05 September, 2016
As we celebrate 20 years of Mercy House, what comes immediately to my mind is the song of Our Lady: “My soul glorifies the Lord… the almighty has done great things for me”. Yes! If we can say something about MH it is that the Lord, through these many years, has done very great things in the lives of so many people. He is the one acting and working tirelessly in MH. It is true that the Lord acts through so many people who are docile to his will. We cannot name them all without running the risk of forgetting someone. However, one person has to be named, Diana Beamish. She has been the “tool” in God’s hands to make his presence real and active in this work that is his.
Two important aspects come to mind on this occasion: the name of the house and the logo with the words that accompany it.
A book recently published bears the title: “The Name of God is Mercy.” The bible, in particular the gospels, show how true it is that God is Mercy. Jesus is the face of the Merciful God in whom we believe. Life would be impossible in a world where mercy has no place. The Gospel uses another word to express the same reality: compassion. The OT has two words to express the mercy and the love of God for humanity: rahamin and hesed. Both words are very difficult to translate into English, but let’s look at their meaning.
Rahamin, is a feminine word relating to the entrails of a human being or the womb of a woman. In this sense mercy it is something that comes from the depths, the source of life of the human being, a reality relating to God who loves humanity as a woman loves her child. When a human being suffers, God is deeply moved. Pope John Paul I, the pope who was merely 33 days in the see of Peter, once said “God is Mother.”
The other word, hesed, is a masculine word and its meaning is “loyal love,” “mercy,” a reality that expresses a relationship between two people or between God and his people. However, this alliance of loyal love is not between two equal parties. It is not like a contract between human beings, where if one fails the other has the right to revenge. In the Alliance that God establishes with his people, even if people fail, God never fails. God will always be faithful. He will be faithful for two reasons: because he loves his people and for the sake of his own name: “I am God, and not a man” (Hos. 11:9). It is love without interest, only for the sake of love itself.
In these two words we can see the presence of God, as Mother and Father. We are invited to recognize the presence of so many mothers and fathers who selflessly give time, kindness, love and care, soothing the wounds and giving hope in a better future for humanity.The logo of mercy house is the other noteworthy symbol together with the motto “Love changes everything.” Indeed the symbol and the words go together: two big and strong hands holding a wounded heart and people moving around the heart and the hands. Children, young people and adults, men and women, holding hands, helping each other, dreaming of and building a better world. Each one can see with the eyes of his or her heart how the symbol speaks to him and how beautiful the world would be if all could discover and live under the gentle and deep breeze of God’s love that surrounds our world: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This year Mercy House turns 20. The purchase of our house was a direct outcome of the genocide in Rwanda, which caused thousands of refugees to flee south, many arriving in South Africa anxious and helpless, with nothing. That was in 1994, when there were not yet any organisations to help nor places for them to stay. I, Diana Beamish, wanted to help and found them at a squatter camp on a disused ERPM mine called Angelo. It could not have been a more unsuitable place, with drunkenness, sex-for-sale, fighting as daily occurrences. The need for accommodation for the refugees was urgent. I approached the two Comboni Fathers I knew at the time, Father Jo Sandri and Father Henry. It was they who gave me the money to rent a house in 8th Avenue, Mayfair for a year. In July 1996 six refugees moved in, carrying only one plastic bag each, containing all that they possessed in this world. Because of the huge numbers in need, this house proved to be far too small, so we looked for a larger house. I could not find any organisations interested in helping, so finally my aunt, Thora Mitchell, and I put together all our savings and bought the present Mercy House. On 8 July 1996, a small group of refugees moved in. There was not even any furniture in the house, nor did we have money to buy any! This is what you call faith!
Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride of seeing the work unfolding. Our history has been simply amazing and we ask any readers interested to read up the header on our ruler bar above entitled ACHIEVEMENTS, to understand this fully, or to read a fuller account in the book entitled: Tracing the Divine. It has been an awe-inspiring and humbling journey and we praise God for what He has done through us, his instruments. May all who have helped in building this edifice be richly rewarded and blessed.
To celebrate our birthday in this the Year of Mercy, we will have a Holy Mass at Mercy House at 10.00 a.m. on public holiday, 16th December 2016 with none other than the same Comboni Father (now Bishop) Jo Sandri as our celebrant. He is delighted to be able to come. We invite all our local friends to join us in this Mass of thanksgiving, and those far away, be with us in spirit and pray many more blessings on our work.
Sami is a nine-year-old orphan from DRC. He was living with his mother, a single parent, until she died not long ago. Since then he has moved from place to place, having no stable home. Enter the mind of this little boy. The principal of the refugee school principal was concerned about his absence from school and asked us to take him in. We consider this a great privilege and will do our very best to make him feel accepted and loved.
We welcome Steven Wanyoike and Nozizwe Ndebele to our Mercy House team. Both of them are coming to Mercy House on Saturday mornings to assist our scholars with their schoolwork. Steven is managing director of Kewberg Cables in Alberton, and Noziwe is a teacher at the American school in Pretoria.
On Tuesday, the 9th of August, Women’s Day, we again had the privilege of celebrating Holy Mass at Mercy House. A good number of our Mercy House Family, those who live in and others who live out, were present. The celebrant was Father Gauthier-Malulu, a Jesuit Father from DRC, who was spending a month in South Africa to learn English. He works in the Ivory Coast, teaching Theology at the Jesuit University there. Father gave an excellent sermon (in French!) on living like a child, as described in the day’s Gospel reading. We remembered in our prayers, all our benefactors, friends and supporters, all over the world, without whose help we could not survive. We thank Father for giving of his time and sharing his spiritual richness with us. See photos.
On Friday, 5th August, our loyal friends in the UK, held a Ploughman’s Luncheon in the beautiful garden of Mick and Penny Finn in Chichester. This was to raise money for Mercy House and we hope to direct the funding towards our Education Programme for 2017. As the photos show, it was a beautiful sunny day and around 50 people attended, enjoying cheese and wine and delicious puddings. There was also a “Guess the weight of the cake” raffle and a “Bottle Tombola.” Mrs Judy McGregor had made a poster showing aspects of our work. Clearly the occasion was a joy for all. A very warm and sincere thanks to all our supporters in the UK who never tire of putting themselves out and working hard for us. We look forward to some of you visiting us one day! See photos.
On Friday, the 22nd of July, a concert was held at the Anglican Church in Bosham, West Sussex, England, to raise money for Mercy House and an orphanage in Romania. It had been arranged by the parish priest of the Anglican Church in Bosham , Father Martin Lane and Mrs Kate Phillips of Assumption Catholic Church. How encouraging that we here in South Africa and the orphans in Romania are being remembered, supported and helped, so generously, from people as far away the UK.
The choir at the concert came from as far away as Australia! Jane, daughter of Mrs Kate Phillips, recently qualified as a doctor, having studied in New South Wales, Australia. Whilst there, she joined the choir at Christ Church Cathedral. It was she who invited the choir to travel to the UK and give of their excellence at a concert in Bosham. And it all came true! We attach some photos of the concert. The young lady playing the flute, which she apparently did brilliantly, is Louise Underwood.
Mrs Judy McGregor, leader of our Mercy House Team in the UK, has described the concert as “most successful, with a good turnout and stunning voices…. the talent and gifted musicians were truly something to behold.” A good sum of money was raised which will be shared by the Romanian orphans and Mercy House. A very sincere thank you to all who were part of this magnanimous gesture, Mrs Kate Phillips, Jane, Louise, Father Martin Lane, Kathy Campbell, and of course, all the choir members. Many other unseen workers also deserve our thanks. We won’t forget your kindness and will remember you in our prayers.May you and all who supported the fund-raise
Mercy House was founded in order to help refugee orphans and young people whose lives have been disrupted by war in Africa. So we have always only helped refugees. This time, we have made an exception, since the mercy of God is for everyone!
Jabu is a young Zulu boy who lost both parents when he was quite young. He had to drop out of school in Gr 10, as there was no one to pay the fees. He stayed for a while with his sister, but when she acquired her partner this was no longer possible. When I, Diana Beamish, met him, he was sleeping on the hillside above Bienvenu and survived by begging on the corner of Mons Street and Observatory Avenue, where you will still find him. I watched him for several years as I passed and always wondered why this very fine looking young boy was not at school. I befriended him and found out about his life, to see how we could help. He started to come to Mercy House for food and managed to find a South African couple who rent a room in Bertrams, and allow him to sleep on the floor in their cooking area.
This year I asked Jabu what he would really like to do, what he is interested in. He said that he would like to do sewing. I found out about a training school in Johannesburg, called Sew Africa, where he is now enrolled for Saturday classes learning how to make trousers, skirts and jackets. We hope to go to schools and ask if we can offer his wares there in the future. We trust that other opportunities will arise. An unknown man, called Vincent, also befriended Jabu at the corner, and he too wanted to help. He has donated money for him to buy materials for his work. Likewise, he is going to ask his personal tailor to accept Jabu as an apprentice for the month of September, so that he can learn more about the trade. Another bonus is that one of our co-workers, Felicity Borland, has got Jabu a sewing machine, so life has looked up for Jabu - even his appearance has changed. He has hope and a goal and we ask our readers to pray for him. Any further progress will be reported in our next update. As I often told Jabu, God always lets down a rope!
On Wednesday 31st August our Sudanese, Felix, moved out of Mercy House to make space for others. Felix has been with us for 5 years. We met him when he was still selling wares on the pavement in the street. Since then he has completed a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Technology and got an excellent job with an American-based company which has also offered to pay for his Doctorate studies! Felix incredible tenacity of purpose, his tremendous hard work and dedication have got him to where he is today and we congratulate him for this. Go well Felix.
10 May, 2016
21 April, 2016
Felix is an orphan from Sudan who has lived at Mercy House for 5 years. He came to South Africa in 2008 and took to selling ice-creams on the street, then set up a small street stall in Pretoria. In 2011 he found his way to Mercy House, where he asked Diana for help to study medicine. This did not seem possible at the time. Felix made a deep impression, even the first time he came to us. His remarkable enthusiasm and belief in life radiated in his smile. Even though his dream seemed impossible, he never gave up on that. We introduced him to (now) Dr Emmanuel Taban, whom we had assisted with schooling and who, through the mediation of Comboni Father Jo Sandri, had been able to gain a medical degree and went on to become what he is now, a specialist physician, with his own practise. Dr Emmanuel decided to give something back: he assisted Felix with finance for a large part of his studies, not for medicine but for a degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Johannesburg. The balance of monies needed was donated by Mercy House and also gained through Felix’ s tireless searching for, and getting, part time jobs along the way.
Felix is currently completing his Master of Science Degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. On the 11 April 2016, he even started his first job with H3Africa Initiative at the Sydney Brenner Institute of Molecular Bioscience, an organization based in Johannesburg which does research on key health issues in Africa under the National Institute of Health (NIH), funded from the United States of America. Better still, his new employer has offered him a scholarship to do his doctorate (PHD), after one year of work. His employer must have been impressed with him, since, even in his very first week of work, Felix was booked to attend a conference in Senegal from 11 to 26 May 2016 in the field of the research work which he will be doing.
Mercy House is proud to have contributed to Felix’s amazing achievement, certainly due to his unbelievable determination to get to the goal of his life. His story really does prove that dreams can come true and we wish him well.
Felix has this to say to all who have helped him on his path:
First and foremost, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to T. Diana Beamish, of Mercy House, for everything she has done for me from day one till today. Indeed without Mercy House, everything would have been impossible. For all this, I am very grateful. May God bless Mercy House. Secondly, my sincere thanks go to Dr Emmanuel and family for their tireless financial support. Dr Emmanuel, you are a brother. May God bless you. Thanks also to Lawyer Neels Coertse for invaluable legal assistance with documentation. Lastly, I want to thank Mrs Gordon-Grant who has faithfully every week brought sandwiches for the students, St Richard’s Church in England who supported me financially and Saint Augustine’s Church for their support. I am grateful and will remember you all.
We restarted our English for Refugees classes at the Catholic Cathedral in mid- January this year. 15 students attended and received their certificates on 29 March.
We were anxious as to whether we would have any students for the second course, which began on 11 April. To our total amazement no less than 50 students enrolled this time! We have never had anything like this number before! The group has been divided into Beginners and Advanced and some have been rescheduled for Course 3 which will begin in July. The writing is on the wall that this project is both needed and blessed and we thank our Comboni Father Jeremias who managed to obtain funding for us for the work to continue, at least for one more year.
Easter was once again a celebration of great joy with many children and adults participating. Our thanks to Caltex for allowing us again a visit from the Easter Bunny and to the group of 4 young people who provided a most entertaining afternoon for all. See photos of bunny and children catching Easter eggs raining down from the garage roof!
This very vibrant group of young people once again provided us with a delicious lunch and fun, when they visited Mercy House during Lent. In the photo you see Marina who subsequently did a project for her university studies with Yuri, one of our Mercy House children.