In Chatsworth, South Africa, you’ll find a battle raging. Stories won’t saturate CNN or FOX News, and images from the war won’t inundate your social media accounts.
It’s a quiet war.
It’s waged behind closed doors, in the depths of the night, and in the pulsating blood of individual residents. Death is fighting life. Good is fighting evil. Darkness is fighting light.
In 1950, while apartheid reigned in South Africa, the Group Areas Act–a law which separated all ethnic groups–was passed. This law forcibly uprooted Indians from areas such as Mayville, Cato Manor, and Clairwood, and relocated them to Chatsworth. Chatsworth was officially opened in 1964 and was intentionally established as a barrier between the designated “white residential areas” and the township of Umlazi. Today Chatsworth is home to a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds, though the township remains predominantly Indian.
South Africa has made substantial strides in desegregation and economic growth since the days of apartheid, but the country wrestles with a darkness, an evil underneath the surface–a war.
According to UNAIDS Gap Report 2014, over 19% of the adult population of South Africa has HIV. The stigmas that are often associated with HIV/AIDS continue to affect those living in South Africa, as HIV patients are ostracized from family and friends, and routinely denied medical care or education.
When stigmas and prejudices persist, long-standing misinformation and lies flourish, leaving many to believe old mysticisms, such as the notion that sex with a virgin will cure an HIV-infected person. Beliefs like these, with deep, ugly roots continue to tear apart communities, towns, and countries, while robbing young women, children, and even babies–yes, babies–of their innocence.
Thus, young women, children, and babies are being condemned to a painful life marred by the effects of HIV. Many will never have romantic relationships or families of their own, as they will now forever be viewed as unworthy and not enough.
In the depths of this brokenness, Christian Life Center is offering safety, care, and the promise of hope. The campus includes homes that house six to eight children at a time, a church, a bakery, and a sewing facility. At the center, children are cared for wholistically (spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally), and often taught a new trade, such as baking or sewing.
Zama came to Christian Life Center as a teenage girl with an HIV diagnosis. Like many of the children within the community, her story is filled with brokenness, but instead of facing homelessness or a life of prostitution, she has found a place of shelter within this community.
By societal standards, Zama has nothing left to offer this world. She cannot have children, and the disease has taken a substantial toll on her young body. Society says she is not enough.
But, at Christian Life Center, she is told a different story. She has found a home, a purpose, and a family. Having aged out of the program, Zama now serves alongside the staff at the center. Despite her disease, Zama has a sweet demeanor, and she works hard to help care for other orphaned children living on the campus.
Here she is told that she is enough. She may have scars and she may come from a broken past, but she has not been turned away, and she is not the object of degradation and shame.
Christian Life Center exists to not only rescue and rehabilitate children, but to tell these children a different story about themselves. They are more than their pasts, their diseases, their weaknesses, or their inabilities.
The war will wage on in South Africa, yet as the silent bullets fly, the men, women, and church of Christian Life Center will stand to fight for the good. They stand to tell orphaned children a new story of hope and a future in Christ. They stand to tell women like Zama that they are enough.