Serving God in Ingwavuma

[notice]An occasional guest column by Esther Labuschagne,  ZUMAT (Zululand Missions Air Transport) public relations practitioner, about people she meets in off-the-beaten track places of KwaZulu-Natal.[/notice]

It was a typically hot and muggy day in Ingwavuma, a small KwaZulu-Natal town on top of the Lebombo Mountain range overlooking Swaziland and Mozambique.

Neil and Michelle and some of their children

I had accompanied Dirk Adendorff, a mission pilot who works for our ZUMAT flying doctor mission, and Dr Kobus Viljoen, who was visiting patients in the town’s Mosvold Hospital. The 40 minute return flight saved the doctor a treacherous 4 to 6 hours drive and allowed him to see more patients. His visit was much needed as the hospital’s allocation of community service doctors had not arrived yet.

While the doctor did his rounds Dirk and I spent a day with Neil and Michelle Coetzee who run uMndeni WaBantwana, a home for their adopted children, and an ACE school called Khethani Christian School. They are elders in their church, Zonki’Zizwe, which Neil pastors.

Neil fetched us from the hospital and we loaded the bags of clothes, Zulu Bibles and medical supplies donated via ZUMAT’s Distribution Hub into his bakkie. We then rode along a bumpy gravel road to the home they share with their 13 children and some teachers. It overlooks kilometers of hills –the view is breath-taking.

Grade R class at Khethani Christian School.

The couple moved to Ingwavuma from Greytown in 2006. Neil was a manager at a retail outlet and Michelle home-schooled their four children — two of their own and two adopted. They both knew that God wanted them to adopt; they just weren’t sure what area they were to call home. Upon praying and seeking direction from God, a friend contacted Neil and offered him a business position in Ingwavuma. Later that day Neil asked Michelle, “If you could live anywhere in South Africa where would you live?” She replied: “Ingwavuma”.

But later the Ingwavuma job offer was withdrawn. Neil and Michelle prayed and against all odds the position was revived — amazing confirmation from God! The job in Ingwavuma did not go according to plan and Neil resigned and responded to a strong call he sensed to full time mission work. It was a scary decision as he wondered where the funding would come from to support his family. But God is our Provider and the company he worked for was willing to pay him, keep them on medical aid and allow them to continue living in their house for three months. The same day that Neil resigned, Syliva Hamilton (married to Dr. Henny Hamilton) called to say she had a friend that wanted to financially support a Children’s Home; they still live in this home to date.

The Coetzee’s firmly believe that children deserve a proper family and have decided to adopt every child that they come across that has no family. The difficulties they face are raising running costs for Umndeni Wabantwana, funds to cover salaries for their staff, food and medication for the children. Because they adopt all the children they do not receive any subsidies from the government and rely on donor support to be able to keep things running.

Marriage course being held at the newly built Zonki’Zizwe Church.

Neil said: “Our mission statement and vision is to provide a home and family for orphaned and abandoned children; a safe and secure environment where they can reach their full potential. Our aim is to raise children who will be able to take their place in society as adults and make a valuable contribution.”

They have adopted 11 children, have 2 of their own and the Government has currently placed two in their care. Over and above this, you will often see teenage boys spending weekends and sometimes weeks at the Coetzee’s. This makes for a very busy and expensive household to run. One problem they are currently facing is that the Government will not allow them to adopt any more children as they say they have enough already. This poses the problem of the foster children being removed from their care if a family member becomes available to care for the child, creating an unstable environment. Despite this setback, they are willing to foster and are trusting in God to open and close doors.

Khethani Christian School is run on the ACE system. They started with 16 pupils, and now have 125! Kethani offers schooling from Grade R to Grade 10. The Grade R and Grade 1 classes are still housed on the Coetzee’s property, but they have recently acquired some land and hope to start building before the end of the year. Many of the children who attend their school cannot afford to pay the school fees of R600 per month and are in need of bursaries. The scholars are mainly local, poverty stricken children whilst others are children of medical staff and teachers.

Children receiving gifts

The Coetzee property provides accommodation for two teachers. Some of Neil and Michelle’s adopted children sleep in the cottages with the teachers due to a shortage of space inside their house. They have been blessed with other housing that was purchased for them below and above their land. The house below hosts another section of the school. Unfortunately they cannot find land big enough to accommodate all of the grades together, so they have spread the school out over a few pieces of land.
Michelle is currently training up a Grade R teacher to take over the class.

After our visit to their home Neil took us to the church they are building. Zonki’Zizwe, which means All Nations has a congregation of about 90 adults and teenagers, and lots of children. The church’s aim is to provide good Bible teaching and leadership. They get monthly input from relating New Covenant Ministries International churches in the region. A church in Richard’s Bay has been supporting their building project and even brought a work team of 50 people to help with building.

Zonki’Ziwe recently hosted a marriage course that teaches locals that monogamy pleases God. This is difficult as the Zulu tradition is to have many wives. But, the message is getting through and recently they married two couples.

Dirk and my day visit ended with a humbling experience of being able to wash and anoint Michelle and Neil’s feet whilst praying over them. These two faithful children of God continually serve and sow into the community of Ingwavuma, and for that we are ever grateful.

**uMndeni WaBantwana is a non-profit organization and is registered with Section 18A and Section 21. Please contact Neil Coetzee at or Esther Labuschagne at to find out more as to how you can support with home and school.

About Esther
My name is Esther Abigail Labuschagne and I am 25 years old. I am currently studying towards a Diploma in Public Relations and will be done with the theory part by the end of 2012. During my high school years I felt a calling on my life to be a part of a mission team, through Walmer Methodist Church, that annually visits a non-profit organisation called ZUMAT based in Ubombo, KwaZulu Natal. I was only presented with the opportunity to be a part of the team in 2008, when finances allowed. I promptly fell in love with the area and came back with the team for 4 years, of which I was the leader for 2 of those years and an assistant for 1. During 2011 I knew that God was calling me to mission work in some form in 2012. I prayed and sought God’s direction and after some time I was lead to contact Etienne Gerber, CEO of ZUMAT. I knew they were previously in need of a Public Relations Practitioner and enquired as to whether or not that was still a necessity. Etienne responded with a prompt, “Yes, how soon can you come?!” So in January 2012 I relocated from Port Elizabeth to Hluhluwe, KwaZulu Natal to begin my role as PR Practitioner and Fundraiser for ZUMAT. I am in the process of moving up to Johannesburg in order to better represent ZUMAT, this will take place at the end of April. I will still return to the beautiful rural Zululand on a monthly or bi-monthly bases so I can share first-hand how God is using ZUMAT in this area.


One Comment

  1. I am sorry I do not have a comment but I am looking for employment in that area. I am a qualified cytotechnologist and have worked in a medical laboratory. I can do any job I find because I want to relocate from Durban to Ingwavuma. I have a passion for children as I am a mother of 5 and also am a child of God which is what attracted me to your website. Next year I will be doing a post graduate course in Education as I have a Diploma in Biomedical Technology because my interest now is becoming a teacher. I wish to relocate as my husband recently got a job that side and it is closer to his home. Thank you for taking note.