Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children. A lot has happened within that time. I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church. My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre. She is working part-time at a bookstore.
My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person. After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him. I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was. Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.
Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church. Mama and I were there. He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not. It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible. In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers. Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him. He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates. I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am. He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel. He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher. All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him. Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.
Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school. I was there for the ceremony. She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family. While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there. She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science. Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.
I am no longer working at the grocery store. I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it. And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy. I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings. I am in charge of a terrific group of young people. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come. The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme. I am nervous and excited. The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan. My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music. He has an incredible voice. After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.
Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat. We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order. Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School. I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job. She has the making of a leader. I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent. One of these days, I will discuss it with her.
After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave. The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone. I head back into the living-room and turn on the television. I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings. Did one of the youth forget something? I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole. It’s Nata. I quickly open the door.
She stares up at me. She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head. “Hi,” she said.
“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods. I lean against the door. I can’t get over how pretty she is. “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow. Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”
She shook her head. “No, I will be there. I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me. We don’t have to do it now or here.”
My face brightened. “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you. We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here. Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”
She nodded. “All right. Thanks, Janco. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”
She lowered her eyes. “I’m not ready to do that yet.”
“Okay,” I said. I didn’t want to push her. “It’s best to do it when you’re ready. It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now. Do you have far to go?”
“No. My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”
“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”
She raised her eyes to look at me. “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.
“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door. I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back. I closed and locked the door. “Let’s go.”
We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus. There were a couple of other people waiting there. “Do you still live alone?” she asked.
“So, you’re not married then? I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”
“No, I’m not married.”
“What about a girlfriend?”
“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived. Lousy timing. “See you tomorrow, Nata.”
“Good night, Janco.” She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.
I saw her sat beside the window and look out. She waved as the bus pulled away. I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place. I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.
Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started. I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit. Yesterday I had gotten a haircut. I looked sharp. I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church. Already, the parking lot was filling up.
As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors. I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them. At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.
Everything went exceptionally well. I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself. And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes. At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program. I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated. I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him. When we parted, we were both in tears. My mother came and whisked him away. As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata. My heart leapt in my chest. I was so happy to see her. I went over to her.
“You came,” I said. She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it. For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.
“I told you I would,” she said. “And I’m happy I did. I was truly blessed.”
“I’m thrilled to hear that. Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”
She nodded. “Sure. You look very handsome in your suit.”
I smiled. “Thank you. And you look very pretty. Let’s head on down now.”
We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation. It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer. He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes. Nata was in front of me in the line. After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down. For several minutes we were alone.
“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.
I felt my face get hot. “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.
She smiled. “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”
“No, there isn’t. Are you free this evening?”
“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”
“That sounds great.”
Just then several youth joined us. I introduced Nata to them. We had a great time, socializing. By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week. I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.
Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates. We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata. I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life. The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life. I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata. True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her. Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ. Now she is a baptized member of my church. Yes, God is good. He has turned so many lives around.
Sources: Crossroad Prison Ministries; UPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation