I remember the ladies changing as the weeks went by. The quiet ones started opening up. Cold eyes turned soft. The tears, cold hearts melting, forgiving. The distant, bored ones starting to pray with such intensity and sincerity. I was amazed at how the hard-core rebels turned out to be the big softies in the group. I remember how they started supporting each other and how groups of ladies started praying together every night before they went to bed.
I remember how God answered so many prayers: how He healed Gertrude, who could not read the words of the worship music we were projecting in the front. How God healed Stephany’s broken arm. I remember how God provided a full scholarship for Mantombi. I remember the lady who said she thought she knew it all at 57, but realised that she was “standing behind the door all these years” and now sees what life is really about.
I think the biggest realisation was how it changed me. As the weeks passed by, I started seeing more of my own fears and rebellion in the mirror of their stories. I witnessed God’s love covering and healing them unconditionally and it made me realise how close I am to more redemptive power than my brain will ever be able to comprehend. It stirred in me a longing for more of Him and less of me. His plan in lieu of mine.
In looking back to the first stretch of this new road we’ve embarked on, I guess a lot depends on your viewpoint. Nothing changed and everything changed. The rats are still here in Hillbrow and to most of these ladies their circumstances did not change… but… if you look deeper you see the new in the midst of the old, like new seedlings bursting to life in old soil. New hope. New relationships. New love. New understanding. New hearts. New eternal trajectories.
The more I think about it, the more I realise this was God’s plan from the start… His love for His precious daughters. He leaped out with both arms and embraced them with unending grace.
We came to be facilitators of a course, but really ended up being spectators of a cause. The Creator of the universe’s higher cause and what a privilege that was and will hopefully continue to be!
Alpha Hillbrow – Othandweni Ladies Shelter