He is a simple man, with no money to call his own. His house is a small round hut in the middle of barren ground, with a few clucking chickens and peeps trying to find grain and worms to eat. I hope these chickens are patient because I don’t see anything worth eating around here! His wife is inside the hut, surrounded by a cloud of smoke as she cooks a mixture of peanuts, round nuts and beans in water with a bit of salt. They cook for a long time to get to a point where they can be eaten and when she is done, she places the single pot to the side, waiting for her visitors to come visit.
He brings us to the hut to greet his wife and lets her know quickly that we’ll be back after a few hours – we are off to visit some of the beneficiary families who received livestock in 2012 and 2013. I don’t understand what they are saying to each other, but I listen anyway because it is beautiful , the sound of this language. I like guessing when I’ll hear the click, pop or drag of back teeth that makes N’debele come to life. When they are done planning, we start our day.
He talks to each of the beneficiary families in a gentle way – teaching, showing, pointing out, encouraging. He proudly shows us the animals these families are raising and smiles as he indicates healthy ones who are producing milk for the children and who are producing kids for the families. His baggy clothes almost fall off of him as he walks on, re-introducing us to families and showing off how well the project is going.
Between visits, I ask him about himself. He is a pastor but receives no compensation for the church he serves. Yet, here he is, a volunteer who works an average of four hours per day, helping orphans throughout his village. He walks from home to home, visiting the elderly who care for the children. He visits each and every one of his 45 families to make sure that the animals and people are healthy and growing. Why does he do this, I ask.
His answer is simple: my heart hurts when I see them suffering and I know I should do something to ease their pain. This project allows me to do that and I am happy to give my time to help the orphans and the elderly.
I ask if he gets paid to do this work and he smiles and says no. He tells me that his payment is the satisfaction of helping others. When asked, “how do you eat?” he shows me his garden and points to his chickens. I find out later that other families also partake from the garden’s harvest, as he and his wife share even that.
We make our way back to his hut and sure enough, plates of a mixture of boiled salted peanuts, round nuts and beans are given to us. As I chew and chew and chew, I realize that I have seen beauty in people before but sometimes, it appears in such pure form that it leaves me without adequate words to express it. Here is a poor man and his wife by the world’s standards. Yet, he gives more than anyone I’ve met. I am humbled and I hope I am changed.