KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
During Easter of 2019, while celebrating with some great friends from Louisiana (that we'd served with in Tanzania), an avenue opened. We were chatting about what might be next for us and our friend mentioned a former colleague that was serving in South Africa. He said he thought it lined up perfectly with our Tribe's vision and mission, and that he'd connect us if we wanted. After hearing about this we remembered when we were visiting and serving in South Africa on a vacation during our time in Tanzania 4 years prior, that God told us we'd live there someday. Maybe this was it?
A couple of emails and FaceTime sessions later, it was as if there was a big, flashing arrow pointing us toward South Africa. This was it. Every single thing that Greg & Kristin do in South Africa line up with our vision and mission. Not only does their ministry line up, but their values as leaders lined up; healthy boundaries, open communication and family before ministry. We moved to KwaZulu Natal in August of 2021, exactly 6 years after our first trip to South Africa and when God told us we'd live here one day. We love what we get to do in this beautiful nation and are so thankful for this life!
Read below for a little glimpse into what we do with First Love International!
In the past four years, in partnership with Hand of Hope, First Love has built over 80 preschools! It's not just about throwing some walls up, slapping on some paint and installing windows, though. Before building a preschool in any village, Greg and Kristin meet with the leaders and members of the community. They assess the need for a preschool, and ensure the community is ready to take the project on as their own. Every community they've built a school in plays a huge role in supporting and maintaining the school. The aim is to help communities with the desire and drive to better the lives of their children by providing a quality and safe education at an early age. The community is involved in every step of the process and really takes ownership, it's such a beautiful thing!
Another piece to this puzzle is creating a healthy community - not only through education and entrepreneurship, but with physical health as well.
First Love partners with many local and international donors to supply a healthy meal to children at several preschools and primary schools in the rural areas of KwaZulu Natal. Tons (literal tons) of food is donated to these schools to provide a warm and healthy meal so the children will be able to focus more on school work, and less on rumbly tummies. Many of these children don't receive a meal from home before school, so this program is vital to their success!
A Bible Story
We are writing a Bible Curriculum specifically geared toward children in rural areas - something that is near impossible to find on the market today!
We do this by outlining easy-to-follow Bible stories and pairing it with catchy, original songs, a memory verse, and hands on activities with supplies that are readily accessible in some of these rural communities. The curriculum is accessible and relatable to these children as they see images of Biblical characters true to what they likely looked like-more like them.
As we teach each week we're training the teachers and inviting the children to learn through play. We are teaching new concepts like how to use centers, encouraging creativity and conveying how important play is for these foundational years in education.
Accessible, relatable Bible curriculum is amazing. The book studies we do on the side are loads of fun (and so beneficial!) We want to connect, encourage and resource these teachers as they teach and form the next generation of South Africa. But, the main focus of our work centers around relationship. We're showing them what it's like to live in the hope of a life lived in relationship Jesus. We're showing them the love of our Father. We are building relationships with the teachers and the children, encouraging them to grow and thrive fully into who God made them to be.
Through every one of these programs, the deepest desire of our hearts (and Greg and Kristins) is that the love of the Father would be seen, known and felt by each person touched by a project or program of First Love International. From the children, to the staff, to the laborers, the community, the parents, the neighbors - our goal is introduce them to a Father who is always good and desires a relationship with them. We do this by living by example, building relationships, doing devotionals and chapels at schools and community meetings and giving him the glory for all he's done through us!