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Key of Hope

Each Saturday, the 8-acre property of Key of Hope in Durban echoes with the squeals and laughter of over a thousand children as they run, play, build friendships in the safest, cleanest, most loving environment they have ever known. It’s a beautiful - and for some, confounding - sight. It’s one of the most often repeated comments we hear from visiting mission teams: “They’re all so happy!”

It can be difficult to comprehend how children who survive with so little, and who have endured so much, can still display such joy. And yet, there it is for all who care to behold it - undeniable, unbridled happiness.

What many miss, though, is what lies just beneath the surface. For too many of our children, that paper thin veneer of gleeful exuberance - genuine as it may be - conceals a week of hunger and fear, and lifetimes of poverty and suffering. To pierce the veil and connect heart to heart, you have to know the right questions to ask, and how and when to ask them; but more than that, you have to know the kids. Whose face is more sullen than usual? Whose eyes look swollen and red from crying? “He usually has more energy than this - he must be hungry,” or “She doesn’t usually sit there - I wonder what’s up?”

Dan Smither asked one of his young leaders, Nokubonga (pictured), how she was: “Fine.” He asked how her week went: “Eh, just okay.” “Tell me about it,” he said as he bent down, his face close to hers. Instantly her eyes brimmed with tears. For 15 minutes she tried to hold her emotions together as she shared the saga of her week.

Nokubonga’s father passed away last year, and it knocked her down. Fortunately, he had worked for a local municipality which included a pension fund that may now help the four kids to survive. Unfortunately, Nokubonga’s mother is addicted to drugs, and has been trying to get her hands on the money since he passed away.

Although - thankfully - hardcore drug abuse is not nearly as prevalent in Durban as it is in American inner cities (no money), it does exist. The drug of choice is most commonly a concoction known as “whoonga”: a sometimes-deadly mix of marijuana and heroin, often laced with crushed AIDS medicine tablets.

In order to access the funds, she needed Nokubonga’s father’s death certificate held by his side of the family in their rural village. Nokubonga’s mother sent her there under false pretenses to beg for the death certificate, which her mother promptly disappeared with over a week ago. Nokubonga is absolutely shattered at her mother’s betrayal, and fretful over how the family will react when they find out what she’s done.

And yet, if Dan hadn’t asked, no one would have known. They prayed together, and she spent the rest of the day with a smile on her face and heart to serve - as always. The saga continues; please pray with Dan for the life and future of this amazing young girl. Whatever the next chapter holds, Key of Hope will walk it with her.

Our second-mile offering on Christmas Day, December 25 is to support the ministry of Key of Hope. Plan a special gift this Christmas. As we stand with Key of Hope financially, they can continue to cultivate relationships where real life, authentic discipleship can happen - one smiling face at a time.


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