We can’t keep it a secret any longer…
Today we are excited to announce the official launch of the Children’s HopeChest podcast!
“Build Relationships. Break Poverty.” is a podcast that challenges the Western perception of international poverty by elevating the voices of local leaders and processing how we can help to alleviate poverty without harming those living in vulnerable communities.
Interviews on the podcast will feature the unique voices of some of the most inspiring people leading the work in international development. You can expect a fresh, new podcast on the second Tuesday of each month! First on the podcast are Matt Gerber, HopeChest’s and Adventures in Missions’s Country Director of Eswatini, and Bheki Motsa, Senior Manager of Programs in Eswatini.
In Episode One we have a conversation with Matt Gerber, whose dream is to see his country “heal itself from within” so that Africa can provide for the needs of its own people. We had lots of fun recording this episode and dive into discussing the challenges and opportunities that Eswatini currently faces and what inspires Matt in his work.
In Episode Two Bheki candidly shares about his childhood and how he joined HopeChest staff as one of three Senior Managers. He also discusses different religions in Eswatini, and illustrates how HopeChest programs are transforming lives.
ABOUT THE HOST
Sitting in the interviewer’s seat is Rick Wright, Vice President of Marketing and Donor Relations. Rick supports and partners with the President and CEO and HopeChest board members on all major fundraising initiatives. He is also responsible for donor acquisition and retention and oversees the strategic marketing direction of the organization. In a past life, Rick was a spokesman for major Christian radio interviews, performed live on-site radio voice for inner-city ministry initiatives, and did voice over for radio television spots.
ABOUT THE GUESTS
Matt Gerber, HopeChest’s and Adventures in Mission’s Country Director, was born in South Africa and grew up in a small town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. He and his father had a successful business together, but then felt God calling him into ministry. After working with Adventures in Missions in the U.S. for a year, God called Matt’s family to move to Eswatini to work in partnership with Children’s HopeChest. Currently, he oversees all the CarePoints throughout Eswatini that feed and disciple thousands of children daily. He believes in a holistic approach with a strong focus on sustainability.
Bheki Motsa is one of three senior managers on the ground in Eswatini and oversees all programs in our partnership with Adventures in Missions. These programs include the Swazi Leadership Academy, Sports Ministry, Marketing and Media, CarePoint Development, and CarePoint Administration – including Education Development. He is one of Matt Gerber’s “right-hand staff” and carries an instrumental position in all of the growth and development of work being accomplished in Eswatini.
You can download and subscribe to “Build Relationships. Break Poverty.” here:
Or, you can read the transcripts for the podcasts below.
Interviewer: Rick Wright, VP of Marketing and Donor Relations
Interviewee: Matt Gerber, Eswatini Country Director
September 13, 2018 | Palmer Lake, CO.
Rick Wright: Can you give us a little history of Swaziland? Where Swaziland is — your passion for Swaziland? And we’re hearing rumors there’s a name change in Swazi. So if you could help us out with that a little bit?
Matt Gerber: Sure. Well, Swaziland is one of the only two kingdoms still in the world that is actually governed by a king. It was a British colony until 1968 when it got its independence from Britain. Swaziland is also a very small country, and it’s landlocked between Mozambique and South Africa, and it’s pretty much a mountain. Very small, about the size of [New] Jersey here in the States. Very hilly, very beautiful, but not a lot of resources.
Small population of just over a million and also when HIV/AIDS was in the news, Swaziland was the highest infection rate in the world and still is. Extreme poverty — 69% of the the nation goes to bed hungry at least once a week. Forty five percent is under the age of 18. The middle generation is kind of missing. So you have quite a lot of old people and then very young people, and that’s purely just because of HIV/AIDS.
Swaziland did get a name change that the king did announce at his 50th birthday. And he changed it to Eswatini — the Kingdom of Eswatini. We still use Swaziland, sometimes Eswatini. I see at our borders that the name has changed to Eswatini. But everyone still talks about Swaziland as a country in Africa, little, little, little dot.
The spiritual significance of Swaziland is that there’s a prophecy on the country that it is the pulpit of Africa. Whatever happens in Swaziland, that will flow out to the rest of Africa. That spiritual significance is one of the reasons that I actually signed up on the dotted line to lead at HopeChest and Adventures in Missions in Swaziland.
Very passive country, very non-confrontational, don’t do conflict. And that is sometimes very frustrating. But we love Swaziland. We love the children of Swaziland. And we believe that we’re making a difference there.
Rick Wright: Well, and about a year ago, I was blessed to be out there and see it firsthand — the beautiful country, the children, the impact, the love, the passion. But one of the other things you talk about is from a resource standpoint — the drought. It’s impacted the entire country. Can you talk a little bit about that? And it’s been going on for a few years now, right?
Yes. The drought has had a severe impact specifically on even us as an organization — on all our sustainability projects. Every, every one of them took a serious hit. Most of us Swazis actually lost all their cattle, which in the Swazi culture is actually their wealth, and some of the meat companies took advantage of that by buying up these cattle at next to nothing. And there’s no way for the Swazis to actually replace that wealth. So, there is still a serious shortage of cattle in Swaziland.
We are all holding our breath currently because the projections for next year is that we are going to have below average rainfall again, that makes any agricultural project that we have or that the people of Swaziland have very difficult. We’ve drilled quite a few wells in the last few years. Some of them are actually dry because of the drought and it’s just because of the water table that has fallen that much.
As soon as we get some rain, those guys will start working again, and then they run dry again. But it’s, it’s very challenging because if you look at the history of Swaziland, they are, the people of Swaziland are subsistence farmers. Industry in Swaziland, a very big percentage of the GDP, is dependent on agriculture and the effect of rain. Just before I left, I saw that the Swaziland government again is in serious cash flow problems and that is always never a good sign. There’s even talks about not paying school fees anymore for the primary school kids which would be an absolute disaster if that happens in Swaziland.
Rick Wright: You know, our partners, our sponsors, our donors — we continue to pray. But we need to continue to keep praying for what’s going on there.
Matt Gerber: Absolutely. Swaziland needs a lot of prayer. We’ve made a lot of lead and, you know, we’ve made a lot of progress specifically as an organization and the impact we have in the communities that we work in, but there’s still a lot of work. We’re not blind for the fact that we have a long way to go.
Rick Wright: Well, Matt, I know a little bit about your history, your background, your family. Tell us a little bit. You were born in South Africa, correct?
Matt Gerber: That’s correct. Little interesting fact is I was actually the biggest baby that was ever born in Mossel Bay South Africa.
Rick Wright: I’m writing that down.
Matt Gerber: I was a 14 pound, 10 ounce, little monster. My mum nearly died when she had me, but that is what it is. What is very interesting, actually, about my life is that my parents medically could not have children and they prayed and asked the Lord if he would give them children that he can have back the oldest one, which I am the oldest. And I have another brother and sister and all three of us are medical miracles.
So, I’ve been in ministry since ‘98. I grew up in a children’s home. My father was the head of the children’s home. So, looking after children is kind of in my blood. It was 140 brothers and sisters and lots of fun. After school I studied to be a CPA and started a business. I’ve always had two passions in life. I like to make profit, I like to do business, and I love to help people. And the two can go really hand-in-hand.
Rick Wright: And I watched you firsthand. You’re good with numbers. You are. You’re a unique individual, like we all are. And came out as a baby and playing rugby right away, huh? I love that. Well, tell us a little bit of how you got involved with HopeChest.
Matt Gerber: In 2004. We partnered at that stage. I was with a South African organization called A Service You Have for Christ. We partnered with Adventures in Missions in Swaziland and a organization of Bruce Wilkinson, Heart for Africa. And we did Beat the Drum Outreaches in 2004. We visited 194 high schools, showed a Hollywood movie, and it was a big call for abstinence to impact the next generation. You know, you can get HIV/AIDs. I was in charge of all the logistics and finances for that. And we actually pulled it off. It was the biggest outreach in the history of church at 2,000 participants. And because of that, after that, I got married to the most amazing wife, I know. We felt our time was over at Service for Christ. Adventures in Missions’s Seth Barnes asked me if I would be willing to come to the States and come and work at the head office.
We took him up on that. We lived in the States for a year in Gainesville, Georgia, the other third-world country, and on our way back to South Africa, or when we went back to South Africa — we actually just went back to renew our visas — and that was the first time that Adventures in Missions and Children’s HopeChest were together in Swaziland for a Vision Trip. They asked if I would come and help out just with the logistics, because it was quite a few of the more important people that were there. And in the middle of that Vision Trip, me and Kriek just looked at each other. And we didn’t even have to say anything. We just knew this is where the Lord wants us. We went to Adventures in Missions and said, “Listen, we’re going to need strong leadership here. We’re going to need drivers, pioneers, to get this off the ground and make this happen. Otherwise, we’re going to look like clowns.”
Adventures in Missions, the guys from admission, would look at it and say, “No.” I said, “Well, it’s not really your choice, because we believe this is what God wants us to do.” And so we signed on the dotted line.
I did have a lot of questions about HopeChest. I didn’t know them that well. And, coming from a background of a children’s home, I asked, you know, “How does the sponsorship work? Where’s the integrity? What is the things that makes HopeChest different from other sponsorship organizations that I had issues with?” And when I listened to the model, the Community-to-Community, the fact that we require our community to travel, all of those things just made total sense to me and it brought a lot of integrity and transparency to HopeChest. And that’s why we commit. We commit to HopeChest then and is still there. Pioneered everything in Swaziland from the ground up. We’ve grown from me and Kriek to a staff of over 100, currently.
Rick Wright: Over 100 in Swazi. Well, that might tie into my next question. When, you know, there’s so many NGOs, relief organizations, orphan relief, everybody, every nonprofit is coming in there to support kids, families. What does set us apart as you see it?
Matt Gerber: I think the thing that sets HopeChest apart, specifically in Swaziland, is that we really focus on closing the circle. We don’t just do a certain aspect of bringing a kid up or raising up a child to make a difference or be a contributing adult eventually. We support that child from the word “go” until it actually happens. I think our holistic approach is very unique, but the thing that stands out for me is that we really focus on closing the circle on poverty, as well as on an orphan care.
Rick Wright: Very well said. Yeah, I see it firsthand. You know, as a Country Director, obviously, you wear multiple hats. If there’s such a thing — a day in the the life of a Country Director in Swaziland…
Matt Gerber: I have to say… between meetings, staff management, approving expenses, and listening to people and their needs — which, we have a lot of people that will come to our office and come and ask for special help — there’s not a lot of time left. And then there’s still, you know, meetings with government and other role players and other organizations in the country.
I do have to say, I don’t get out to the CarePoints as much as I want to just because it’s, it’s sometimes crazy. And the fact that we have a staff of over 100 now, and a lot of the staff is very young. Decision making, not so easy. It’s not a glamorous job. I can tell you that.
Rick Wright: Tell us a little bit about a program or a project. You know, historically speaking, we partner with churches, groups of churches, or groups of individuals. We’re really talking to the businessman now, almost corporate America. Whether it be a large organization, medium organization, or small and they’re always saying, “I want to invest. I want to invest in Swaziland. I want to in a program, a project, or just in the country itself.” Tell us a little bit about, if I’m a CEO of a company, how can I get involved?
Matt Gerber: It’s always interesting, if you look at any third-world country, there’s lots of opportunity. There’s always opportunity for business. There’s always opportunity to help and there’s always opportunity to build. Just from my side, as as a serial entrepreneur myself, I look at the market first and then work backwards.
And in Swaziland, you know, there is definitely — on the business side — needs for services, specialized services. The problem is, for instance, mechanics in Swaziland, that’s just not honest. One of our projects that we were thinking of specifically is to open up our own workshop for vehicles. Hospitality — big need.
We always struggle with lodging, and other NGOs struggle with lodging. I think there is a humongous opportunity for opening up a guest house or lodging facilities and actually have return on investment there. Things like good restaurants — I personally think that we will eventually open up a restaurant that is a training school, where we will train some of the kids in hospitality in working with food and food hygiene. And we will train there for other places, but that will be the hub. And there’s tons of other options. And on the programming side — the bottom line is always, Rick, that if we don’t invest in individuals and raise up these young people to be grounded, character-based, full leaders… and I believe that Swaziland has unbelievable potential in aspects of leadership development in raising up people to stop giving excuses for why Swaziland is not working and actually take Swaziland and say, “Hey, we can make this work.”
Rick Wright: Well, that’s one of the things I love about you, because there’s a level of accountability. Yeah, I mean you hold these kids and everybody else accountable to, to their futures. You know, we talk about some of the obstacles, obviously with the drought. What are some of the obstacles, hurdles, that you see in Swaziland as you move forward?
Matt Gerber: I always see myself as a little bit different, you know, I don’t see obstacles. I see opportunities.
Rick Wright: I love that. As an entrepreneur speaking.
Matt Gerber: And sometimes, you know, obstacles just needs a little bit, and it becomes an opportunity. So, I mean, for us in Swaziland, I think we’ve built such an amazing name for the organization, and we are literally so well respected that we have actually just been asked by the deputy prime minister to be involved with writing the new Child Protection Act.
Rick Wright: Fantastic.
Matt Gerber: And the Child Protection Act was a big obstacle for us because the children were protected. And now this becomes an opportunity. Swaziland doesn’t have a lot of resources. We have to say that to each other.That is an obstacle. Does have a lot of fertile land but doesn’t have a lot of water. But even in that, it feels to me, is an opportunity for providing water or getting people that’s passionate about providing water involved and change the landscape of the country.
The biggest, one of the biggest, challenges I believe in Swaziland, and again opportunity in the end, is that creativity is really hard. You will see if you go to a marketplace, everyone sells the same thing. Or if somebody does something that’s successful, then everyone else copies that. So, part of that is on my side. And I forgot to say that that’s actually a big part of my day-to-day stuff is to mentor my business Leadership Academy guys and say, “Hey, let’s think outside the box.” Let’s think of what is not here or what we do have, what we can use to bring something that is not regularly available. Yeah, it’s a hard question for me to answer. As I was saying, you know, I see rather opportunity. I choose to see opportunity rather than obstacles.
Rick Wright: You’ve done such a great job, kind of on a different subject, of mentorship. I keep calling it accountability. Talk to us a little bit about your shepherds and that program and how that is impacted.
Matt Gerber: Now you’re getting close to my heart here. You know, our Swaziland Leadership Academy is our flagship program by far. The transformation that we see through this program in the participants. You cannot even put into words. I get goosebumps every time I think about it.
Rick Wright: I get goosebumps when I spend time with the shepherds.
Matt Gerber: It’s just amazing. You get these rough diamonds, and you see the potential, and we put them in this mold that we call the Swaziland Leadership Academy, and you get these unbelievably focused, energetic young people back that has an absolute desire to change the country. I love it that they talk of themselves as the SLA, the SLA movement. They’re not a program. They are a movement that is impacting the communities. They’re impacting the country. And then if you add to that the involvement of our Music Ministry and our Sports Ministry and you start connecting kids through the Swaziland Leadership Academy and the Music Ministry and the Sports Ministry to their talents. Man. It is, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s an absolute beautiful thing.
Rick Wright: It is amazing, and a beautiful thing, and I got to see it firsthand. And I saw the sports programs, and I have to have some tea. I get emotional, because I saw how those shepherds are impacting the kids. And you talk about, you know, moving, you know, passing it forward, do you see it firsthand? You’ve done such a great job and not all the kids succeed. Not all the kids get through the program.
Matt Gerber: Aye, they don’t. But, you know, that’s life. Not all of us can be bakers, not all of us can be leadership developers, not all of us can be business people. And that’s the thing. I mean, I think the biggest challenge has always been to actually connect the kids to their passion. Not to just an opportunity, but actually their passion. Because if you connect it to your passion then you are able to take a lot of slack, a lot of difficulty, and still make it happen.
Rick Wright: You know, yesterday you and I are having a little bit of a conversation about the individual and relationship. And you touched my heart. Talk to us a little bit about that. You have a passion for that. I mean sometimes we think about the community. We think about the country. But it is, it’s the individual, isn’t it?
Matt Gerber: It is. I mean, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. You know, and Swaziland’s the elephant. And we are going to change Swaziland one person at a time. There’s no quick fixes. I believe, I thoroughly believe, that we as a ministry in Swaziland is on the right track when we changed our vision: Transformed Individuals, Transforming Communities. That’s our vision now.
And so we’re focused on finding those diamonds, finding those potential leaders, and investing in them and helping them, even resourcing them so that they can really have the most, biggest possible impact on the people that are out there.
You know, when you guys sent me a question on, “Tell the story about one person.” I can’t. There’s too many. I mean that’s the thing that keeps me there. That’s the best part of my life in Swaziland is to see one of these guys step out of his or her circumstances and grow and become this influencer of people in their community. I mean, what can be better than that? Nothing. I mean, it’s just, it’s amazing.
Rick Wright: It is amazing and I tell everybody, no video, anything. You have to be there. Of course, I push because I’m always like, “Go to Swaziland with me. Let me show you what a child has become. A young adult is having an impact on the younger kids.” And I saw it. “Shepherds” is a great term. When I put my arm around a couple of shepherds, I’m like, you are a shepherd. You are absolutely a shepherd of the lambs, and they’re following you and they look up to you and you are guiding light. So again, like I say, I start to get emotional, because I saw firsthand what you’re doing. And I’m out there talking to several people about supporting, you know, the Leadership Academy as we move forward because it is. And again, you know, I get people like, “Oh, everybody’s allowed through it.” “No.” There’s accountability. There’s a level of…not everybody’s going to make it.
Matt Gerber: About the Swaziland Leadership Academy. We take 12 students a year. That’s it. We have a parallel program that’s running with the Swaziland Leadership Academy just to build a little bit more capacity called Ambassadors of Hope. They take another eight students. So, we do 20 students at the most a year. And the reason we don’t want to do more than that, is just because it’s about quality, not quantity. We want to be proud of each one of those students that goes through the programs. And we are. I mean, if you look at the impact that some of these guys have, even now after leaving the Swaziland Leadership Academy program — it is unreal. You can’t, there’s no words to describe the impact that William has on his community. I mean, that young man has the ability to mobilize this community to do great things.
Rick Wright: You know, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I heard a little of the story. Can you expand a little bit on William’s story and, you know, he is a right-hand person to you now.
Matt Gerber: He is, and there’s more. But William went through SLA. He was an amazing shepherd at Ngungwane. And even when he was a shepherd, he was kind of ahead of the curve by mobilizing the community to actually work at the CarePoint doing a garden. Um, when the CarePoint had to be moved, he mobilized the whole community to be part of that move — rebuilding the CarePoint. He got his whole community together and said, “Listen, what’s the biggest need we have?” And they said electricity and he mobilized the whole community to work and donate. And they raised the money so that every house in that community has electricity now. He is passionate about renewable energy. So he’s starting his own renewable energy business. We have 65 home states currently that have solar-power kits installed in their houses. And William was part of that. Currently, he is being trained as a videographer in our IT department. He is smart, he is grounded, and he knows where he’s going as an individual.
Rick Wright: You know, there’s a story of. I keep saying, it’s like the rock thrown into the water. We focused on an individual. Support and we encourage the individual and the waves and the impact on the community is unbelievable. There’s a true story.
Matt Gerber: William is just an example. I mean, we haven’t even told the stories of Bhutana, or Siphiwe, or Lindo, or S’dumo. Lindo is currently a part of the Sports Ministry. He led a group of young people. They designed a vest that you put over cattle so that you can see them in the dark, because that’s one of the biggest things that creates accidents in Swaziland. So they won this competition, and in October is going to California to represent Swaziland at the international conference or something.
Or S’dumo. That is the epitome of love. I mean, there’s nobody that I’ve ever seen in my life that has the ability to just love a child unconditionally and break through every wall that child has within minutes. It is unreal how God uses that young man to impact the children that he comes in contact with. He’s currently a CPC, a CarePoint Coordinator, so he visits five or six CarePoints a week. And if he gets that CarePoint, I mean, there’s a whole, it’s like a flutter that goes through our CarePoint because S’dumo is there. It’s unreal.
Rick Wright: Your passion is contagious brother. I love it. Possibly in closing, if you were to speak to the kids in Swazi, what is the message you…
Matt Gerber: It’s time for the youth of Swaziland to take up the mantle. Yes. It’s time for the youth of Swaziland to step up and raise above their circumstances. So many children are victims of their circumstances, and it’s time for the youth of Swaziland to stand up and say, “Hey, it’s time for us to be counted.” I believe that as we move forward and investing in this young people and raising up these leaders, there’s God-fearing character-based leaders that we are raising up a generation that’s going to take Swaziland to much, much higher heights. But for me the message to the youth of Swaziland is, it’s time.
Rick Wright: Well, I’m coming back to visit you. And on that note, what’s your favorite rugby team?
Matt Gerber: Currently? My rugby team is like a brother in jail. You love him, but you don’t talk about him, because they suck a little bit. But I’m a Springbok fan.
Rick Wright: I got the jersey last time I was there and I wear it proudly. It’s amazing where people will walk the streets of the States and people say they know what it is. But uh, you know, and your favorite baseball team is…
Matt Gerber: Well, I have to say, man, I’ve been watching the Rockies for the past few days and it’s a pretty good team.
Rick Wright: I love you as a friend. I love you as a brother in Christ. You’re doing amazing things, so we appreciate your time. You’ve been a blessing for us.
Matt Gerber: Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity.
Interviewer: Rick Wright, VP of Marketing and Donor Relations
Interviewee: Bheki Motsa, Senior Manager of Programs in Eswatini
September 13, 2018 | Palmer Lake, CO.
Rick Wright: Bheki, a what a blessing it is to have you with us today. Tell us a little bit about you, your background. Where’d you grow up?
Bheki Motsa: Thank you for having me here, and I’m enjoying it so far. So, I grew up in Swaziland. I’ve lived in Swaziland my whole life. So, I grew up in a little town called Lavumisa, in the southern part of Swaziland. I was raised by my grandma, because my parents got me when they were still in school. My dad was able to continue with school. My mom had to drop out of school and raised me on her own. Actually my dad kind of denied through his parents, so that he could continue with school. So, I only knew, I met my dad for the first time when I was six. So, that is why I grew up with my grandmother from my mother’s side. My mother raised me when I was still young up to maybe two years, then she had to go and look for jobs and everything like that.
So, I just grew up with my grandma. When I was growing up, one of the things that happened is that because I was staying with my grandma, there weren’t a lot of kids, so most of the time I would just spend my time alone. There was a point in time where I was asking myself, “Do I really have parents, or what?” You know? And I would even sing some songs that suggest that maybe I’m an orphan or something like that. Yeah.
So, already at five, at age five, I was looking after cattle before going to school. I started school and was in preschool when I was six or seven, and I went to grade one when I was eight. Yeah, but before that out already looking after cattle, I’ll go to the mountains and spend the whole day there just having fun. So that’s where I became more independent in life.
Rick Wright: Became independent in life. And your walk with Christ, tell us a little bit about that.
Bheki Motsa: My grandmother was a prayerful woman. I mean, she was a believer, so one of the things that she instilled in me, it’s, it’s believing in God. Believing that when you pray, then something will happen. I think that stuck in my lap because she would pray when her kids were not home. They’ll go for months or sometimes for years when there’s something wrong with them. She’ll pick it up in the spirit and then she will call us together to pray for that specific one, even to pray that they come home. And then few weeks later they will come and then share with us.
And for us as children, we’d be surprised that — wow, prayer really works. I think that’s the standard that she set within me. So, when I was doing school, just after grade eight, I started being involved in all sorts of things that young people do — teenagers do. More or less, getting into those kinds of things is the more I could feel that I’m steering away from the standard that my grandma has set in my life. Then that’s when I felt I really need to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. I pushed for that. I mean, I accepted Christ on my own after I decided that, “The kind of life that I’m living now, it’s just not good for me. And I really need Christ to help me out of it.” I wasn’t doing a lot of bad things, but I was struggling inside. That’s what helped me.
Rick Wright: You want to think about the people in our lives, the family members that have had such an impact on us and behind closed doors, praying for us. You’re a story of that. Your grandmother had a lot of impact on your life.
So, jumping ahead a little bit. HopeChest. How’d you go and get involved with HopeChest?
Bheki Motsa: I started in 2007, just volunteering as a translator for short-term missions teams. I was also doing school then. I was actually at the university studying Bachelor of Science, majoring in math and chemistry. But in my church I was very active. So, some missionaries used to come there, so during my school breaks I’d go and work with those teams who were just evangelizing, visiting hospitals, those kinds of things. Before then, I wasn’t so much exposed to ministry because I’ve been doing school… I’m going to be a scientist. When I’m in school, I don’t have time to, for people, for anything, you know?
But working with them, it exposed me to so many things that were going on around in my own community and I felt like there’s so much that I need to do to reach out to people. So, because of that impact that they are visiting me, I started doing more of visiting people and just sharing the gospel, and that kept growing. It went up until 2009. That’s when Jumbo, or Matt and Kriek, approached me and asked me if I can join the staff full time. Otherwise, before 2009, I used to, every time there’s a break, hold outgoing work with them for sometimes three months, sometimes two months, depending on how on what’s going on or what they’re doing. Yeah.
Rick Wright: Well, it was great talking to Matt and getting his passion for the shepherds and you are on the ground floor of what the shepherds program is today. Correct? What was the program called when it first started?
Bheki Motsa: There was a group of seven local staff, or Swazis, that were moving around doing discipleship. So they were called a discipleship team. We call them “D Team.” So, when I joined in 2010, I became part of that team which was called the D Team. There were already some CarePoints that they were visiting throughout the week, but when I joined there were about four new CarePoints that were going to be introduced. Then Jumbo and Kriek asked me specifically to help discipling those new CarePoints. That was Ludlati, Mpoli, Mahlabaneni, Mpaka. Those are the new CarePoints that I started discipling. At most of them, there was just nothing except bush, and the kids wasn’t used to people coming to them and sharing anything with them.
Rick Wright: And your focus was discipling the kids?
Bheki Motsa: Yes.
Rick Wright: And some of the parents were open to the gospel?
Bheki Motsa: Yes. Some of them are open, some of them didn’t know what that was about, but there wasn’t that much resistance because of the poverty levels. I think people would just accept anything that looked like it’s going to be helpful to their children.
Rick Wright: Can you tell us a little bit about the religions that are in Swazi? It’s pretty varied, isn’t it?
Bheki Motsa: Yeah. Yeah. The core one is there — that’s the traditional one. People believing in ancestors. I mean, Christianity is acceptable. It’s very acceptable all over the country, but the problem is that Swazis think “I can serve God. I can worship God. But still do my ancestor, like honor my ancestors.” And because they’re like, “No, you can’t.” If you forsake your ancestors then you are — according to them, it’s like you are forsaking your own culture, our own origin, or something like that. I mean it doesn’t make sense to them that I can be fully committed to go the believer side. My ancestors. They feel like that’s your roots.
So, that’s the big thing, but now they are other cults. We call them ZCC [Zionist Christian Church] and Jerichos. I mean, they’d believe in water spirits. And then these all kinds of Zionists, who most of them they read the Bible — I would say without understanding — and then they’ll do traditional healing and all those kinds of things.
And then of course the last few years we’ve had a lot of Muslims coming in. For a long time we didn’t have problems with the Muslims or the high faith or anything like that. It’s been the Zionists and traditional-healing-like-religions that believe in traditional healing and ancestral worship. Those were the things that have been there for a long time.
Rick Wright: But the gospel’s been getting in thanks to people like you.
Bheki Motsa: It has been getting in, and Swaziland is a free country. Unfortunately, that is allowing even the other religions too to come in, but a lot of people are bringing in the Gospel and the Gospel is preached everywhere.
Rick Wright: And that’s what HopeChest is bringing.
Bheki Motsa: Yeah, the platform is always there.
Rick Wright: So, back to the shepherds. So, you’re involved with our program, the Swazi Leadership Academy, right? Did you go through the academy?
Bheki Motsa: Yes. In 2010 I was discipling the kids at the CarePoint up until the beginning of 2011. Then in May of 2011, I went to do the leadership training for six months in South Africa, and I came back end of the year.
Then beginning of 2012 we started recruiting students for the Leadership Academy and then my role then was to mentor them. I mean I went with them to the training for eight months. I was on staff with a discipleship program in South Africa. Then 2015, the first group that was going to go to the CarePoints, I was mentoring them and then designing the program, the weekly program for them and also making sure that other than them pouring into kids at the CarePoint, they also develop spiritually and personally. That was my role.
Rick Wright: Tell us a little bit about the shepherds today.
Bheki Motsa: It’s amazing how God is helping us grow the program and the impact that is, I mean, the changes that have been happening in them and then the impact that they’ve had in their own communities. The the big thing for me, or the most amazing thing for me about the shepherds, is that when we recruit them, sometimes it feels like I wonder if this person will get in a way.
I mean, some of them are such a mess, if you can call it that way. It’s that it’s very hard for you to believe that maybe something, but over the years God has shown me that there’s nothing that is beyond His mercy and His grace and there’s nothing that is beyond his ability to transform a life. And as he has been transforming them, it has been impacting me a lot.
I mean, to believe that nobody is junk or is worth being thrown our way. God has been transforming them, and through the training that they get, especially in the first year –cause the leadership academy, it’s a three year apprenticeship. When they come back, it’s amazing how they see things differently and they just confront all the ungodly things that are going on in their own communities and even in their churches.
The life that they bring there. Because some of our churches we do worship God, but I feel like we have so much of this victim mentality that even in our approach of worshiping God, we feel like we’ve done so much wrong that, “I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve that.” But when these ones come, I mean they just sort of everything and they activate, especially the young people, so that you could see them coming on fire and young people being passionate about serving God, and standing against whatever that is not godly in their families and their communities.
So, that is so much fulfilling for me to see and so much encouraging to see in our communities because that’s how I know that this is real change. If they can change themselves first, and then give themselves to pursue God within their own communities and commit themselves to, to seeing other lives being changed. Whatever it takes to see that happen. They’re just committed to it. I mean, that just fulfills my heart.
Rick Wright: Yeah, boy, it fulfills my heart, and I think about it because one of the other aspects that I saw firsthand, and I know it’s a passion of yours, is the sports programs. Talk to me about the sports programs, soccer — football.
Uh, in America, football’s different. As I was working with some of the kids in Swazi, they were kicking around in American football. And I say, “Well, wait a minute, let me show you how to play American football.” And we had such a great time, but tell us a little bit about the impact on the kids and the community through the sports programs.
Bheki Motsa: Yeah. People everywhere in the world, they love sports. So, in Swaziland, we’re using that as a tool to reach out to them. We just, the sports program is a discipleship program, but through sports. So, we gather together, we do, and we laugh with the people out there. And then use that, that sports whether it’s soccer or whatever it is that people love and apply it into a real life situations. And then when we apply that into real life situations and then we start bringing in the gospel and bringing in the aspect of a God wanting to to change us and wanting to make us the best into what we are passionate about, which is sports.
So, it’s amazing to see the approach. For me, it’s unique, because for a long time, especially in Swaziland, people have had a negative perception toward sports, especially Christians that think it’s ungodly.
There’s so much bad habits that kids learn out there. But our approach in the program, it’s called Sports for Christ in our organization. Our approach, they come there, we do clean stuff. We talk, we don’t use bad language for anything. I mean, we are family, we are brothers and sisters. We love one another. If, if there are issues, we solve them the godly way. And it’s amazing how the kids starts to understand that, “Oh, I can still make this thing a positive thing.” Because when they’ve been loving it, especially those that are part of the church or Christians, they’ve had an issue that, ”I love this, but how can I develop myself into more into it?” Because everybody’s talking about sports and everything, but after introducing this discipleship-making tool, using sports, to just reach out to many places which typically just a normal church cannot reach out to. Because when you bring what they love, then they accept you. And then you end up bringing in the gospel and they easily accepted because you brought it through something that they are passionate about.
Rick Wright: Yeah. I guess I want to back up. You work for Matt. He’s the Country Director in Swazi. Tell us a little bit, I probably should have touched on this earlier, on your role wearing multiple hats. You do many things. Tell us your key role. What’s a normal day for you look like? There’s no such thing as a normal day.
Bheki Motsa: Yeah. My day and my role as a Senior Manager for Programs. Okay. First of all, in that role, I oversee all the programs. Under me, there are four managers who are overseeing different programs. We’ve got the Leadership Development Manager and then there are four programs under that which is SLA, music, ministry, sports and the ambassadors of hope, which is also leadership training.
Then there’s Marketing and Media — we just also added that. Then there’s the Administration and then the last one is CarePoint Development and that’s all. That’s where all the community relations and the CarePoint discipleship, I mean, the day-to -day activities at the CarePoint falls under. So, those people all report to me. Just a normal — if there’s anything like that — in normal day in my role it’s split between administrative work at the office because I do more of strategizing around the programs that we do, and also designing staff, making sure that the programs that are relevant, wherever we are presenting them and whoever is in is being impacted by the program if they have relevance.
And also I do a lot of coaching to the managers but also just to the staff in general because there’s the program side, there’s the operation side. The operations is more about implementing whatever has been designed on the program side. So, for me, I do a lot of going back and forth — coaching, making sure that the focus is more on transforming people other than just programs and projects because the heart of our ministry is changing lives. It’s not just doing programs or doing projects. So what keeps me going back and forth between the operations and the projects is making sure that we’re not taken by focusing on the projects as in just project. So, my day is split between administrative work and coaching and then a lot of meetings with the staff. With different staff members, I also do a lot of just personal coaching, or I’ll say personnel mentoring.
When people have issues, I easily see through and then push to the core of what’s the root cause of whatever problem that they’re going through and then help them to think through ways to either overcome that or to solve whatever that is. Giving them that time. I don’t solve problems for people, but I help them in the process of thinking what can be the best solution around this problem that I have. But also on their work, I help them with, especially the mentality when they’re doing stuff that is challenging. Just twisting the mentality in approaching it from a place of knowing that it this is, this can be possible, or if you cannot figure it out now, there could be more different options. So just give yourself time or reach out to different people and see. So, for me, it’s more about the positivity in approaching anything that people are doing.
So, my advising and advisory role and my mentoring role, it’s more about helping people being positive.
Rick Wright: And I come back to the sports analogy and the word that keeps coming to me is “coach.” You’re a coach, you’re a mentor. You know, you touched my heart yesterday a little bit when you started talking about CarePoints impacting communities, communities impacting CarePoints. Can you tell us a little bit about that as you see? It’s both, right?
Bheki Motsa: A CarePoint, it’s a place where kids that are considered good for nothings in the community — that’s where they go. But because of the ministry that we’re in, that’s where, that’s a place where they find hope and a place where they find God. That’s the place where they find direction for their lives. So, as that has been happening, these kids have been given a hope and they’ve been assured of their value in Christ. And as they’ve been growing in understanding that, “I’m valuable to God. I might not have parents, or I might have been rejected in life, but I’ve got value. And I can do something positive about my life.”
As they grow in that confidence, they go to their families, they go to their schools, and friends and then they, they impact those people positively just by being confident in their bright future that they have in God, and in the transformation that God is doing in their lives. That just springs a huge impact, because it changes their perception. People are like, “Wow, these people are, these kids are changing. They’re not just useless people that are going nowhere.” Or, you know, those kind of things that people think when you, you don’t have anything.
So, that has influenced the community to start valuing the CarePoint more because in the past, people, they did not care about whatever that was going on at the CarePoint. But now, it brings them more because there’s more that the kids are, I mean, in terms of the programs that the kids are doing and the projects that are happening at the CarePoints that are also a way of bringing the community on board. They find a reason now to come and work together towards improving, towards making their own community to be the best community that they can live in and they discover a lot of giftings from different people. That, “Oh, this one is gifted in this, or I’ve got this potential. I’ve got this talent.” That’s where people discover themselves.
And so the CarePoint has become a place where people are just discovering things that they’ve never thought about themselves. Whether it’s a kid or whether it’s an older person. Many parents that are impacted by the change that they’ve seen in their kids. And they would come closer. Some of them, they’ve even received Christ because of seeing the change in their kids.
Rick Wright: That’s impact. That’s it right there. I like what you were saying. Discover themselves. And then the community started to embrace. At one time they probably said “The CarePoint. What’s a CarePoint? It’s over here.” But then they’re starting to really engage.
You know, we were talking to Matt a little bit about Swazi. We talk about obstacles. We’ve got a, we’ve got this issue with a drought that we’ve been praying will end. What are some of the other obstacles you see in Swazi. When we’re trying to help orphaned kids, impoverished kids? What are some of the other obstacles that are out there?
Bheki Motsa: I think some of the biggest obstacles is I’d say the poverty mentality that is so much ingrained in the older generation, because the younger ones that are looking up to those. So that mentality, it is making people to be like to be incarcerated in a box where they feel like nothing will ever go right. And that makes them to be negative role models to the youth that is upcoming, and that is causing a lot of abuse towards children because people, they just feel like, “I don’t have this. I don’t have that. So, I’ve got an excuse to do whatever to a child, or to steal if things are not going right. I can kill.”
For me, all those things that people do to other people, it’s because of this victim mentality. Because of the poverty, the strong poverty, that people have grown up in. When you feel like, “It’s so dry around me when I’m growing up.” You feel like anything that can make me maybe get something then I will do it, even if it’s killing someone or even if it’s abusing someone or even if it’s stealing from someone. To me, that’s a big obstacle to positive development of the young upcoming generation. But with what we’re doing, we are making so much progress in shifting that mindset.
Rick Wright: Well, it’s interesting because then changing the narrative — you just said it right there. That’s the biggest obstacle. You know, donors, sponsors, all of us, we continue to pray for Swazi. And you see miracles right in front of you every day. Tell us a story of something you’ve seen recently where God’s hand — they laugh at me, but you know, my mom used to say it was a God wink. It’s like, what happened here?
Bheki Motsa: Well, one young man, his name is Buthana. He used to be a kid at the CarePoint before I joined. He was part of the Leadership Academy, SLA. But before that he was just a kid. He lost both parents, so just after finishing high school, he told us that, “I want to join this program, so please in my CarePoint I want to be the one going to the training, so that I can come back and invest in my own CarePoint.” Before joining the program he was very shy, very reserved. But as he was part of the program he just came alive and he was such an amazing leader. I mean, in whatever that is happening, he would just take the lead.
A miracle that I’ve seen out of the change that has taken place in his life is that after finishing his commitment with SLA, he’d discovered along the process that he wanted to be a nurse. So, after finishing his commitment, he applied for nursing school in January and then the school starts in August. So, between January and August, while he was waiting to hear if they’d admit him, they did admit him and then he did all the interviews. All those that have been admitted, they have to go through seven interviews with some of them are eliminated. So, he did all the interviews up until the last one. But when he did the last one, I mean they just, they never came back to him. So, what he did is he went after hearing from other people that they’ve gotten their replies, but nothing has came to him, he went there to find out and then people were just mean. Like, “If you didn’t hear anything, it means you know you haven’t been accepted.” But then he wasn’t convinced that that’s it.
He started praying about it, that, “God, this is what I want to do.” He asked if you can write a letter to the principal of the college and explain his situation. Then they said, “Yes.” So he came to me after all that, that process, and told me that, “They inquired about whether I’m accepted or not. So, I’d love to write a letter but under your name as my leader.” And so he did the draft, then had to get it edited, and then put it on our logo and then we sent it. He took it there, they gave him some numbers to call and just to find out what’s going on. But when he was doing that, it was so much HopeChest. But in the process, I mean, he started praying and just before the schools started I think week before that, it was very clear ‘cause I also tried to call and see if they are considering a letter or anything like that.
So what happened was that it was clear that I mean, there’s just no hope in this thing. But what he did, and I didn’t even know he did that, at two weeks before he started, he dedicated a week just to prayer and fasting about this whole thing. He prayed. He prayed. And on a Thursday of that week that he was praying, I didn’t know that he was praying. The principal looked through his letter and then he — because in the letter we did mention that he was part of our organization and it also talked about the things that he’s been doing for his community while he was part of the Leadership Academy. And we also indicated that as an organization we are committed to pay for his college fees. So after looking through that, he, the principal, called me and asked just to confirm if I know this person because I put my number, my contacts, in there. He said, “Do you know this person?”
I said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Tell me more about him.” Then I started explaining about him and what he has done and right there he was like, “Why didn’t you do this in the beginning of this process? Because it’s not like he wasn’t qualifying. It’s because they only take a few applicants based on what government is able to pay. And I was like, “Okay, tell him to come and get his acceptance letter by Monday.
So when I called him to tell him that, the first thing that is said, he was, “Thank you, Jesus!” And then he started praising God and I was like, “What’s going on?” And then after that he started explaining that, “I’ve been praying to God about this, and I’m so thankful that he has answered my prayer.” And then he went there. Then he started the school. What I’ve laughed about him being in that school is the influence that he has been. He has started this school, now just this August. So in his first year, few months down the line, it was clear to everyone that this is a leader. He was voted to be the Director of Spiritual Affairs for the students in that school. And this is a Roman Catholic school, so they don’t do a lot of Christianity stuff. Actually they were not allowing them to meet, to pray, and all those kinds of things. They say, “If you want to pray, you have to do it the Roman Catholic way.” But he has mobilized some ministry into that school. Meeting for prayer and also moving out into the community and helping people out there. I mean, I’ve been impressed by how he has influenced the school in terms of introducing Christianity, but, but also the miracle that it was for him to be admitted into that school. Yeah, that’s, that’s an amazing story.
Rick Wright: It’s a miracle. And he planted that seed. I mean, and look what that seed did. You’re an answer to prayer. You’re a miracle. I mean, Country Director Matt speaks so highly of you, Bheki. I mean, it’s your. We will continue to pray for you and pray for everything you’re doing. And my prayers I can come out to see you soon with a group of people, so I want to thank you for your time. It’s been a blessing to you.
Bheki Motsa: Thank you.
Rick Wright: Safe travels back, and next time we’ll play some soccer. God bless you, brother.