We celebrate the actions of those who bear the fruit of their preparation through their relationship to Christ in these difficult times….
Published on: 08-01-2020
On March 25, 2020, everything was locked down in South Africa, everything except food stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. The economy ground to a halt. Family members were separated, income vanished, churches closed their doors. Members of the military patrolled streets to enforce the restrictions.
Toward the end of 2019, Juba Khuzwayo, a young Adventist professional, had been invited to become national director of Meals on Wheels Community Services, South Africa (MOWCS SA). MOWCS SA, a nonprofit organization, is Adventist-owned and operated. MOWCS SA began through the efforts of an Adventist pastor, Dennis Baird, in 1964, mainly to serve seniors and those who are housebound. During a typical year, with its 182 branches countrywide, MOWCS SA serves 31 million meals, providing food security for the country’s most vulnerable population groups. There are 700 service points (kitchens) and 1,400 volunteers, in addition to dedicated paid staff, doing all this as well as other farming and developmental projects.
Juba had not even finished the first quarter of 2020 at MOWCS SA when the lockdown happened. Suddenly, she and her team at Meals on Wheels were faced with one impossible decision after another. All branches had to first apply for operation status before continuing to operate. Their capacity suddenly shrunk to 66 of 182 branches. Many of those were supplying only food parcels now, instead of cooked meals, as food queues constituted mass gatherings. Many service points are run by elderly volunteers, and their health and safety had to be considered. Branch managers had to decide whether to have their staff face the risks or close the branch.
On April 1, the board met virtually to support the bold decision to meet the main purpose of the organization: to provide food security to the most vulnerable in South Africa. Despite crippling circumstances, MOWCS SA served more than 1 million meals and distributed more than 23,000 food parcels during the first quarter of 2020. As of June 5, those figures have risen to 2,329,415 meals served and 61,507 food parcels distributed.
If Juba had known what was coming, would she have taken the job? Her decision was a spiritual one—one she had prepared for all her life, through all her years at Adventist schools, with the help of her prayer-warrior mother, driven by the love of Christ and her desire to serve others. Christ called her for such a time as this. “The Branches feared the risk of infection because the need superseded the fear. They wore the masks, washed hands, but trusted God, not the PPEs,” she said.
It’s hard to develop potential in a time of crisis. But we celebrate the actions of those who bear the fruit of their preparation through their relationship to Christ in these difficult times, whether it’s serving through one small, thoughtful act every day or in statistically more impactful ways. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do it for Jesus.