Nurturing soulful organisations

BeSoulful founder, André Kilian, is a long-standing friend of Mergon whose life work and passion for integrating soulfulness in the workplace has played a pivotal role in nurturing the organisation’s relational culture and shaping our collective story. In this article, we asked him to speak to us about soulful organisations and their potential for true impact. These are his insights.

The Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, once wrote, ‘If you love what you do, you will do it beautifully’. We have all experienced this – that moment of ‘flow’, when passion and purpose converge, and time becomes irrelevant as we engage in work that feels somehow effortless. It’s as if there’s a synchronicity between our inner and outer worlds, and suddenly our work becomes ‘soulful’ – bearing meaning and beauty and carrying the potential for transformation.

Most of us desire to live soulfully, especially in our professional lives. The idea of giving our time and effort to something that resonates with our passions, is deeply appealing. We seek to do this kind of work alongside others who feel equally engaged and inspired to bring their true selves forward.

Sadly, however, this is not often the case in the workplace. We can frequently experience a dissonance between our true selves and the perceived or expressed expectations of others. Ego overrides what we know to be right and true, and we succumb to the pressures of performance. In this disconnect anxiety, fear, pretension and insecurity can often take root, and our interactions tend to become disingenuous.

Nevertheless, we yearn to bridge the gap between our inner and outer worlds and be a part of something that is genuine, transformative and ultimately, beautiful. In essence, we long to be a part of a soulful organisation. But what exactly do soulful organisations look like, and how do we nurture them?

Guiding questions for soulful organisations

Based on my personal insights into Zohar’s theory of spiritual intelligence, I believe soulful living involves continuously asking questions about three themes: God (purpose), ourselves (identity), and the world we live in. Naturally, soulful organisations follow this same line of thinking, shaping their purpose and culture around three fundamental questions that resonate with these principles:

      1. Purpose – why do we do what we do, and what are we a part of?
      2. Identity – who are we as an organisation, and how can we stay true to who we are while doing business?
      3. Impact – How can we make a positive difference in the world we live in?

These organisations value purpose beyond profit, recognising the importance of collective purpose for the organisation as well as the purpose of the individuals within it. Soulful leaders seek to discern the ‘why’ behind their organisation’s existence whilst considering how each contributing member’s ideals and core values are expressed and align to the organisation as a whole. As they ensure the organisation’s purpose is more than a statement on paper, but a lived experience and shared aspiration within the corporate culture, they unlock depth and meaning, and a true sense of soulful integrity within the organisation.

Pushing back the ego

According to author Frédéric Laloux, soulful organisations are those that have moved away from the hierarchical model of predict, control, and command. Instead, they see themselves as being an organism that keenly senses and creatively responds to its unique circumstances. What has catalysed this profound shift in perspective? Laloux would argue it is when its people, and particularly its leaders, learn to displace the ego, the driving force behind our motives and decision making.

He says, ‘By looking at our ego from a distance, we can suddenly see how its fears, ambitions, and desires often run our life. We can learn to minimise our need to control, to look good, to fit in. We are no longer fused with our ego, and we don’t let its fears reflexively control our lives. In the process, we make room to listen to the wisdom of other, deeper parts of ourselves. What replaces fear? A capacity to trust the abundance of life. All wisdom traditions put forward the profound truth that there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance.’

Through an abundance mindset, mistakes do not define us but inform our next steps. Rather than aiming to be ‘the best’, Simon Sinek explains in his book ‘The Infinite Game’, ‘we seek to be better every day’. Instead of focusing on winning and dominating, the emphasis shifts to persevering and personal progress in the right direction. Sinek writes, ‘The primary objective in an ‘infinite game’ is to keep playing, with the best outcome possible being that you end your turn happy with your progress in it.’

The power of relationships in soulful organisations

Relationships are the lifeblood of every organisation, a sentiment echoed by Laloux when he writes, ‘The single-most important component of any organisational culture, and of wholeness, is the quality of relationships and authenticity of conversations across your company.’ Trust unlocks a healthy relational culture where it is granted upfront, even before a track record of merit is established. In return, people are more likely to take ownership and hold themselves and one another accountable for their actions. They are inspired to bring their authentic selves to the table, recognising their unique gifts and distinct roles that, if held back, would limit the organisation’s full potential.

Soulful organisations recognise the power of collective intelligence and the beauty that emerges when diverse perspectives are woven together. By embracing this complexity and leaning into our differences, we learn to celebrate the richness of our relationships and harness their full potential.

There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as this – working alongside people whom we genuinely appreciate and respect, inviting them to be a part of our lives. People who share our passion and express it uniquely to the world around us. And above all, what could be greater than being a part of a collective purpose, an invitation to something far bigger than ourselves, where God is making himself known through us? This is the essence of true soulfulness.

BeSoulful is a consultancy that creates spaces for individuals, teams and organisations to explore how to live and work soulfully. Through a dedicated journey, André guides them in discovering what truly brings meaning to their lives and uncovering ways to live with greater authenticity and integration.

Order his book, ‘Water: Live and Lead with Integrity’ on Takealot or Amazon.

Igniting potential, transforming Africa

No segment in society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of young people. Older generations have a profound opportunity and responsibility to walk alongside this rising generation, providing encouragement, support, and investment as they embrace their God-given potential.

Across the Mergon Foundation’s South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East & North Africa portfolios, we partner with ministries who sense the responsibility and potential of investing in the next generation. Through different contextualised programmes and initiatives, these ministries share the gospel and disciple youth in creative ways, train them in practical leadership and life skills and, ultimately, play a significant role in launching young people into all God created them to be.

Says Mergon Foundation’s SA Regional Manager, Cain Matloko, ‘We greatly value our partners who are dedicated to the education, skills development and holistic wellbeing of our children and youth to help them make a successful transition to adulthood. At the heart of their programmes, they seek to provide young people with an opportunity to hear the gospel, make an informed decision to follow Jesus and learn a new life and identity in Christ.’

Mergon Foundation currently partners with more than 30 organisations that focus on youth in one or more of their programmes and initiatives. In celebration of National Youth Day, we offer you a snapshot of what some of our partners are doing to see our youth grow and flourish into their full God-given potential.

Sports Movement

It’s no secret that youth in Africa have a special passion for sport. Mergon Foundation partners with multiple ministries across sub-Saharan Africa that use sport as a way to engage and disciple youth. While many might see sport as purely physical, most of the organisations that form a part of the sports movement recognise the need to focus on all aspects of a young person’s life including the spiritual, physical, emotional and social aspects.

Says Mergon Foundation’s regional manager for sub-Saharan Africa, De Wet Spies, ‘Our partners use sport in various creative ways to connect with the youth. As an example, one of the ministries we work with aims to train 90-120 highly gifted sports and movement leaders from Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa as coaches and athletes who can use sport as a tool to share the gospel with unreached people groups in the region.’

Gold Youth Development Agency

‘We guide youth in initiating their own change – in themselves, their friends and family, and wider community, which echoes our strong belief in youth-led change across Africa,’ says gold Youth Development Agency (gold-youth) CEO Susannah Farr.

gold-youth works with youth across five African countries, taking a long-term, holistic approach to mentoring young people as they ‘call out the gold’ in them and raise them up to be leaders who positively influence their peers. gold Youth creates employment for youth between the ages of 18 and 26 – developing them as ‘facilitator interns’ who train and mentor teenage ‘peer educators’ over a four-year period. Facilitator interns help peer educators to model positive decision-making, strengthen their school academic work and positively impact their peers and communities. The alumni are part of the gold grads community for life; connected to opportunities in further education, internships, jobs and micro-businesses.

‘As Jesus did, we focus on the one, and see the impact on many. For over 15 years we have been building a lasting systemic solution that changes generations, one person, one family and one community at a time,’ says Susannah.

Echo Youth Development 

In South Africa, Echo Youth Development hosts weekly youth programmes and offers free counselling services at a number of schools across the country. They have also created a support system for vulnerable youth where young people from different cultures and walks of life live together across 13 houses, called Echo Communities. Some of these communities focus on providing a home to school-going teenagers where all their basic needs are met, while others focus on supporting youth from childcare facilities that need to make the jump into adulthood. This ‘community house’ setup allows housemates to practise the basic principles of a life of simplicity and sharing, a life that challenges the norm, yet a life that we as followers of Jesus have been called to.

Children in Christ (CIC)

Serving and discipling children in 24 sub-Saharan African countries, Children in Christ (CiC) is an African indigenous ministry that focusses on the so-called 10/40 Window, a slice of the world spanning North Africa and the Middle East. It’s within this area that access to the gospel is most restricted and children are most financially, socially and spiritually marginalised.

Over time, CiC has developed a ministry model that cultivates and boosts the organic growth of children’s clubs and discipleship groups where, through games, songs, Bible reading and discussions, children are discipled and cared for. One of the key elements is their ‘apprenticeship’ approach to leadership development. Upcoming youth and young adult leaders are given a unique learning experience to grow as future leaders and coaches by travelling with and serving alongside senior leaders in other regions and countries.

CiC’s model has had a transformative impact by casting a vision and fostering multiplication, inspiring leaders to equip, empower and unleash the untapped potential of young people. Through their model, young leaders have been sent out to serve in other regions and countries, ‘impacting their families and entire villages with the love of Christ,’ says CiC’s Jennifer Merriman.

We celebrate all our ministry partners across Africa and the Middle East as they continuously keep youth front and centre, finding innovative ways to set them on a positive future path. We commend them for thinking small and big, deep and wide – for focussing on the one but committing to changing the system from the ground up so that the world will see our young people as critical change agents and crucial contributors to our future.

A glimpse into Mergon Foundation’s funding approach

As a Foundation with a long history of partnering with impactful ministries, we have been through many learning curves. We have persistently sought the Lord and adapted the way we do things out of obedience to Him and His purposes for the Mergon Foundation. He has taken us on a journey and shaped our thinking, including our funding approach. How we show up in spaces, our posture of partnership and the focus that we place on relationships are all critical to our funding strategy.

We don’t have all the answers. There is always more to glean from those who have gone before us and those who come alongside us. Allow us to share something of our journey and thinking. Our hope is that in sharing, others will feel called and inspired towards greater Kingdom generosity.

Giving through partnership

When the Mergon Foundation was established, we used to have more of a transactional relationship with our beneficiaries where we would approve applications and provide funding where needed. Over time our perspective on partnership broadened and our understanding of the role God wants us to play shifted – we describe this as moving from being a conduit to a resource partner.

Says Mergon Foundation’s Neil Hart, ‘We want our primary vehicle of giving to be through partnership because we believe that the DNA of the Kingdom is relationships. Jesus came for us because he loved us, and we want to be funders that consider relationships in the same way.’

Naturally, the primary reason people approach us is for financial support but for us, being a resource partner speaks beyond just the money. We have realised over time that the world is a big place and money doesn’t go very far. We want to make sure that we steward our capital well and as a result, we’ve truly come to see the value of collaboration and networking. We therefore look for those multiplier-type initiatives, those networks and collaborative initiatives where the little part we play can have a much bigger (catalytic) impact.

‘At the recent Professionals in Christian Philanthropy (PCP) Conference I realised that though we were one of the smallest foundations present in terms of funding, we were one of the biggest in terms of the size of our team, or our ‘human capital’,’ Neil explains. ‘I see this as a reflection of Mergon staying true to its relational DNA. The decision to have a bigger team has allowed us to better invest in people and ministries who are passionate about seeing God’s kingdom manifest on earth. It has allowed us to have a team that is outwardly focussed – not only on the work of our ministry partners and what they need, but also on the holistic health and well-being of those ministry leaders.’

Mergon Foundation’s Healthy Leaders Journey is one such example which is specifically designed to create more support for the leaders with whom we’re partnering.

‘Over the course of a year, our partners experience a carefully curated leadership journey filled with thought-provoking spiritual conversations, rich peer engagements and wide-ranging support. Its purpose is to refresh and envision our partners for all God has for them,’ explains Neil.

‘We often see leaders doing amazing things but we’re not always aware of the tremendous burdens they carry. It’s not just the spiritual burdens that they have to carry but also the financial and emotional burdens of their family, team and the people they’re ministering to. We really want to support these leaders, love them better and make sure that we’re not just ‘funding a ministry’ but that we are actually in partnership on a much deeper level,’ says Neil.

A growing understanding of the needs in different regions

Mergon deploys funds into three regions namely South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Middle East North Africa (MENA). Initially, we had a one-size-fits-all approach, but we became more and more aware of how God is at work in his own unique ways in each region.

The first question we therefore ask is ‘God, what are You doing in this region and how can we join You?’ Each of our three regional teams asks this question and out of it has emerged three unique regional strategies.

Though each strategy is different according to the needs we identified and the role we sense God wants us to play in that region, we consider potential partners by looking through three primary lenses:

  • Do they clearly share the message of the gospel through their ministry activities?
  • Do they have discipleship programmes and activities in place to help new believers to mature as followers of Jesus?
  • Do they get people involved in healthy church communities where they can have a sense of belonging on their faith journey?

Mergon Foundation partners with organisations that focus on one or more of the abovementioned aspects because ultimately, our goal is to see God’s kingdom expand.

Closing the power gap

One of our greatest challenges is the tangible power dynamic that descends upon a room as soon as capital walks in. We’ve experienced it many times, but we want to be responsible with the influence that comes with being stewards of capital. This means that we are constantly trying to get better at laying down that power when we walk into a room to establish equal standing with our stakeholders – this happens through prayer, honesty, vulnerability and authentic relationships.

While our partnership cycle is only a three-year cycle, we know that our partners’ journeys continue long after our funding cycle has ended. Our desire is therefore simply to be faithful while we have the privilege of partnership and to see them and their Kingdom activities flourish well into the future.

Pursuing partnerships in the Horn of Africa

Ladies with babies on their back looking out on a field in the horn of Africa

Located on the easternmost part of the African mainland, the Horn of Africa includes countries like EthiopiaEritreaSomalia, and Djibouti

The region’s waters have for more than a century provided a swift and strategic naval connection between eastern Africa, the Euro-Mediterranean region and the Middle East. In fact, it is estimated that 10 to 20% of global trade transits along the Horn of Africa’s shores. The myriad of foreign stakeholders has also deeply influenced the local political and religious landscape, making the region a complex one.

Religious tension and persecution

Apart from the geo-political factors, religious tensions in the Horn of Africa make it extremely difficult to share the Good News with those who have never heard the name of Jesus. According to Joshua Project, 29.5% of people groups in Ethiopia are unreached*. This number increases exponentially when looking at neighbouring countries Eritrea (52.9%)Djibouti (63.6%), and Somalia (90.9%). Within these unreached people groups, there are little to no Christians, discipleship groups or churches. 

In some geographical pockets of the Horn of Africa where people have had the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, believers often face severe pressure, intimidation, and persecution to deter them and others from following Jesus. 

Somalia (#2), Eritrea (#4) and Ethiopia (#39) are three Horn of Africa countries that appear on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) which highlights the top 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution. The cost of following Jesus is high and persecution often takes on different forms including restrictions on religious freedom, imprisonment, societal exclusion, being denied access to education, employment and healthcare, or in many cases, death. It is truly one of the hardest places in the world to be a follower of Christ.

Yet, amidst these dark realities, the gospel is spreading across Africa. The 2022 Status of Global Christianity report reveals that Christianity is growing faster on the continent of Africa than in any other part of the world. Mergon Foundation’s relationship manager for sub-Saharan Africa, De Wet Spies, has seen this first-hand in his travels throughout the region, and more recently during a trip to the Horn of Africa. 

‘In this part of the world it’s not as straightforward as planning to do a specific number of ministry activities by a specific date,’ he says. ‘One has to have a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to, the various political and religious nuances. Our partners often face a myriad of challenges and tend to operate discreetly in a region that is very complex and sensitive. We see our role as purposefully coming alongside these leaders and organisations to resource, support and encourage them to persevere in the vision that God has called them to,’ explains De Wet.

Taking a longer view on partnership

Within the sub-Saharan Africa region, Mergon desires to see a healthy and growing expression of the body of Christ that is both deep and wide. In other words, seeing every believer getting to know Jesus better, becoming more like Him and following His example (deep), and every believer taking responsibility to finish the Great Commission (wide). This is one of the reasons the Foundation specifically aims to partner with indigenous ministries who understand their local contexts, make disciples, and provide sound biblical training as they knit new believers into the family of faith.

‘Over the years we have truly seen the value of partnership and of building authentic and trusting relationships with indigenous ministry leaders. When we work together in unity, following the Lord’s leading, He prepares the way and opens doors we could have never imagined,’ says De Wet. ‘Our partners are doing incredible work among the unreached people groups in the Horn of Africa as they make disciples and minister among women, students, prisoners and the persecuted church,’ he notes. 

Many of the Foundation’s partner ministries in the region focus on meeting the practical needs of people in unreached communities – be that through medical outreaches, drilling water wells, facilitating literacy programmes, or providing humanitarian aid. In many areas where there is hostility towards Christianity, ministries provide business training and capital for local leaders to start businesses. 

The power of prayer

‘Prayer is also a crucial need in this region and the stories that emerge as a result of persistent prayer are so encouraging,’ says De Wet. ‘One of our partners shared a story of a Christian man who would walk 10-12km every day to share the gospel in an unreached community. One day he met a man named Amadi who had fallen into severe depression. Amadi’s family feared for his life and tried everything, including sending him to the village medicine man who practised tribal spiritualism. Nothing worked. The Christian man began to pray for Amadi to which a family member responded “If Amadi gets healed, then our family will all follow your Jesus.” This sparked even more fervent prayer over a couple of weeks and indeed, Amadi was healed. When his family and the community saw his transformation, twelve of them immediately decided to become followers of Jesus!’

‘God is at work in the Horn of Africa and we want to partner with Him in what He is doing. Please join us as we pray for the unreached people groups in the region as well as for the followers of Christ – that they will remain strong in their faith and continue to share the love of Jesus which leads to freedom and life in abundance,’ concludes De Wet.

*unreached: Joshua Project defines unreached people as a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.

The Magnificent Exit – a look at leadership transitions

At some point or another, every leader goes through a leadership transition: a handoff from one senior leader to an upcoming leader or team. This is a critical moment for any organisation, which can either erode momentum or catapult an organisation into its next season of growth.

In his new book, The Magnificent Exit: Mastering the Art of Leadership Transitions, Mergon Foundation’s Neil Hart delves into the traits of exceptional leadership and successful leadership transitions, looking to Jesus, the master leader, as the ultimate example.

Having time studying Jesus’ methods and techniques for raising up leaders, and drawing from the collective wisdom of diverse leaders, he brings us seven insights into what he believes to be ‘Christ’s pattern for us to follow’. Here is an overview of the chapter entitled ‘How to raise leaders’.

Belong

‘Jesus called his disciples to a connected lifestyle,’ writes Neil. ‘He asked them to belong before he asked them to believe. “Follow me” wasn’t a statement of faith as much as it was a statement of family. Jesus’ first step in developing his leaders was cultivating belonging.’

He notes that although character is critical in leadership selection, there are many characteristics that do not tend to emerge in the normal settings of our modern-day working life. ‘For example, you may never see how someone treats their spouse or children. You may never know how they live out their faith or what they delight in when they’re running free. Prioritising quality time outside of a work setting is therefore essential to know and grow leaders.’ He encourages leaders to ask themselves, what characteristics do I look for in new leaders? What would have me trust someone implicitly?

Envision

‘Nobody follows you through the darkness unless they believe that light will eventually break through,’ writes Neil. ‘The first step to raising a leader is not to give them your vision but to fill them with a vision to which their heart can respond. If you’re trying to convince people to serve your vision, then your vision is either too small or doesn’t need another person to serve it. If your vision plays an important part in the coming of the kingdom, then others will already be prepared for it. When you cast that vision, you should see people’s eyes sparkle as they recognise that this is why they were born. This is the first step in raising a leader,’ says Neil, ‘and Jesus demonstrated it.’

Affirm

Jesus showed us that encouragement, above all, yields the best results. But, Neil notes, there’s a stark difference between flattery and encouragement: ‘Flattery is excessive or insincere praise that will most likely be used to further someone’s own interest. Encouragement, on the other hand, is not always easy. It requires us to cultivate an eye for seeing what God has placed in people and then calling that to the surface, repeatedly and tenderly.’

Jesus taught us to appreciate and nurture the power of diversity: ‘Have you thought about how diverse his team was?: Fishermen, a freedom fighter, a tax collector—each bringing an authentic expression of who they were.’ Neil reminds us that Jesus worked with these differences and shaped them to create true leaders who would eventually be martyred for that vision. He adds, ‘They learned who they were through affirmation. They connected hearts because they knew they were seen, really seen.’

Test

‘Scripture is filled with the tests God has provided—never to fail, but to strengthen,’ he writes. ‘Abraham was tested with faithfulness to trust God. This happened through many circumstances: a delayed promise, the offering of Isaac, foreigners, Lot, a beautiful wife, and the spoils of war. Joseph was tested with greatness. This happened through dreams, favouritism, slavery, prison, lustful temptations, and eventually facing his family. The list is long,’ Neil says, ‘but the point is clear: Test those leaders with whom you want to work. Test them repeatedly so that they can be shaped by the hand of God in all these circumstances. This was Jesus’ technique for separating the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’

Correct and commission

Traditional testing methods only offer two outcomes – success or failure. But Neil suggests that Jesus taught a crucial lesson beyond the test: ‘Jesus showed us that failure is not final; it is an active ingredient in our development. If we try and minimise failure, then we fail as leaders to develop people thoroughly,’ he writes. ‘We must commission our potential future leaders with work even if there’s further failure to come. When we commission up-and-coming leaders and allow them to make mistakes, we create perfect opportunities to correct them in a loving way. They will make mistakes, either then or at a later stage when the stakes will probably be much higher and the consequences far worse.’

Release

‘It’s not enough to raise leaders. We must release them,’ he writes. ‘The generosity of senior leaders is seen in how open their hands are with those they raise. Will they direct them only toward their agenda or that of the kingdom?’

Neil recalls the account of Luke 9, where Jesus sent out his commissioned disciples without cloaks or money. Then in Luke 10 he instructed them to take a moneybag and knapsack. The difference in each scenario, he notes, is that they needed to be equipped differently. ‘Of course,’ he writes, ‘the key factor for their equipping is the Holy Spirit (“Wait until you are clothed with power from on high”). Likewise, we must ensure that we don’t release leaders without proper equipping. Whether we minister the infilling of the Holy Spirit or provide finances or teams and so on, we must send them with the very best of whatever they need to succeed.’

Leave

‘When your time comes, how will you leave?’ Neil asks. ‘How will you create enough space for the next generation of leaders to thrive?’ Neil notes that so many leaders struggle to let go in fear that the next leader or leadership team will fail or do things differently.

Jesus, on the other hand, suggests that leaving is essential, and good leaders plan well for their exit:

Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

‘Here, Jesus makes it clear that these rough-hewn humans, these fishermen and zealots and tax collectors, would be able to be all that he called them to be—and now much more because of the Holy Spirit. He knew they would lead out of their authentic and unique personalities like Peter did, imperfect but passionate. Complete leaders plan to leave while they’re still leading. They do it well, and they do it with joy.’

If you would like to read  more about raising up leaders and mastering the art of leadership transitions, order your copy here.

The Magnificent Exit: Mastering the Art of Leadership Transitions is available on christianbooks.com and amazon.com as well as all major Christian bookstores in the United States.

This is Daniel Thlabathlaba’s Story of Hope

Finding the strength to start again

Every life matters, every story is worth telling – the best ones are when God tells His story through us. Stories of Hope is a collection of inspiring stories of ‘ordinary’ people whose lives have been impacted immensely through the work and care of the ministry partners of the Mergon Foundation.

This is Daniel Thlabathlaba’s Story of Hope.

There are many drivers behind homelessness, and it would be wrong to assume that it’s always issues like substance abuse, family dysfunction, mental health or criminal affiliation that lead to a person becoming homeless. Often such psychosocial factors are very well the main drivers, but Daniel Thlabathlaba has a different story of how he ended up on the street.

In the early 90s, Daniel was an influential young man in his community. He had a successful fruit and vegetable business that was supplying food to many families and events – including almost every funeral in his area. Though he wasn’t fully involved in politics at the time, he did receive benefits because of his good standing and loyal support within his community. That was until he fell out of favour with those with political influence in his town because of his refusal to support the candidate of their liking. Over time, Daniel was subtly lured into a business partnership which looked promising but, unbeknownst to him, was a form of political revenge. It wasn’t long before his business started to suffer and the bank informed him that he had no money left in his account.

Hurt and angry, Daniel ended up on the street. He decided to get out of town and make his way to Bloemfontein. ‘I gave myself to God that day, knowing that He would see what would happen to me,’ says Daniel.

Once in Bloemfontein, wondering where he was going to find food, he noticed other homeless people at the station and decided to join them. As evening came, they made their way to Towers of Hope’s soup kitchen at the Two Tower Church and invited Daniel to join them for dinner. Little did he realise that at Towers of Hope he would find a lifeline – not only physically, but also spiritually.

Towers of Hope reflects the heart of Jesus by reaching out to the poor and destitute in the city of Bloemfontein. Their programmes and projects are divided into five focus areas:

Serving

Towers of Hope serves the immediate needs of the vulnerable by providing food, clothing and basic first aid. They run a soup kitchen where 70+ people receive a basic meal every day. Those who are part of Towers of Hope’s various empowerment programmes attend lunch with staff, and food parcels are made available on a weekly basis to those who are showing that they are learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Along with monthly clothing and toiletry parcels, the ministry offers basic first aid medical service once a week during meal time.

Embracing

Vulnerable persons are welcomed into the community and invited to join church community gatherings and celebrations. Particularly on a Sunday, Towers of Hope is a home to the homeless. Through the programme, Thessa New Beginnings, the ministry also focusses on reaching out to women who are trapped in poverty, abuse, and prostitution.

Empowering

Towers of Hope instills confidence in its beneficiaries by empowering them through life- and job skills training programmes, such as the Proud Clean Bloemfontein neighbourhood clean-up initiative. This programme helps unemployed people to prepare for an official working environment by participating in cleanup and poster removal teams. The teams are contracted by sponsors and businesses to clean certain parts of the city, over and above the basic cleaning done by the local municipality. This not only allows them to earn a small stipend, but also to be nurtured in the ethos of work and taking responsibility.

Caring for the environment

One of the main values the ministry tries to instill in people is taking responsibility for the world in which we live. Through the Proud Clean Bloemfontein cleanup programme as well as public cleanup initiatives, people are contributing towards a cleaner and healthier environment.

Partnering

For community transformation to take place, partners must take hands and join resources. That’s why Towers of Hope works alongside local NGOs, churches, businesses, universities, and individuals to see their vision of hope and dignity restored.

Daniel started going to the soup kitchen regularly and joined the life skills programme where he learnt about finances, problem solving, and how to interview, to name a few.

‘Towers of Hope has been good to me and many other people that I know. They build us up gently so that we can take responsibility for our own lives. They understand that we come here broken – some of the others worse than me,’ says Daniel.

Daniel was eventually able to join the Proud Clean Bloemfontein team. ‘Being part of the Proud Clean Bloemfontein team made me happy again. It’s not a bad job, it’s all about cleaning and I love cleaning!’ he says. In addition, Daniel now also serves as a soup kitchen volunteer, handing out food to those who live on the street – hungry and destitute, just as he once was.

Stories of Hope is brought to you by the Mergon Foundation, a resource partner to ministries who expand God’s Kingdom and bring hope and restoration to communities across Africa and the Middle East.

Listen to Daniel’s full story here.