If you have ever driven into Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, you may have seen some young people washing cars in front of the colourful clutter of small shops and kiosks known as the Walmer Enterprise Village.
Probably this mundane activity would not have caught your attention as you kept a wary eye on pedestrians, cyclists, donkey carts or perhaps a stray cow or two. And if you did notice the car washers, you might not have given them much thought. But if you were looking through the eyes of Pastor Zolile Dayimani you would be seeing the gospel in action! You would be thanking God for people who were once lost and without hope who are now in relationship with Jesus, are supporting families and contributing to the upliftment of others.
This story began in 2000 when Dayimani responded to a call from God to leave his job and go into fulltime ministry. He felt a pull to serve in Walmer Township and began building a relationship with that community by providing pastoral services to three local schools. During this season, in which he led morning prayers before school and taught life skills when no teachers were available, he helped many young people to start their Christian journeys. During this time he studied theology at the Bible Institute of the Eastern Cape.
In 2005 he and his wife Nolita, a technical college lecturer, decided to plant a church in Walmer. Hopeful that schoolchildren would join the new church and that their parents would follow, they began holding meetings in a large tent donated by helicopter pilot John Huddlestone. But for two years just about nobody supported the new church. “It was virtually just my family meeting for those first two years. When we took a collection it barely covered our petrol cost back to Kwazakele where we still lived at that time,” said Dayimani.
But then the people started to come. The church, known as the Family Worship Centre, moved to the local community centre and early this year began meeting in the hall of Walmer High School at the entrance to the township. “We have a vibrant community of about 120 members made up of about 55% adults and 45% youth. We also regularly get white visitors from the suburb across the road. Everyone feels welcome because I do not preach culture but Jesus crucified and risen again,” said Dayimani.
As the congregation grew Dayimani’s conviction grew that the church had a responsibility to play a role in uplifting people. But he realised that as most of the members were unemployed they could not be expected to fund upliftment projects.
He said he believed that one of the reasons why he was drawn to serve in Walmer Township was because of his hatred of poverty which he believed was a tool that the devil used to try and keep people from knowing God. He had been raised in poverty by his great-grandmother whose sole income had been a small grant paid out every three months.
While he was pondering how his poor church could uplift people, God gave him the idea of starting a car wash.” It was difficult because we started in an area surrounded by service stations which had car washes and which were on busy routes. We do not have a building or even a shelter. And we have very simple, second-hand equipment which was kindly donated to us by business people.
“Cars drove past us without stopping and I personally went to schools and offered to wash teachers’ cars in order to make our services known.”
Today All Nations Car Wash has six fulltime employees who were all previously unemployed. They include a young man who became a Christian through Dayimani’s early school pastoring ministry. Others have left behind lives of drug and alcohol abuse. The employees are mentored in their work and some have opened bank accounts and are finding dignity in taking responsibility as providers in their homes. The business has also sown into the community by paying school fees for five children.
Dayimani said the car wash did not have an advertising budget but the team adhered to a strict code of service excellence and had earned the support of regular customers from as far afield as Bluewater Bay and Bridgemead.
In keeping with its name, Dayimani’s church focuses on building strong Christian families. He said he had married seven couples who had been living together because the men could not afford to pay lobola (traditional “bride price” payment). He conducted lobola negotiations with the couples’ families who had all cooperated when he explained that their children wanted “to make their paths straight with God”. Dayimani said that originally the lobola tradition was covenental but it had become commericalised.
He said all members of Family Life Centre were equipped to share the gospel and were encouraged to participate in regular evangelism outreaches. Recently they had held Saturday afternoon street evangelism campaigns at the Walmer Township taxi rank and were planning more outreaches in other parts of the township.
Dayimani has also established a training forum for under-resourced backyard crèches in Walmer Township. The goal was to improve the standard of infant care through professional training and through provision of resources. He also plans to establish a Christian bookshop in the township. He said that anybody interested in supporting any of these initiatives could call him at 082 759 9052 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org . He said support was also needed for the car wash in the form of equipment, work wear for the team members and a shelter.