Entering through the gate I felt like I was coming home. I was to be one of seventeen that pioneered the first year of LIV’s gap year programme, LIV4Change. My housemates instantly became family. Lying in bed talking with my roommate about what God had in store for each of us, I realised that this was an appointment that set in motion one of many special friendships I developed over my six months at LIV.
We worked together all across village life. Whether working in the factory or farming, school or sports, we got stuck in as a team learning valuable team skills and people skills. We had three teaching sessions a week, Zulu lessons with some of the village mums and got to spend precious time with the children playing games amongst the houses, in the common rooms and jungle gyms.
A personal favourite part of the week was working in ‘Promise Land’, the kids’ ministry. With over 100 of the 160 kids under the age of 12, Promise Land was a ministry unlike I’ve ever seen. We became part of a dedicated team joining with preparation and helping run activities even dressing as Bible explorers and characters as we got involved with the drama skits on Sundays.
A memorable moment was when I chatted to a 10 year old boy about how much God loves us during an activity. I remembered Psalm 139 a friend once showed me. Unsure of the boy’s Bible knowledge, I opened the Bible to show him before he excited began to recite half the psalm from memory! I felt inspired to learn more about the Bible and the great saviour it tells of. It was just one of the special humbling moments with the children we had daily.
My well meaning but naïve intentions of ‘going to help the children in Africa’ quickly vanished as I soon realised I learned far more from them more than I could possibly have given. I sat on a rock and wept After dinner at the house of one of the village mums as I recalled her story and those of two of her adopted children that had once been orphaned. The sadness however quickly passed as I stared up at the illuminated 40 foot cross that stands at the centre of the village for all to see. I saw instead a story of redemption as they now have a hope for the future by the love of God. I feel privileged to have been able to have spent six months learning from these children and their mothers.
We were also a part of LIV’s outreach into the impoverished township of Cottonlands where LIV is situated. We went to the Primary school doing re-enactments of Bible stories – parting a ‘Red Sea’ of school kids, slaying Goliath and the like – developing my confidence in front of a crowd as well as getting the opportunity to tell these children openly about the love of Jesus.
At LIV I entered a unique community of believers who are sold out for living the life; I have never met a group of individuals so committed to the cause of the kingdom. Friendships flourished as we worked together, lived together and did life as family. Amongst friends I found mentors and role models. Meanwhile my programme leaders shaped me as I followed their Christ like examples. Amongst the highs, we were able to get into the nitty gritty; as housemates we moulded each other. I grew up.
LIV Village is a unique place that sees God’s unwavering hand move mightily on a daily basis. I have found the gospel in action to be utterly compelling. LIV stands true to its motto: Rescue a child. Restore a life. Raise a leader. Release as a star. I too have been rescued, restored, raised and released. Would I recommend it? Most certainly.
By Sammy Hepper