Espoir Center. Center for Hope. A place to call hope.
This is what we have named the center that officially opened today in DeDeur, South Africa. The center is just south of Johannesburg, southwest of my home and southeast of our new SHADE Office. It is a center that can house up to 24 students and is the location at which we will teach and develop leadership from 30 students from 13 different African countries. These students have nearly all arrived (pending a few with Visa issues), and were as excited as any us to begin today with the official opening of the Center!
This is a project that has been long awaited, and was the main purpose of SHADE’s move from Cape Town. It is a vision that has been in the works of becoming a reality for over a year, and is the pilot project of what we hope will become many more Education Training Centers throughout Africa. The next one is already being built and we are hoping it will open later this year in Lubumbashi, DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
At the Center, students will learn (and help teach, as they certainly brought skills with them!) in four major departments: Life Skills, Basic Education, Poverty Alleviation, and Spirituality and Health. They are being taught in this order on a rotating basis, each department teaching for an entire week before rotating to the next one. The course will run for 5 months, concluding at the end of June/beginning of July.
I am overseeing the Spirituality and Health Department. Fortunately, my co-facilitator, John Mitchley, is a local guy who has worked in and with the church for quite some time. He is proving to be a great resource and I look forward to getting to know him better as time goes on.
As our week to run the program does not come for several weeks, it has been an incredible blessing to sit back and watch the students and other facilitators at work. It is hard to tell who is more excited about this Center finally being up and running: the visionaries, or the students who are more than happy to be the ones to run and test out the ways this Center will be run and which programs will go well. They are eating up every piece of information they are offered, attentively taking notes that they may take home and share and teach to their communities at home. It is a positive cycle we are creating, and an exciting process to watch and be a part of.
While I am grateful to be a witness, I am perhaps even more grateful to have this time to build relationships and get to know the students better. Part of my role in overseeing the Spirituality department is to see to the health and wholeness of the students, both as a group and as individuals. I am their go-to person if they have any physical health needs (from doctor visits to prescription refills to filling the first-aid kit), and have been asked to be available if crisis hits or someone is in need of counseling. It is absolutely an overwhelming and large responsibility, but also one I could not be more excited to step into. In many ways, this is the pastoral role I have been missing and seeking, but had no idea would be coming.
This place we call Hope has certainly brought much hope to me already, and I look forward to the ways it will continue to do so in the months to come.