Visitors Blog – Teho Yoo

Weeks before the trip to S. Africa, many doubts lingered in my head. I made excuses not to go, but soon did I realize the impact I will have for Zimele and the community of S. Africa by embarking on this trip.

I did not know what to expect and personally that is an uncomfortable feeling. Embarking on this trip to a foreign land brought fear and anxiety. Ironically, as soon as we landed in S. Africa, I felt at peace and tranquility. The weather was scorching hot, the land was occupied by luscious green pastures, and the natives were so welcoming. Prior to arriving, I built a wall to guard myself from this foreign land, but in seconds, God provided comfort and trust. I opened my heart and my eyes to the natural beauty of S. Africa. While driving to our first village, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the landscape and beauty of the land. Coming from the states, I am not use to the fresh air and abundant grass fields. This was the start of a life-changing experience.

Our journey took us to 3 villages, observed self-help groups, and to understand how the organization works within these groups and villages. I never felt so welcomed than by the residents from these villages. We arrived like rock-stars. The community opened their homes, cooked amazing food, and danced the night away. What I didn’t expect is the relationship I developed with this country and the people.

I always heard about the organization Zimele and what they stood for. And after embarking on this trip, I realized how powerful this organization is. The impact on these communities by directing and training the people to save money, create businesses, and build agriculture in the hopes of self-sustainability rather than depend on monetary donations. This enables the community to be independent, build self-esteem, confidence, and pride. Throughout this journey, I realized the community successfully saved money, but relentlessly sacrificed for the better of the community. By helping the elderly, the sick, and most importantly the children.

The last village we encountered was Mtubatuba. This village just started their savings group. As we entered the village, the women welcomed 14 foreigners with the traditional Zulu dance. We were then directed to a room to have lunch that was prepared by the women. I imagined the struggle, the despair, and hopeless nights these amazing women endured before encountering Zimele. And now they used their gifts of cooking, craftsmanship, and hospitality as a means of income.

After the welcome celebration, we took a stroll to a day-care that was occupied by 15 infants inside a small shack. 14 foreigners greeted 15 infants at the doorway. These beautiful infants were timid and glared at the unusual sight of foreigners. We looked intently at the despair of these little infants. It was an emotional encounter. The shack had no room for the children to play, no place to rest, and no toys. Not what a day-care should be. At this moment, I was overwhelmed by emotions; anger and despair and wanted to do something for the children. Then I heard whispering going around my team and overheard one infant had AIDS. As soon as I heard, a little child made its way to the door. Our team became silent and our hearts dropped.

Our journey was mostly filled with joy observing all the success and development in these communities. But our last village was totally opposite. They were less developed. Our team debriefed that night and emotions leaked through our eyes. And in our eyes we saw despair, but in the eyes of the women of the village, they saw hope and a future.

As we departed from S. Africa, the image of the despair of the children left a permanent reminder not to go back to the states and live our normal lives. Most importantly, introduce the awareness of Zimele. As the staff of Zimele in S. Africa work tirelessly, we can do our part here at the states. To improve the lives of these beautiful children. I leave you with 2 images I look at every day…
Children of S AfricaMtubatuba day-care (2)
Children of S. Africa and the Mtubatuba Day Care

– Teho Yoo






Visitors Blog – Judy Atkins

Judy Atkins“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And then I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand……”*

I started to regularly attend Metro Church on June 9, 2013 and shortly after I learned of the Zimele trip to Africa. From the very moment I heard about the trip; my heart leapt and I needed/wanted to go. I saved and saved out of every paycheck.

I remember talking about it with my girlfriend, and I couldn’t clearly say or feel what I could do to help on the trip. I felt a severe lack of ability and total inadequacy; I was quite discouraged. Still, I knew I needed and wanted to go. I could give love and that was an important gift. I’ve never been out of the country or flew across the ocean and I’ve never flown for such a long time. I was terrified and very excited at the same time. This anxiety went on every single day and night for eight solid months.

And then three weeks before the trip, the doctor’s news hit me and I crashed!  I couldn’t breathe….Literally and emotionally. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. The week before the trip was a roller-coaster….inconclusive tests implied it possibly spread.

How could I conceivably leave him? I didn’t sleep or eat and was completely torn. What was wrong with me that I could possibly entertain the thought of leaving? I sobbed uncontrollably….my husband…my very best friend….the love of my life…my partner…my blessing…

The trip was bigger than that.

…and Bruce kept urging me to go because he knew from the beginning the intense importance, which was comforting and heart-breaking at the same time.

Two days before the flight, Bruce and I finally got a consultation with the oncologist, and were told that the prognosis was good because we caught it early. God is good.

“And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace…..”*

Within two hours of landing in Africa, I burned the soles of my feet with second-degree burns, which rapidly became infected. I went into shock; I was terrified and couldn’t catch my breath again: I was in a strange country on the other side of the world in another hemisphere. I was so sick and helpless and I was 19 hours away from my husband.

I felt horrible because I was not going to be with the group. I was restricted to a chair on wheels. This wasn’t at all what I came on this trip for. I was very furious and extremely angry with myself, and very dejected and depressed. I just wanted to be with everybody and help. I was supposed to spread love and joy and assist. I wasn’t going to be doing it.

I remember thinking why was this happening to me? Our team leader came to me and told me this was no accident. God wanted me to take some time for me.

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You never failed and you won’t start now….”*

The team quickly pitched in with cheer and kindness in their care: some of the guys carried me wherever I needed to go, others brought me food and drink, and made sure I didn’t need anything, but mostly they shared their love. One of my teammates took it upon herself to stay with me round the clock and never leave my side. I was overcome and cried a lot, both inside and out. Miranda, a Zimele staff member took me to the doctor and also went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. She doted on me: preparing scrumptious meals and sitting and chatting: a gracious Angel sent from God.

“Spirit lead me when my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior…..”*

In retrospect, I saw and I felt God’s love for me in Africa, both in the beloved people and also in the restorative and serene beauty of the landscape…..and in everyone on my incredible team. A truly multi-faceted miracle was enfolding and I was a part of it.

I only missed 3 1/2 days (the first village) before I could rejoin my team.
We went to the second village, where we were greeted with miraculous hope and joy. They showered us with smiles and laughter. They were so proud and were anxious to share what they had learned and how it had impacted their lives. They showed us how they learned composting and also how they irrigate their crops. We helped them bring the cattle home at the end of the day from the fields and played with their beautiful and spirited children. We sang and some of the villagers and the team danced. We all shared a meal the villagers prepared and we all prayed together. It didn’t matter that I used crutches.

The following day, I attended a wonderful Zimele conference with my phenomenal and outstanding team. Mama Zuma, a spiritual matriarch from the first village, sought me out and enveloped me in her arms and prayed specially to Jesus for my feet to heal. Within 30 minutes I threw my crutches aside and walked! God’s miracle was flowing again. I was able to continue on to go to the third village. I was able to participate in two hikes the following two days! Praise God!

I truly met Jesus, not just once or even twice.

My feet healed and I was able to walk and even hike…and eventually after flying home, ran back into my awaiting husband’s arms.

I was hoping to meet Him through His Spirit and the Love of the villagers …and I most certainly did.
I met Him again when I felt my love for the villagers and my Zimele team, which is perpetually ongoing and will never ever leave.

“I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”*

Judy Atkins

*”Oceans (Where feet may fail)” written by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, Solomon Lighthelm

Christine Bae

Christine BaeThe moment that made the greatest impact for me in South Africa was when I was able to visit the homes of different women affected by HIV/AIDS. Through Zimele’s Home Care program, we were able to bring these women food as well as get a glimpse of their living situations. I was able to see how sickness impacted the overall atmosphere of the home and the family infrastructure, not only seeing the physical effects of the disease-stricken person, but also the emotional effects for those they were leaving behind.

I was able to pray for one woman in particular who despite her pain and paralysis, had bright eyes full of what looked like hope. Although I could not do anything to help this woman physically be heal or even take away an ounce of her discomfort or pain, I wanted her to experience healing mentally and emotionally. She had to know how precious she was in God’s eyes, how beautiful He created her to be, and how much He loved her. I remember squeezing her hand tightly and trying to pronounce the word “beautiful” in Zulu as best as I could. I repeated it over and over again, using different tones and pronouncing the syllables differently to make sure somehow she understood the message. Continue reading

Liz Shim

Last year my husband and I decided to go to South Africa to get a better understanding of what Zimele was about. By the end of my trip I was amazed at its widespread impact in multiple communities, the integration and organization of the program, as well as the fruitful transformations that Zimele has facilitated in the lives of the women involved. Through the life skills courses, savings groups, craft and agricultural programs, day care centers, and computer courses that we were able to visit, it was clear that many women were proudly standing on their own two feet. The practical training, encouragement and support that they receive from Zimele results in true life change that will benefit not only the women involved, but their neighbors, the communities they live in, their children and generations to follow. Continue reading

Tony Yang

The heart of the trip was to visit the village of Swayimani in the province of KwaZulu Natal and teach the Zulu women trade skills to establish better living conditions and sustain their own economy. We came as the Zimele team. Each team member would teach finance, another fashion, baking, medical, daycare, and I taught photography and computers. The skills they learn would help improve their quality of life, and even help them grow or start their own business. Zimele does not give hand outs, instead, they encourage each adult to find a way to generate and save money as a community.

I was assigned to teach two classes a day for three days. Each class had just over a dozen women, eager to learn. While their native language was Zulu, some spoke broken English and we had a translator in each class. The women were donated a handful of new digital compact cameras, yet they’ve never held one before. It was amusing to watch them fiddle with the devices, and humbling to watch their eyes light up when they were able to take their own photos for the very first time. One of the youngest students had the greatest potential, as she immediately grasped the concept of composition and light/shadow. Once I assigned homework for them, the women spent the rest of the day taking photos of everything. This was by far the most rewarding lesson I have ever given anybody. Continue reading

Sarah Choi

I cannot put into words how AMAZING the trip was.
I could have not asked for a better group of broken people who came together, bonded, and became a team through God’s love. I have to say it was very emotional for all of us and truly life changing. It really made me reevaluate my life.
I miss the pure joy and happiness that I have experienced there. This trip has made me want less. It has humbled me. I’m realizing that I’m just getting started.
I learned that less is definitely more and all the materialistic things in the world could not buy half the amount of happiness i felt in South Africa. God has softened my heart on this trip. I’m excited to see what else God has in store for me and what my next step will be.

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