Amazing testimony of perseverance in obeying call of God
When Port Elizabeth domestic worker Joyce Ncamisa lost her pride-and-joy — her law-student son, Thembisile — in a fatal workplace accident in 2001 she felt God tell her that there were a lot of street children who needed her help.
Soon afterwards she and some members of her church in Motherwell began to take food to homeless people in the Port Elizabeth city centre. After a year her fellow congregants dropped out of the project but Joyce, said she could not stop, knowing that if she did, people would go hungry.
And so for years Joyce continued to single-handedly buy and cook food to feed more than 100 people on Saturdays and Sundays. She took the food in pots and cooldrink in buckets on a 20km bus ride to a city centre bus station where she ministered to people in prayer, song and scripture before feeding them. She said she fed people of all ages and all races. Some came from other African countries. She always told them that God loves them and that He is the one who was providing the food. Once she remembers hugging an old man who then burst into tears: he said it was the first time anyone had ever hugged him.
In 2006 she broke her hip after she was struck by a bus but except for a 3 weeks stretch in hospital she kept on feeding her beloved homeless people. After seven years, in 2008, God answered her prayer for a helper, when her unemployed church friend Melina Kala accepted an invitation to accompany her to the bus station feed one day to hear a preacher who was expected that day. Melina said she could never understand why Joyce cared so much about “naughty children on the street” who she felt should simply hand their lives over to Jesus and turn from their wrong ways as she had done after she met Christ.
Melina said that after accompanying Joyce once she wanted to keep on helping her and felt guilty and could not sleep on days when she was “too lazy” to help. She said Joyce never asked her to keep on coming but she decided to commit herself to partnering her friend. They have served together for the past five years and she has grown to love the homeless people and understand that there are many different reasons why people end up living on the street. That year, in another answer to prayer, the Herald newspaper published a report on Joyce’s street feeding project and as a result a company, Bosasa, began to provide food to feed the bus station people three nights a week. They still provide that vital support. As a result of the publicity several people partnered Joyce and Melina for a while.
But for most of the five years since, the two women soldiered on alone preparing the food, paying their own transport costs, and serving the homeless people with food and the love and truth of Christ. However on a rainy Tuesday evening about six months ago God once again answered one of Joyce’s prayers by providing partners with a long-term vision to feed hungry homeless people in the city. At the time Joyce and Melina were feeding people at the bus station on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays but for some reason they were at the bus station that Tuesday night. Unknown to them a growing, caring ministry called Love Story had started feeding homeless people around the corner on an open square in front of the City Hall on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Because of the rain on that Tuesday night, the Love Story team and the street people sought shelter in the bus station where they met with Joyce and Melina.
“It was like a dream,” said Melina. She said they saw the Love Story people were friendly and they sensed that they were committed to feeding the homeless people for the long-term.
Within days the two groups committed to partnering each other.
“I felt like I was ready to die in peace now because I knew that the hungry people would continue to be fed,” said Joyce.
Elaine Watson, a co-founder of Love Story, said they began to fetch Joyce and Melina in Motherwell on Sunday nights and take them home again after the feed. They had a bigger partnering vision in mind but first needed to secure premises and enough teams to manage five city centre feeds a week. Those objectives have recently been met and Joyce and Melina now work in the “Love Story Pantry” in Albany Road, Central, where they prepare the food to feed about 200 homeless people in the city centre five nights a week, as well as food for soup kitchens at various township creches. The two women prepare about 7 500 meals a month, clean the pots and wash and iron all clothing that is donated to Love Story for destitute people. Love Story pays them a small amount of money to cover their transport costs and allows them to take home some of the food which is donated by various firms and private donors.
“We didn’t expect that [money and food]. We just want to work for God,” said Joyce.
Trusting God for a salary
But Elaine said she is trusting God to raise funds to pay the women a proper salary.
“It is most inpsiring to see how they continued to serve God for years with no or little support. I have never seen such faithfulness,” she said.
“We offered them the opportunity to just be responsible for cooking and to go home at the end of the day. But they were both adamant that they want to carry on serving the people because they don’t want to lose touch with them. And so they are in charge of the team that now serves on a Wednesday night.”
Love Story, which began a year ago as a small group of Christian women who collected second-hand clothing for poor people, is now involved in feeding schemes, educational upliftment and clothing distribution — all with the ministry of Jesus as its focus.
Reflecting on what she has seen over the past 12 years of feeding and loving homeless people, Joyce said that most of the people she has met on the street do eventually get back into society. Many of them have started a relationship with the Lord through the feeding ministry. Children as young as 10 years old live on the street because their parents have died and they are badly treated by relatives. Some children run away from home because they have done something wrong; some have asked her to speak to their parents and ask for their forgiveness. She has managed to reconcile runaway children with parents but some parents say they do not want to see their children again. She has taken some children into her home and to the dismay of her husband, who is not a Christian, her daughter, and disapproving neighbours she entertained a group of homeless people at her home one Christmas day — hiring tables and two minibus taxis for the occasion. Joyce says a number of people on the streets are demonised and need deliverance ministry. In addition to caring for homeless people in the city centre she also visits homes in her own community where children are living without adult carers.
Joyce said she also wanted to thank security personnel at the city bus station for allowing them to feed people there. In the early days security guards would chase them away but they eventually came to support the ministry.
Anybody wanting to support the feeding ministry or to find out more about it can contact Elaine at 079 444 5666 or firstname.lastname@example.org .