Norfolk family link to African mission of hope 

CentreHopeProduce450When Taverham author and speaker, Julie Prentice, was united with her long-lost half-sister in South Africa she helped cement her Christian heritage across three countries while fund raising for a “Centre of Hope” in a poor black township in the Southern Cape. Sandie Shirley reports.

 
The founder of  ‘Beauty & Belief’ handed over a massive £3,000 cheque to relative, Anna Kruger, a senior church pastor from Word and Life Ministries, Mossel Bay, to provide a centre for nutrition, well-being and Bible teaching in the Kwaqonaba township where poverty and Aids is rife.
 
Julie and Anna were united less than three years ago after learning that they shared the same biological father. Their kinship mission is bringing hope, faith and love to a struggling black community while building on their spiritual heritage.
 
 “Our late father was a South African evangelist who worked with poor Aids sufferers and our grandfather was a lay preacher in a church in Finland,” said Anna during her recent UK visit.
 
Julie, with husband Freddie and children Reece and Jade, first visited the township supported by Anna’s church near George in October 2012.
 
“People were very thin and sickly as many had Aids. They lived in awful tiny sheds with holes cut through for windows. The poverty made me feel uncomfortable and I came away heavy-hearted and prayed that I would be able to do something to help,” said the member of Soul Church, Norwich.
 
Returning home with material she bought in South Africa, Julie, a former beauty consultant, began a mission of health and well-being for the marginalised community, sewing hundreds of heart-shaped novelties and gifts to sell to friends and acquaintances together with cards and clothes that she and daughter Jade no longer wore. Julie handed over the fruits of her labours on January 12 during her sister’s visit after the Norfolk Central Christian Writers’ meeting that she leads.
 
CentreHopeCheque450Said Julie: “Since becoming a Christian I have become passionate about helping people to feel better about themselves and to encourage them to succeed and be the best they can be. When I started my ‘Beauty and Belief’ ministry in 2011, I never dreamed it would stretch to South Africa and I would be visiting family there.”
 
Talks are now in progress to acquire land to build the ‘Centre of Hope’ as a base for the non-profit making organisation, ‘Growing Hope’ which has enabled 100 families to have a small vegetable garden to grow produce from seed to boost nutrition and morale, explained Anna.
 
“There are over 100 gardens with a crèche for the working community.  The soil is not good and fertiliser is not used but the size and quantity of the vegetables is huge. The fresh produce has helped to improve skin conditions and blood counts and raise morale since parents can provide food for their children,” said Anna.
 
“The Centre of Hope will be a distribution centre for the seeds as well as a place of hope for women - mothers and grannies - who have to be strong and raise children. When you have little money and know that you are going to die of a sickness it’s wonderful to know that there is a centre where people care about you and you can chat over a cup of coffee although, ultimately, it is God who cares and who brings hope to the hopeless.
 
“This year we will also develop an infrastructure and administrative team to enlarge the successful garden project that has been pioneered by church member, Josh Davis, over the last six years,” said Anna.
 
“The vision to build the Centre of Hope in South Africa was a God-given dream and I feel so humbled and thankful that it is coming to fruition and for the speaking engagements and friends that have supported this mission,” said Julie.
 
Pictured above Anna Kruger, left, accepts a cheque for Centre of Hope from Julie and Jade Prentice. Top, produce from the Centre of Hope gardens.
 

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