Give us today our daily bread - November 2007

Mrs Sibheko gave me the 75 cents (= 8 euro cents), that was my daily earnings. My hands and back hurt from cutting sugar cane, but I couldn't take that into consideration. I had to hurry, because the sun would set soon. It was only 40 minutes to home, but I still had to get a school uniform for Lukas. The Mthethwa family lives near the Nyoni River, and I want to visit them. The youngest daughter has grown a lot, maybe I can get her school uniform for a few rand, instead of giving money I could also do small jobs. Since my husband died, it has become very difficult. We never had much money, but now I often don't know how to feed my six children at all. There is no choice, I have to get a uniform, if the children don't go to school they have no chance at all. It is dark when I arrive home, a uniform under my arm. There are now seven of us living in our Zulu hut. The children have already prepared everything for sleeping. Lukas is happy and dances with pleasure: I'm going to school, I'm going to school....

I extinguish the candle and we try to sleep. I have to see tomorrow that I get some maize, we have nothing left in the house.

Yes, that's how it was back then, in the early 80s, the elderly lady beams at me: That was our life. And I made it, for all six of them! They all went to school. With my Patricia I once thought now it's over. The school year began and we had nothing. Not a cent of money in the house, no uniform, she's the biggest and couldn't put anything on. I had a weekly income of R 6.00 (= 60 Euro-Cent) and six children to clothe and feed. But our Lord God helped and Patricia could continue to go to school. Our conditions only changed in the 90s. The children had grown up and we still slept, lived and cooked in our old hut. Patricia got work in iSithebe, but she hardly brought any money home. I was given a small pension after the political changes, from which we were able to build the kitchen.

Patricia was not in iSithebe for long, maybe 6 months. After that she helped at home, for a whole year. With the new kitchen it was possible to cook even cheaper. And then there was that Sunday when it all began. We helped deliver parish letters and of course I read what was written there. Father Gerhard was looking for new staff for his care centre in Mandeni and for his pre-school and kindergarten in Whebede. I immediately showed the parish letter to Patricia and told her to call. We knew Father, he was our parish priest and we knew that he would help if possible. That same day, my grandmother ran to the kiosk and made a phone call. Mrs Kalkwarf was on the phone and told her to come to the care centre in Mandeni on Monday. So she went there. She wanted to work at the care centre, but Father Gerhard told her that she knew the Whebede area well and that it was not too far from our home. So she agreed to work in the kindergarten. First she had to go to training for two months, but then, deacon, there was bread! We had bread in the house, bread and margarine. I had - she points with her hand towards the kitchen - a pot of margarine standing there. And we could even buy porridge for the little ones now and then. More than 12 years had passed since my husband died, 12 years, they were so hard. And now suddenly everything was there!

Everything became much easier now. We are so grateful, so thankful to the Brotherhood. All the children could attend school without any problems. My late husband's brother had died in the meantime, and because his wife was also dead, his five children came to live with me. It worked because we had money. When Zanele finished school, she was able to complete a 2-year computer course with the money Patricia earned. Because she still couldn't find a job, she started helping her sister in the kindergarten as a volunteer. Later, she was also hired as a permanent employee by the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard. Patricia was able to finance her brother's driving licence. Deacon, look around, look around, we owe it all to him, our Father Gerhard.

A real Zulu Kraal has come into being, mother, now long since grandmother, Zikhali lives with her six children, her brother's five and 10 grandchildren. And now children and grandchildren have been able to build a new house for their mummy and grandma.

The rooms are still empty, but full of joy and pride, grandma shows us her new kingdom and with shining eyes she tells us what purpose the individual rooms will have.

The brotherhood as a stone that falls into the water, as it says in one of the spiritual songs: "A stone falls into the water, very secretly, silently. No matter how small it is, it still goes far. Where God's great love falls into a person, it continues to have an effect, in deed and word, out into our world.

The permanent employment of Patricia and later also of Zanele opened up new life opportunities for a family. They accepted this opportunity as a gift and blessing from God and they continued to give what they had received.

Twenty-one children and grandchildren, the first of whom have long since grown up, live together here as a family; in a protected setting with schooling, regular food and a solid roof over their heads; year after year, the adult sisters prepare 40 and more children in our preschool for the start of school life and thus lay the foundation for countless families to also get a chance. Give away what you yourself have been given and the fruit will be 30-fold and 60-fold and 100-fold.

Help that draws circles. Because there were people who supported the Brotherhood through donations and membership fees, the Brotherhood was able to grow. 

Because there were people who supported the Brotherhood through donations and membership fees, the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard was able to help the Zikhali family, who were then able to open up new life opportunities for their whole clan and have a beneficial effect in the Whebede region. God only knows how many lives have been saved and how many life stories have been positively impacted.

May our Heavenly Father richly reward all the good they have initiated and done.

Deacon Thomas Müller after a visit to the Zikhali family in November 2007