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The harsh reality behind the glamour
The ladies of the night. What a charming euphemism to describe the women in the world’s oldest profession, hinting at glamour and romance. But the reality of prostitution is sad – and sordid.
So what was I, Major Carin Holmes, doing mingling with these women on this dark, cold night of May 1? I had joined Major Margaret Stafford of our Port Elizabeth Central Corps (church) and two volunteers on their traditional first-Friday-of-the-month walkabout in PE’s sleaziest streets, reaching out to these unfortunate women to show our love and support. We were also rubbing shoulders with pimps, drug runners, hoboes and other lost souls many would write off as ‘derelicts’. What an eyeopening experience!
Not surprisingly, Major Margaret and her band of volunteers are a familiar sight among the dark and shadowy figures. Once again we met and mixed with them, listening to their stories and encouraging them to unburden their pain. For they are, indeed, in pain – emotional and frequently physical. For those who use their services can be vicious.
Our church is in the heart of this area, where the nightlife is dynamic. Up the road are numerous ‘straight’ bars, a gay bar, an ‘adult world’, and the Red Door, a gentlemen’s lounge. The smells are amazing as the little spaza shops compete with the mielie braaiers and the fruit sellers.
The tantalizing aroma of coffee soon attracts passers-by to the church grounds where a group of young volunteers has assembled to play gospel music. Old and young stop for a coffee and a chat.
Our little band of four has not come empty-handed. We have a bag filled with hand-knitted scarves, and another filled with small gifts (like hand cream or soap), each with a hand-written note expressing God’s love for the recipient. The gifts are a great ice-breaker when we introduce ourselves to the ‘Ladies’ and ask if we may pray with them and hear their stories.
Throughout our ramble in a ten-block radius from the church, we meet many of the 20 women whose beat this is. Sarah* (28) has been on the streets for two months, forced into prostitution because the father of her two-year-old is in jail and she knows no other way to support her family. Lindi*(30) is an accountant but can’t find a job. Like the others, Precious* (28) fervently wishes for other employment.
And so the night progresses. Some women welcome us with open arms, like old friends – which we are. All welcome the gifts, quickly donning
the scarves to prevent the wind’s bite. When Thandi* thanks us and says: “I’m happy tonight. This gift makes me feel special.” she echoes the others’ thoughts.
A beautiful woman, Christine* (25) is on the streets because she knows no other way to support her two kids. In tears she asks: “What do you do when your landlord sees you have things for your children so demand more money? I want a way out – please help me?” We give her a number to phone and leave her with hope in her heart.
Given with God’s love, a small gift to make a girl feel good.
Anna’s* face betrays many of her 44 years on the streets, while Priscilla* (24) a matriculant who was attracted to the ‘easy money’ now also finds it difficult to leave. We tell her about Syasebenza (a learn-to-work programme) in Walmer and she promises to go there.
Erica* looks much younger than her claimed 24 years. She also looks scared and finds it difficult to talk to us.
All our chats with these women end in prayer as, with heads bowed, we’re watched by the local drug runners, ‘pimps’ and other flotsam. And all the ladies are invited to attend our Sunday services.
I’m amazed to see a sign advertising a crèche that’s open 24 hours a day. It’s for children from six months to six years of moms who work the night and collect them in the morning.
As we walk back to the church Major Margaret makes a profound comment. “For R100 these brave ladies lose their souls again and again. And every one we speak to says she’d leave if she had the chance. These are certainly brave, humble, strong, broken ladies with whom we have the privilege of praying and sharing a little of God’s love for the unloved.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
MEET OUR NEW TERRITORIAL COMMANDER
Colonel Keith Conrad, who was appointed South Africa’s new Territorial Commander on August 1, 2015, brings to the post a wealth of experience and a commanding spiritual aura that reflects a lifetime of commitment.
Our new Territorial Commander, Colonel Keith Conrad and his wife Colonel Yvonne Conrad
The eldest of six children – three boys, three girls – he was born into a Cape Town Methodist home. Even as a young boy he felt a strong spiritual attraction to Christianity. When just nine years old, attending The Salvation Army Matroosfonteion Corp in the Western Cape while on holiday with his aunt and uncle, he accepted Jesus into his heart. (His aunt and uncle were Envoys.) “That first Sunday was the beginning of a wonderful journey into a new life with God and The Salvation Army,” the Colonel recalls.
An even earlier memory, from when he was about six, is of missionaries visiting door to door and distributing pocket-sized Gideon Bibles, which is how he got his first very own Bible. His parents’ open doors led to the Gideonites holding out-reaches Sunday school in their home.
Hearing his uncle preach imbued the young Keith Conrad with the same urge to be a preacher and serve the Lord as his aunt and uncle did. Over the years, if ever he doubted that he was in the right vocation, and through all the struggles of life as a young officer, God always reminds him of his encounter with the Lord that Sunday morning.
Life as a schoolboy was not easy since his final year involved the intensive and traumatic time of ‘the struggle’. During school boycotts, which were endemic, young Keith worked as a volunteer at The Salvation Army Men’s Metropole in Cape Town, where his uncle and aunt were the Administrators. “I remember we had to watch the newspapers to see when we were going back to school,” he recalls. Leaving school, he worked for the Cape Times for six years, prior to entering into the College for Officer Training.
The Matroosfontein Corps also played a role in the Colonel’s romantic life, for it was here he met his wife, Yvonne. They’ve now been married for 31 years, have a son in Cape Town and a daughter living in New Zealand with her husband, and are proud grand parents of two beautiful children, Conrad – who’ll turn two in October, and Brooklyn who’ll be a year old in September.
The Conrads love the outdoors, enjoying scenic drives when the opportunity arises and the Colonel enjoys reading.
“My wife and I have held many and varied appointments, serving God through The Salvation Army, which have stretched and broadened our world view of the organisation, globally. We spent a lot of time in the Cape – and even enjoyed a stint in New Zealand with the International Service. “I don’t think there’s a job in The Salvation Army that either Yvonne or I haven’t been privileged to hold,” he states with awe.
Asked about his vision for The Salvation Army in South Africa, without hesitation the Colonel says this is encapsulated in the Territorial Strategic Plan’s 1-3-5! “I believe The Salvation Army has what it takes to bring transformation to the communities where we are located, and both these communities and the country at large, are presenting to us countless opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose.”
Inhuman hold-up at baby sanctuary
What kind of human can rob a sanctuary for abandoned babies? This is what every civilised person is asking after the unholy attack by a gang of four on our cherished
Ethembeni home in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, on April 23.
The brutality was not confined to robbery. The primitive savagery extended to further traumatising the carers by holding guns to their heads while forcing them to open up areas to ransack and rob. Shattering the peace of an autumn dusk, the frightening drama dragged on for almost three-quarters of an hour.
The criminals made off with cash, jewellery, cell phones, cameras and laptops belonging to the home and its staff. “It’s difficult to comprehend the inhumanity of people who strike a place of caring for helpless little babies who have been abandoned,” commented Major Carin Holmes, PR Secretary for The Salvation Army Territory.
“Many of the items stolen are important for the effective operation of the home,” Major Holmes continued, “while personal items, such as wedding rings, have both real and sentimental value for the staff who give sacrificially of themselves to care for the babies. We give thanks to God that our staff and babies were not physically hurt in the attack, but we are deeply disturbed at the level of trauma they have all suffered.”
Spectacular anniversary celebration
In the UK The Salvation Army’s 150th anniversary was celebrated in spectacular fashion. In 1865 the movement started on the streets of London and on Sunday, July 5, 2015 more than 12 000 Salvationists poured onto those same streets in glorious celebration.
In the O2 Arena, all 126 countries with Army ministries were represented by 2 500 participants who then embarked on an emotional march that took in Buckingham Palace, where several of the highest-ranking Salvation Army international dignitaries took the salute.
An additional 10 000 Salvationists, friends and members of the public lined the streets to cheer them on. Hundreds of people around the world observed the march via a live web stream.
Seven of The Salvation Army’s worldfamous brass bands strengthened the international flavour, coming from as far afield as New York and Chicago in the US and Melbourne, Australia. The bands and songsters prepared the way for worship while a multi-media display depicted the General André Cox’s dream for the Army’s future. There was also dancing – and the brilliant vocal soloist, Ayoung Lee. The massive arena screens displayed an international Army at prayer and there was even a theatrical production. Presented by the Bill Booth Theater Company, it was based on ‘integrity’.
General Cox, (Head of Salvation Army worldwide), stirred the emotions with his heartfelt words, reminding listeners that “We are still an Army that rescues those who are damaged by life … Our lives can point people to Christ … All our programmes are but a gateway to the hearts and minds of people.”
Taking the public for a ride
There’s no knowing what The Salvation Army will think of next! Yes, it’s true: this November we’re creating our own ‘team’ to participate in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge and invite you to swell our ranks. The theme is Ride for a Purpose and could you think of a more deserving, multipurpose, totally eclectic charity to raise funds for?
You can enter a team, or an individual. Each rider will don our battle colours (a free cycle shirt) and set a target of R6 000 to raise for The Salvation Army.
1. Each rider, whether entering as part of a team or as an individual, must register online through www.cyclechallenge.co.za.
2. Riders must then please confirm the registration details with Celehte Wymers either via e-mail here, or by telephone on 011 718 6713.
She’ll need the entrant’s:
– registered fi rst and surname
– cell phone number
– ID number
– e-mail address
SERVING UP A STORM
Of course you’ve heard of ‘the eye of the storm’ – well, we’ve come to realise that wherever Major Moya Hay is, she is the eye of the storm! Not a bad-weather storm, but a storm of frenetic activity that’s promoting The Salvation Army’s commitment to helping people in every possible way.
Having moved from Durban, where she certainly made her mark, she is now with Beth Shan in Pretoria where she, her colleagues and student volunteers are changing lives by running
Community Advice Desks. These have been set up in Pretoria West, Gamora Informal Settlement and at a clinic in Soshunguwe.
These dedicated Salvationists are providing invaluable assistance to the hundreds in those areas who have no access to help and cannot get work simply because their own paperwork is
not up to date.
Major Hay and her cohorts go more than ‘the extra mile’ to give assistance. They’ll unearth ID documents and register births. They bring enormous financial relief to families by accessing child grants or disability allowances or old age pensions. They help the unemployed by drawing up professional-looking CVs. Those who need the law on their side get access to legal aid.
“We also give advice and counselling on an extraordinary range of issues from health to relationships, and everything in between – in fact on virtually everything you can think of,” says the Major. “On occasion we’ve even accompanied clients to Home Affairs or the Department of Social Services since they couldn’t manage alone. By directing and empowering people, the system works brilliantly.”
SEEN FROM HERE
How often do we hear people, especially older people, say ‘they don’t make things the way they used to”? The complaints are that there’s no longer any quality, attention to detail, service with a smile, caring.
Of course things change. But everyone who knows how The Salvation Army operates can confi rm that, 150 years down the line, nothing has changed in terms of our passion for helping people and commitment to doing God’s work.
Perhaps we’re no longer as visible as we once were – although our 150 years’ celebration in London (page 3) disputes that – but the organisation has, in fact, expanded dramatically across the globe. More importantly, we still do the same work, with the same passion – and our mission is still the same – to meet human needs in the name of God, without discrimination.
The Salvation Army is an international Christian movement whose message is still based on the Bible and its ministry is motivated by the love of God. It is a vibrant organisation, staffed by
people of integrity who work among communities, enabling the growth and transformation of the whole person through God’s ministry.
We’d like to be around for the next 150 years, still standing for justice, still giving a hand up to the needy, the abandoned, the abused, the forgotten. But only with your support can we
keep on going. Yes, we need your help and the help of your friends, your family, your children and your grand-children. What has changed is that every day becomes more diffi cult – because we have millions more to help. And so we bless you for your generosity.