating the soup, transporting 15 – 20 litres and washing all the cups and pots became a burden and were dependent on only one family, In August the team decided rather reluctantly to move to St Francis where we could use the kitchen. Then Darryl suggested that we use the garden instead of the main entrance area, and the atmosphere has got even better. St Francis now has another congregation of around 60 people every Saturday and Sunday, sharing a meal together, in the garden.

In September we switched from soup and sandwiches to tea (with lots of sugar available!), sandwiches, a hard-boiled egg or slices of polony, and fruit. The Essop family and Rashid Paruk are donating 50 loaves a bread a weekend, Janet Magner took over from Bart preparing the roster of about 30 sandwich makers, and Tim and Ilse could go away knowing that they were no longer needed: Esther, Namanda, Sue Taylor, Darryl and others would run Saturdays, while Nelisa, Tongai, Zolani Ferusa, Kgethi Dlamini, Hannah Schultz and team would run Sundays.  Currently serving between 40-60 people. Last weekend Saturday 19 September there were 69 people and Sunday 65 people. The numbers will certainly increase over time.

Namanda being a student at Parktown Girls High school, where a lot of community service work gets done, she thought it would be a great opportunity to get some of her peers involved when she received a message from her community service teacher Miss Govender regarding a student interested in helping she invited her right away. Atiyyah has been a great help and has gelled in so well with us, always first to help wherever she can. With Tim and Ilse away, our members of the church are always happy to help; Laura and Laurel Muparadzi and Naledi (Laurel’s friend) have become part of the team. It is such an inspiration watching how well we all come together to help the people in dire need.

Donation of winter clothing:

Every month clothes, blankets, and such were collected from people who came to donate and at the end of each month, we distributed them to the guys, as much as they needed food they also needed things like blankets, clothing and shoes to keep them warm during the harsh temperatures that winter brought.

Here are some of the experiences from the Youth volunteers:

“I’m glad I’m doing the feeding because they give me a sense of motivation to my day. It cheers me up when feeling down. Sometimes how the guys say thank you really makes my day. And it has taught me to be grateful at all times.”

— Tsandze Dlamini, St. Peter’s by the Lake.

Being able to take the time on Sunday at 11 to make sandwiches for the less fortunate has not only brought me joy but also being grateful for what I have. Seeing them still smile and be cheery warms my heart that they are hopeful and are thankful. It also shows me that little things we do like a respectful greeting can make such a difference to someone’s day.”

— Titselo Dlamini, St. Peters by the Lake.

Tsandze and Titselo Dlamini

I want to say how helping provide food to homeless people demonstrates that homeless people are not dangerous, lazy, or burdensome people, but instead are simply people without homes.

 They are people who are sleeping rough because of a number of factors, including a lack of adequate and affordable housing, a failed education system, too few jobs, and an inadequate minimum wage, not because they are deficient, purposeless, indolent men and women. All of these factors have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the homeless people in the Parkview area deserve dignity and compassion.

— Caitlin Taylor, St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church

During times in which, I feel, there is very little certainty within the way we live our lives and our future, community service/volunteering aids in providing some level of certainty and sense of purpose. Furthermore the feeling one gets from witnessing their service and receiving a simple smile is deeply humbling and very hard to outweigh.

— Atiyyah Moolla, Parktown High school for Girls.

My name is Laura, I am 12yrs old. I am a member of the senior youth. About two weeks ago I was invited to help at the church by Namanda and I started volunteering on Saturdays. At 11:00 WE start preparing food for the community members. We make peanut butter sandwiches, tea and then we set out the table in the garden. We start giving out lunch at noon. One of my favourite moments, since I started at the Feeding program, was when a man asked very politely to get to know all the people who are helping to make life better for him and his friends. I felt happy that we are making a difference to him and others. I think we should consider offering the guys refreshing drinks because summer is near and would be too hot for tea or coffee. This is a very good program and adults and children/teenagers can learn to share from this experience. I think we should encourage young people to join because it will help us learn to be generous and know that if someone is unfortunate, that is no excuse not to be kind and caring. I am enjoying doing this at St Francis with my mom. I pray that we keep on helping and sharing what we have. Everyone is welcome to come and help too.

— Laura Muparadzi, St Francis Youth.

When I first started this journey, I needed some hours for my Community Service at school. However now, I always find myself looking forward to the weekly Soup/Sandwich Kitchen. It is such a heartening sight, to see different groups of people come together to help in serving the less fortunate. I am truly grateful to be apart of such a selfless act of Love. Thank you to St Francis Church community for spreading the word of the Lord and organizing this ongoing service. “You shall Love the Lord, you God with all your heart, and with all you soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Matthew 22:37-39).

— Zoleka Furusa, St Francis Youth.

When my mom (Esther) worked at St. Francis, every three times a week in the evening, my mom, Margi Strever, a few other volunteers and I did the soup kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed serving and interacting, I was younger then so I wasn’t as hands-on but I still thoroughly relished the atmosphere. Now being older I can take part and be more participatory, I know by helping every Saturday I am making a difference and being able to make a difference is so fulfilling.  I live for Saturdays now, I look forward to coming to church to prepare and cater in the morning. The church has such a comforting space and atmosphere and interacting with everyone is just so much fun and I really can’t picture myself doing anything better. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16) Kindness, charitability and compassion to those who need it most is a reward in itself and serving helps one see life as a whole.

—Namanda Wanyama, St Francis Youth.

Thank you, to all the volunteers for your commitment to the Social Concerns initiative. We are so blessed as St Francis Family and community contributing and changing the lives of those in need one step at a time.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” — Mother Teresa

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