Finding Connections a Continent Away

Resident Jim Van Dalfsen recently visited residents of a squatter’s camp in Kayamandi, South Africa

Guest column

By Jim Van Dalfsen, Special to the Independent


We were in the squatter’s camp of Kayamandi, South Africa, to build our third orphan home with an organization that I have been involved in for the past five years, Tapestry Homes.  It was child sponsorship day.

This was the day that we had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with the child that we sponsored and give them a few gifts. I was nervous because I had not seen Lisakanya for three years and he would be 6 years old now, much more “grown up” since I had seen him last.

My fears were gone as soon as I saw him.  He was as excited to see me as I was to see him.  Our eyes met across the room of children and moms.  He pointed me out to his mom immediately and was all smiles. Me too. Even though we did not speak the same language, we had a great time together.

Kayamandi, South Africa

I walked Lisakanya and his mom Tabitha out to the main gate at the Kuyasa learning center and said goodbye.  I was walking back when I ran into a group that was just about to leave on the last photo legacy walk of our trip.   The purpose of the photo legacy project is to take photographs of family members who have AIDS and are not expected to live.  These photos may be the only remembrance of that family member that their children may ever have. They asked if I would like to go with them.   I had not yet had an opportunity to go on one of these walks and was excited to be included.  Because of the timing of all our other activities, I didn’t think that I would be able to participate on this trip.  As it turned out, it was the “highlight” of my trip and a real “God moment” for me.

We wound our way through the narrow alleys of Kayamandi and made our first stop.  Our mission was to pray for healing for someone in the house and take their photograph.  These stops had all been scheduled by the Kuyasa staff and led by Tapestry Homes house mothers.

We went into this shack which would be the size of one of our small bedrooms here in the USA and met a woman named Patricia and her daughter Inga. Patricia’s face was sunken in and she was very thin.  She obviously had “the sickness”; they tend not to call it by its real name – AIDS.  We prayed for her and took a photo of her and her daughter together, which we would bring back the next day.  This photo may be the only lasting remembrance that Inga would have of her mother after she was gone.

Jim Van Dalfsen spots a photo of his sister on a refrigerator in South Africa.

When we finished praying, I stood up and noticed a photo of Inga hung on a cupboard door.  She was dressed in a cap and gown and I asked if this was a graduation photo of her and she said yes.  I glanced to the left of her photo and noticed another small photo.  My mouth dropped open and I was speechless. It was a photo of my sister!  Above my sister’s photo was a photo of my nephew and his wife and family!  It turned out that Inga is the child that my sister is sponsoring!  Out of the thousands of shacks in Kayamandi, we had gone to this specific shack to pray with these specific people.  This was obviously a “God thing”.

As I reflected on what this meant, I decided that it was probably God saying to me….”Relax, don’t worry, stop trying to figure things out, and here is a little message from me to you to let you know that I am here and that I hear your prayers and those of your team”.

By the way, if you sponsor one of these children, your child sponsorship dollars do go to these children and it does make a huge difference in their lives.  As I have come to learn, you may not be able to fix Africa, but you sure can make a difference in one life at a time.  By the way, Lisakanya…….he’s going to be President of South Africa someday.

The Indy went to South Africa, too.

You can find out more about these organizations at    http://www.threadsafrica.org/    also   http://tapestryhomes.org/


Jim Van Delfsen is a Laguna Beach resident.

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