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:
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.
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.
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.
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.