In January 2013, they came to LIV Durban as “Coach Chester” and “Miss Athi.” Chester, to serve our community as Sports Manager and Athi as Marketing Assistant. They slotted into village family easily, found lifelong friends, 30+ moms who adore them and almost two hundred siblings for their children, Sine and Ama.
As with many people who come to spend more than a few months on the village, Chester and Athi found themselves wearing a number of hats. They transitioned through many different roles and built relationships village-wide, also making strong connections with many of the Cottonlands community members.
2016: A Year of Change – Invited into Village Leadership
In 2016 when Tich and Joan Smith, LIV Village founders, felt God call them away from the village, they knew it was time for new leaders to rise up. Through seeking God for guidance in this matter, the answer was clear – Chester and Athi, alongside Jonathan and Carita McCririe.
Through many challenges (deaths of children on the village, loss of loved staff and volunteers, a protest against the village and our lockdown this year), the Koyanas faithfully led LIV Durban as constant sources of hope and steady direction – all in obedience to the call they heard from God eight years ago.
A New Season…
In July 2020, when South Africa’s strict lockdown began to ease (during the Covid-19 world pandemic), the Koyanas took six weeks away from the village. During this time, Chester and Athi invited God to speak into their future; for a long time, they had been sensing God was moving them into a new space, but this was obviously very difficult for them as the whole family loved being at LIV and LIV adored having them. After seeking God for peace over a way forward, the Koyanas announced that Friday 18th September 2020 would be their last day on the village. The time has come for them to move into an unknown but hopeful season; pursuing God outside the LIV Durban gates.
A long time ago, God showed Joan Smith that LIV was like a train where people would come and go, getting on and off at different points along the way. LIV is transitional, blessed by the many people we have with us in different seasons, bringing their gifts and sharing their hearts with us and our children.
With the Koyanas now moving on, it is clear that there is no replacing them. We love them dearly, and the loss is great. The LIV-children especially, have grown up knowing the Koyanas and their home’s open door as a “safe place” and a sanctuary. There is no doubt that they will be sorely missed.
We have a real confidence and a peace that Jesus has prepared them for this next season.
Tich Smith, Founder of LIV Village
When asked if they wanted to share anything about the Koyanas, Tich and Joan Smith, founders of LIV Village, said this: “It has been an incredible privilege to serve with Chester and Athi over the past eight years. A young couple together with their two children, Ama and Sine, gave up all to move on to the village and serve Jesus by serving the orphan children of our nation. Above all of this, the most wonderful thing for Joanie and I was to witness the way this couple have grown spiritually. They came on to the village knowing Jesus, but they leave the village in an intimate relationship with Him. Although it is sad for us to see them go, we are excited for them as they enter this new season of their lives as a family. We have a real confidence and a peace that Jesus has prepared them for this next season.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Author: Rachel Watts