Zulu drumbeat signals blessings from Norwich
Vibrant drumbeats by a Zulu warrior and the charms of the new ‘Miss Norwich’ - both of them Christians - helped pull in the crowds for an unusual Norfolk fund-raising event on Sunday (June 21) to help struggling communities, especially poor churches in rural Romania. Mike Wiltshire reports.
The annual South African Festival in Norfolk was born out of a congregation of Afrikaans-speaking members and other Christians who meet regularly at Bawburgh village, five miles west of Norwich.
‘Loving by Giving’ is the festival theme in support of churches and worthy causes in Romania and other nations – ‘to relieve poverty, build communities and give hope.’
Encouraged by their pastor and life-coach, Dr Jaco Beukes and his wife, Eldré, the inter-denominational Bawburgh church has achieved remarkable goals in providing overseas aid: in May they sent out 10-ton truckload of aid to Romania, where they also help to build churches in areas of extreme poverty and reach out in evangelistic projects.
Working alongside other churches in support of the Besom project in Norwich, (moto: ‘sweep away suffering’), the Bawburgh church has supplied 30 backpack ‘survival kits’ for urban people in need.
Attractions at the best-ever attended festival on Saturday included Zulu drum-and-dance displays by Paul (‘Mr T’) Thwala, 32, who now lives in Lowestoft, where he and his family attend St Mark’s Church. Paul works in the catering sector, but his heart is in the theatre – he also visits schools, sharing his African culture and teaching music, dance and drama.
The festival’s glamorous prize-giver was the new ‘Miss Norwich’, Cheraleigh van Zanten, aged 18, who was born in South Africa but has lived here for 14 years. Cheraleigh, a Christian who is studying veterinary medicine, won her award in May and will now go forward to the UK semi-finals of ‘Miss Earth UK’ – an international beauty pageant that supports worthy causes and improving the environment. Cheraleigh lives in Long Stratton where she and her family attend St Mary’s Church.
For seven years, Dr Jaco, who is well-trained in social care as well as theology, worked with the Norwich-based Matthew Project, which provides advice and support services for people facing drug and alcohol problems. As a life-coach, he has a strong interest in ‘inspiring and empowering people – and helping those who are hurting to find recovery in fulfilled lives.’
While Norwich has a growing number of churches with ethnic backgrounds, Dr Jaco, who now preaches in English rather than Afrikaans, adds: “We are really here in Norwich for ‘everyone’ – not just for those of us with South African backgrounds.
“Our mission of ‘Loving by Giving’ aims to inspire and mobilise Christians for practical action, hence our slogan: ‘Love in Action’. It all started with two families who were touched by all the poverty and need they saw in the world, especially in their home country, South Africa.
Pictured top are Zulu drummer and dancer, Paul Thwala, with Dr Jaco Beukes and his wife, Eldré and, above, the new ‘Miss Norwich’, Cheraleigh van Zanten, who studies veterinary medicine.