Many of this year's JCWP homeowners come to their new neighborhood from the informal settlements that surround Durban. Lacking basic infrastructure such as running water or electricity, makeshift shacks like this one are common in these settlements. Pictured above is the soon-to-be former home of Patience Lisa.
Photo by Kim MacDonald

New Homeowner Reflects
on Faith, Looks to Future

By Pat Curry

Sindisiwe Gcwensa breaks into a tremendous, beautiful smile when she talks about her new home in the Ethembeni community. Built on land where thousands of Africans were forcibly removed during apartheid, the neighborhood’s new name means “place of hope.”

Her new home is evidence, she says, that God is alive and cares for her.

“I love Jesus,” she says.

It’s the kind of phrase that comes easily for Americans, but for Sindisiwe, those three words cost her everything.

Shuttled from one family to another after her parents separated and later died, Sindisiwe and her sister were living with their grandmother when they heard the gospel. When she learned her granddaughters had become Christians, she chased them away. Sindisiwe was just 14.

They found shelter wherever they could, sometimes in horrific conditions. She and her sister faced flooded floors, swarming insects and starvation.

“I was living in a chicken house,” she says. “But I said, ‘One day, my God will prove He’s alive.’”

Her faith wavered only once. Deeply depressed about her situation and convinced that she was unloved, she tried three times in one day to commit suicide. Christ reached out to her, she says, and healed her pain.

Despite her extreme poverty, Sindisiwe was very bright and excelled at school. One of her teachers adopted her, and she finished her education. She crocheted doilies and did hairstyling to pay the fees that are required at all schools in South Africa. She finished two years of college, studying information technology, and now works as a telemarketer for a university.

She heard about Habitat for Humanity on a radio ad and decided to apply for a house. At the time, she was living in a small, one-room “bachelor flat” that cost her 850 South African rand (about $90 US) a month. Her new five-room house has a kitchen, bathroom, living room (called a lounge in South Africa) and two bedrooms. It is, without question, a dream come true for her and her family. She’ll be joined in the house by her beloved sister, a young cousin she adopted, a severely disabled relative, and her adoptive mother, “if she likes.”

When she got the news that she had been selected as a homeowner, she called everyone she knew, telling them, “God has proved He is alive. He is my real father.”

Deeply grateful to the volunteers who traveled from around the world to help the families build their homes, Sindisiwe is particularly moved by the involvement— and humility—of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

“Jesus touched Jimmy Carter deep down in his heart,” she says. “I will support his vision. I will be a volunteer in every way. He teaches us how to handle people, no matter how young or old, no matter if they are white or black, no matter if they are rich or poor. He is my role model. I will tell my grandsons one day I met and spoke to Jimmy Carter.”

Volunteerism is a new concept in South Africa, she says, and one that is not easy to adopt, but she believes it’s her Christian responsibility to serve others in need.

“Jesus sacrificed,” she says. “He did things like a slave. It’s a thing we’re expected to do.”

As her home nears completion, Sindisiwe says she has learned that God is faithful to those who are patient and wait on His timing to fulfill His plan for their lives.

“We are created by our Creator,” she says. “We are so special to God. I say, ‘God, You are wiping my tears.’”

—Pat Curry is a writer based in the U.S.


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