My life story? … My name is Sizwe Zwane. I am 30 years old. I’m the last born from a family of 8. The earliest memory I have of my childhood is when I was a very small boy aged 4 or 5. I was a loner. My mother had 3 children from different fathers, and when she married my father she moved out of my grandmother’s house and lived with him. She had 3 children with him and I was the last born. My full-siblings would often visit my grandmother and eventually lived with her. So, whilst I had siblings and interacted with other kids outside our home, I grew up feeling alone.
I never liked being home so I often ran away to my grandmother’s house to see my siblings. It was about 5-10 minutes away from our home and we all lived in a town in Eswatini called Enhlambeni. I grew up in this town and completed most of my primary education there. When I started Grade 1, I simultaneously became a herd boy and I hated it. I hated it so much it made me cry. I took care of goats and they gave me a very hard time. So, again, I would often run away and hide until dark. To this day I still do not like goats.
Although I cannot undoubtedly attribute my fear to my first encounter with my father, I became a very fearful child after a certain incident with him. Back when I was a child, parents often left for Johannesburg (South Africa) to find work in the mines. Some would die there. My father was one of them … the ones who went, that is. When I was 7, I saw him for the first time. I came home and my mother told me who he was. He was drunk and I was terrified. He had a bottle in his hand, and he picked me up high and dropped me.
The fear I felt as a child was detrimental to my childhood. I was very scared and couldn’t sleep alone. I was scared of everything at all times. I was most fearful of the dark. I was so afraid I could only sleep alone around the time I began primary school. I was most comfortable when I was with my friends, who were my cousins. I enjoyed being at their place and resented the idea of going home. So, sometimes I’d escape to their house and not return home until my mother sent my older brother to search for me.
I remember one other incident with my father. One night, he came back home and told me to go get water from the river for him. It was something I did daily but I hadn’t done so that day. Fortunately, I was not alone. My cousin had come to visit, so he and I set out to the river in the darkness of the night. The journey was incredibly long and the darkness made it even more difficult. As we returned, we discovered that we had been locked out. We tried to call out for my mother so that she could let us in. We waited in a metal washing basin next to the door. After what felt like hours and hours, my mother opened. That night was horrible.
I understand it now, but I struggled to understand why he was behaving that way at the time. So I deeply empathise with the children who suffer the pain of experiencing the all too common occurrence of having a drunkard for a parent. My father would come back inebriated at night and wake me up. “Get me my food!”, “Untie my shoelaces”, were some of the things he’d demand in the wee hours of the night. That was his daily routine and I hated him for it.
Looking back at my experiences during the time we lived with my father, I no longer resent him for his actions. I’ve settled it in my mind that he too may have been badly raised. My grandfather was known in his village for having plenty of women, and in some ways, I think my father struggled from rejection and shame because of it. He couldn’t bear the circumstances of his own upbringing and spent all his time trying to deal with his feelings through alcohol abuse and lashing out at his family. I believe many families may share this narrative.
After a few more back and forth trips to work and back my father was retrenched and returned to Eswatini to live with us full time. He spent the next 3 years verbally and physically abusing my mother. Eventually, although not consequently, she got terribly sick, and we fled and lived with my grandmother.
After my mother got sick, we stayed with my grandmother for about one and a half years. Her health deteriorated rapidly. Then, one day, we unknowingly had our last supper together. The next morning, she went off to the hospital and was hospitalised for a while. She stayed at the hospital for some time then soon passed on. I remember visiting her at the hospital the day before she passed. It was a Sunday morning and she seemed fine before we left. I was still a child. So, the next morning, I woke up, got dressed and headed to school, but something seemed off from the beginning. By the time I got to school I was weeping and couldn’t explain why. I managed to pull myself together and went through my usual day’s activities, but when I returned, I found a crowd of people waiting outside my grandmother’s house. From that moment I knew what it meant about my mother, and I knew what it meant for me. I was motherless.
Shortly after my mother died, my father died of an unknown disease that I could only liken to that of Job in the Bible. It was horrible. Throughout his sickness, my sister took care of him. I wasn’t really in the picture and at the time, I felt justified. I felt that my anger towards him was justified by what I saw growing up. So, I didn’t even cry when I heard that he was dead. In fact, there had been moments while living with him when I so desperately wished that he would die first. And so it came, and we buried him too. That was 2005 and 2006, they died a year apart.
So, I was 13 years old when I became an orphan. A few years before, my eldest sister had passed away, so we were down to 5 with only my 2 brothers, 2 sisters and I left. Just us. My eldest brother stepped up and took full responsibility for each and every one of us. He had begun working before I went to school and had taken care of my tuition, school supplies, clothing and he had helped my mom with household needs while she was alive. Because of his support, I was able to complete my Grade 1-6. I am immensely grateful to him.
I started facing acute psychological issues in Grade 7. I couldn’t pay attention in class so the teachers stepped in multiple times to find a means of intervention. Multiple meetings were held until finally, a social worker came to my rescue. The social worker was my mom’s sister. To put it simply, she knew somebody who knew somebody who knew that somebody else knew Pastor Kevin Ward, and the process for my adoption began. I then moved to the Children’s Homes in Bulembu.
The perception that change is not easy rings true to me, in that even good change can be difficult. And, in the midst of what is good, our preferences find a place, and sometimes coincide with the ‘normal’ or commonly expected reaction to those good things in our lives. All this to say, even though moving to Bulembu was good, it was not easy. The things that made the experience good or bad for each of us differed at an individual level. Whilst one aspect of the community’s culture made it to one’s lists of pros, the very same qualities made it to another’s list of cons. So in light of this realisation, I deem my experience ultimately good, even amidst the sense of loss I felt because I missed home, dearly.
I joined Bulembu Children’s Homes with 14 other children. It was 2007. I was 15. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave the only family I had left, and as we drove up the forest, the tall trees surrounding us further confirmed my intuitive worries. ‘Where were we headed?’ I wondered. Were we sure we’d be safe? I didn’t even know anyone where I was going. I had a very hard time accepting this move. My struggle with this change would continue for a while before the anger and confusion settled. I mean, what do you do when you’re missing home? You just let loose and cry in your room until you get over it. That’s what I did for the next few months. But, thank God this one shade of my experience would not be an accurate description of the full picture of my time there.
Although the road to Bulembu is long and unpleasant, the community met at its end is worth the trip. Words cannot begin to express the warm, loving, and truly mind-boggling reception we got upon our arrival. Bulembu, the place in itself, is peaceful with beautiful scenery. The land is green, the air - clean. It looks like a country of its own. Admittedly, no one could have prepared me for the Bulembu community - an affectionate and welcoming people. They would be my new home. However, there was one unusual factor I found. This new home was full of people of a different colour!
I’ll be frank. I was not used to being around people of a different race or culture. In fact, I was terrified of them. The first time I had seen a white person, for instance, was at a community gathering (enkhundleni). I freaked out and ran back home! So you can imagine my shock when the multiracial group of people before me met my gaze with love in their eyes and a load of cheer. I had been scared of people who did not look like me all this time, only to be received by them in the most heartwarming way. As the days went on, I discovered that they were genuinely kind and excited to meet us. To this day, I don’t know what was running through their minds, and what kind of love must have been bestowed upon them for them to take us in so willingly. They didn’t know us, and already had families of their own. To these pioneers, I remain grateful.
I got saved in highschool at a man-to-man session that our principal hosted every Friday and completed my high school in 2014. Upon completion and my step to knowing God as my Abba Father, an unusual and God-ordained experience occurred. I was accepted to Limkokwing University for Multimedia and for an internship at Potter’s Wheel Church at the same time. So I moved to Emafini where the church is located in September 2014 and had the privilege to learn and work. I got to apply the knowledge I was learning at school on real projects. It was encouraging to see my work offer tangible solutions and contribute to the progress of God’s work in Eswatini. I’ve been serving and working there since then.
There are so many miracles I’ve experienced in my life, so much so that I cannot recount them all. I could tell you about the love of a family that moved them to sponsor my entire university tuition, having never met me. Or, I could tell you about a teacher who blessed me with a laptop that I used for the entire duration of my studies. However, I think the real main character of it all, the crowning constant of each miracle is the One who orchestrated every one of them.
There’s a truth that lies within each one of our stories as human beings, and that is that God is with us. Not only is He watching over us from His throne, looking at the beginning and end of our numbered days in His eternal spectrum of sight, but He is present, that is, His presence is a traceable and tangible factor in all our stories.
The supremacy of God is even more evident to me in that He uses even our ‘lesser’ experiences and our ‘lesser’ skills to carry out His purposes. Other than my interest in media, I had a great passion for IT in high school. I loved Networking and took the opportunity to grow in this area. I often helped in the IT department, so when the school moved to another location, I was able to assist the computer teacher in setting up the computer lab there. This teacher would eventually be the one to bless me with a laptop which I used throughout my tertiary studies. Isn’t God good?
In essence, I hope to share this message - that God is in the middle of your story. I have no regrets about the decisions I’ve made because of this one thing - God’s presence. I am sure that He is with us from the day we are born to the day we die. His presence is assured but His presence is also to be enjoyed intentionally, by making the decision to follow Him, i.e. accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. That one decision changed the course of my life in that it gave me purpose. It gave me a reason to live. God is my portion and the reason for which I go to work every morning.
I continue to work under the Media department at Potter’s Wheel Church, and some of the things I have the pleasure of doing are the things that I love - directing live productions, providing technical support in our media booth, leading a team of talented cameramen weekly, designing graphics for our media platforms and presentations, as well as shooting and editing videos for Challenge Ministries Swaziland (CMS). I can honestly say that I am living my dream. I am doing what I love. And, on the days when it’s hard to get up and I’ve forgotten what it is I’m on this earth for, I think of the many people I impact through my work. I remember that though I am but dust, God is able to do miracles through me and for me. Regardless of my make and human nature, God is able to use me for His good work.
My future looks bright as there are more things God has placed in my heart. He continues to let me dream and isn’t limited by my current abilities. I believe He may lead me to business, and I thoroughly look forward to being an exceptional father and husband. All these dreams, I no longer take lightly because He’s done wonders with the dreams of my younger self before. He took the dreams of a young boy and made them a reality. So, I know He plans to use my big boy dreams and ambitions too. I plan to follow His lead yet again, and the question I have for everyone is, will you?
I dare you to believe in His hope and future for you, and know this - He is with you, until the end of the world!
be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world. -
Matthew 28:20b TLB