In July 2015 a fire in one of the houses at SIM Southern Africa’s Mseleni Children’s Home in northern KwaZulu-Natal claimed the life of a child and of a brave care worker who tried to save the toddler. The Department of Social Development ordered the closure of Mseleni pending an inquiry and new homes had to be found for all the children.
By the grace of God every child was placed into foster care or another children’s home — and in the case of two ‘problem’ teenage boys who were not going to be easy to resettle, God displayed his amazing ability to work in hearts and lives.
Some of the children who have come to Mseleni demonstrate challenging behaviour due to the extremely difficult circumstances in which they have grown up, and one of the two teenage boys was no exception. He came to Mseleni aged 11, and was obstinate and angry, taking out his anger on younger children and proving quite difficult to manage. His anger was rooted in the treatment he had received at the hands of his maternal grandmother, whose beatings were so severe that he had ended up in hospital.
Over the next 5 years, and with the specialist pscyho-social care available from trained staff at Mseleni, he changed and developed into a delightful and helpful young man, with a flair for IT and the desire to help the younger children with their computer skills. However, his anger with his family, particularly his grandmother, continued and he was not willing to meet any of them.
Desire to forgive grandmother
After the fire, this young man was placed in a children’s home 200km away, but was unhappy and unable to settle. A case conference was convened with the social workers, staff from Mseleni and family, including both maternal and paternal grandmothers and two paternal aunts. The history of abuse was revisited, and to the amazement of all present, the young man expressed his desire to forgive his abusive grandmother. When the social workers questioned him about this, he said “It is in forgiveness that the prisoner is set free.” He explained that he had to forgive others with the same measure of forgiveness that Jesus had shown him. Amidst tears and apologies, it was agreed that he would live with the paternal family, and a measure of reconciliation between paternal and maternal families was reached. God’s grace in this young man’s life was a powerful witness to his family and we pray that he will settle well and continue to shine for God.
The other young man, who we will call Sipho Dlamini (not his real name), came to Mseleni aged 12, again from a background of physical abuse and violence, this time from his own father after the death of his mother. There were no other known relatives, and the future for this young man looked uncertain as it can be particularly difficult to find foster homes for teenage boys.
Some years later, when he was about 16, he was asked to accompany one of the Mseleni social workers as a chaperone on a visit to the family of a teenage girl, about 200km from where Sipho had lived with his father. Thabo, the social worker, would not normally have asked this young man to be the chaperone but on this occasion felt a clear prompting from God to take him. On arrival, Sipho waited in the car while Thabo met with the girl’s aunt. At the end of the meeting, the lady asked Thabo if he might be able to help her find her grandson. Her daughter, who had lived some distance way, had died, leaving a son who had been so badly abused by his father that he had been taken into care. This grandson would now be aged about 16. Thabo asked what the boy’s name was. “Sipho Dlamini.” None other than the young man patiently waiting in the car. The scene of celebrations that followed can hardly be imagined!
The grandmother’s testimony is: “People may say that there is no God. But I know! I have seen God working! Only God could have done that!”
Sipho has now been able to return to live with his grandmother.
More information about the work of SIM Southern Africa, part of the global family of SIM (Serving in Mission), can be found on their website: www.sim.org.za.