Reflecting on the past 8 years as the Montessori ministry comes to a close.
– Helen Lee
‘He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’ – Mark 16:15
It is our ninth year serving children in South Africa. My sole focus was to share God’s love with underprivileged children. The first three years were the most important years of my life while serving Liyabona Montessori Preschool, and training teachers such as Wendy.
However, the condition of the people’s lives was an unimaginable paradigm, and it sparked fear in me on many occasions. This might have even been the spark for me to meet Jesus; learning to depend on Him in the deepest way.
The God I met through serving families through Liyabona Montessori was the part of God of healing and comfort. While I was working in Canada my heart went out to the children who needed special care, and God called me to love them. I then brought that calling to South Africa. To my surprise, the sheer number of children who needed urgent special care was overwhelming, and soon I started hiding saying, “God, I can’t handle this.” I was in doubt of God’s power since I myself wasn’t convinced of the power of true love.
I wasn’t dealing with a few problem children in a good environment, but instead it was the majority of the children who needed special care. I was crying out and asking Him what must be done, but He kept on telling me just to bear the day, persevere, and to depend on Him. Therefore, I tried to ask this question every day for the past 8 years, ‘How can I love the children under these circumstances?’
Baffling thing was, despite my dire attempts to hang on to God for the strength, I didn’t have joy in me. My anger and temperament towards my family was getting worse over time, and the little patience I had left in me had long but evaporated when I was in Antarctica. Abohna has become very wise through the years. I have found myself getting mad at him for no reason, and in response he would climb up a tree refusing to come down until either his dad came home, or I apologised profusely. I believe that him being courageous was God’s providence for him to endure his mother’s shortcomings.
I couldn’t understand the reason for my high stress and fatigue all the time. Come to think of it, I just plain worked hard. Then, I would get tired and work even harder again. I felt overwhelmed with all the responsibilities of loving them. When the black township children came to visit our house, I had for forcefully drag my body and soul to serve them. When they were gone, I took it out on my family.
I started to surrender to God. With daily devotion and prayer, I observed the God who was with the children. When He was leading me, I wasn’t tired, and I felt his hands touching me through the children.
As I was following, not leading or rushing, God started to make me feel joyful.
As I was growing up, I thought I had received much love from my parents. After all my parents worked hard, so I didn’t have to struggle financially at all. However, due to the busy schedules of my parents, I had to take care of things on my own. Also there was a lot of responsibility as the eldest child, which also carried great expectations as well. I wasn’t allowed to make any mistakes, otherwise I would faced much resentment and punishment. I had to pretend to be strong, and would act more responsible than my peers. I never felt free to share my feelings, or my thoughts. I thought in doing so it would make me look weak. Also, didn’t really know how to even be vulnerable in the first place.
Initially, I was attracted to Montessori Education because of the freedom that the children had in speaking
their minds, and learning through their own mistakes. As I leaned to reason, practice patience, kindness, and deal with children’s emotions such as love, jealousy, anger, and fear, I started to experience God’s character. It slowly filled my heart with joy and contentment.
The very joy and contentment were severely challenged as soon as I came to South Africa, pledging to live my life as a missionary. I struggled with an unforgiving God, and as I tried harder, Satan attacked even more fiercely. “You can’t handle it! Hypocrite! Lier! You will ruin everything, and there is nothing you can do to change that.” These barks at my concious made me shiver for the longest time.
However, my good heavenly Father didn’t let go of me, and slowly healed me with unconditional love. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7. The preschool was my church, the place where I am with Him. I couldn’t lie how I felt inside when I was at preschool, because He was with me, and He knows everything. As I got closer to Him, the ghastly image the world portrayed became conspicuous to my heart through sexually abused children and women. Then He started to lead us through the I’m Precious to Jesus Campaign.
‘Liyabona’ is a Xhosa phrase, and it means, ‘God is watching over us’. Liyabona Montessori was a place to learn and experience His love. He saw all my faults and mistakes, and yet He shone upon me. I was a sinner, but He came to me and nurtured me to serve Him in this very place. This place is my church where I spent the past 8 years learning God’s character.
God gave me the answer to the question that I never seized to ask, ‘How can I love the children under these circumstances?’ I saw Him loving the children as they were without conditions.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” – 1 Corinthians 3:11
When my husband was kidnapped by robbers in 2015, I cried out to God and He answered me. He opened Heaven’s gate and saved me despite my sins. He embraced me and told me that He loves me. Then I finally understood. I love Jesus Christ who died for me on the cross. The gift I received was salvation.
‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ – Isaiah 9:6
As I come to a close on the last 8 years of this ministry, God yet again has asked me to serve the children. Vuku-Gold Rule Families has grown to 11 families with over 20 children. It is my new task to restore the relationship with their parents, and to assist with their education. God may have been showing me His love through preschool in order for me to it to them. I will be stepping down from Liyabona Montessori where I have spent the past 8 years searching for God, while sharing Christ to them with Jung. I pray that they will be able to overcome the hardships they face ahead, and that they place their hope in Christ.
So they may hope in Christ