At 2pm each Wednesday, hundreds of young children come running from every corner of the Leseding Township for singing, spiritual fellowship and nutritious food other than their day-to-day corn porridge. All 600-700 of these kids are talkative, mannered and happy as the Letabo (Happy Place in their Sesotho language) Kid’s Club, is about to begin.
One by one, they eagerly fast walk into the Adoni Christian Church building where up to 10 children sit per bench for their weekly club meeting. Young children up to age 10 from the Leseding Township in Vaalwater, South Africa come for Christian education, friendships, soccer and those peanut butter and jam sandwiches(PB&J) with milk.
With donated funds, Marilyn Cook, director of the Kid’s Club who has been a USA missionary for 48 years in South Africa, buys 90 loaves of bread, 12 kilograms (almost 2 pounds) of peanut butter and 900 grams (1.98 pounds) of jam to make those sandwiches. And she buys the 80 liters (21 gallons) of fresh whole milk from a local Vaalwater farmer. Total per sandwich and one serving of milk is 2.50 South African Rand or 25 ½ cents USD
Began in 2001 as a soup kitchen, the Letabo Kid’s Club leadership was assumed by Marilyn when the previous lady had to leave because of health issues.
In 2002, the weekly soup kitchen was boycotted by the neighborhood children because it was a hot summer day and they did not want hot soup.So, PB&J sandwiches and milk were offered and the children happily returned to eat those sandwiches. The meetings grew then from 15-30 young children to 600-700 today and growing everyday. At Christmas time, the club attendance numbers up to 2,000 kids.
The Kid’s Club began meeting in a tent, and the meetings were going just fine until the tent blew down and was destroyed in a 2010 storm.
So then a roof covered concrete slab was built and it worked well for 3 years until the new church building was built in its place. A veranda-patio was later attached to the church building for serving food and other social activities. And the kids love their new church building for their gatherings.
At the Kid’s Club meetings, youth under 10 sing gospel songs in English/Sesotho and Bible stories are told to them in Sesotho. In addition, they learn about and perform a story from the Bible at each meeting, and say the Lord’s Prayer in Sesotho. Taught by one of the young pastors, the children say a prayer thanking the Father for their food.
Then they serve the sandwiches and milk to the children followed by cleaning the dishes and the church building to its original condition.
“It wasn’t like this in the beginning,” Marilyn said, “But our teachings about helping others and being an outstanding person have caused the older 10-18 year-olds to help the younger ones by showing them love and the love of Jesus, and to treat them with respect.”
As a reward for their work and compassion, the older children are given extra bread, boloney, and fruit drink to eat. “The older children are hungry also so we have extra food for them in case the PB&J sandwiches are gone,” Marilyn explained. “Even the youngest child wants to help even though many of them barely can carry a bench.”
In the beginning, they just wanted to be a part of the event and help others,” Marilyn said. “But now, they also are being rewarded for their work and compassion with the extra food and more and more children are attending and getting into the joy of serving.”
Bible Study is also being taught on Saturday for the 10-14 year-olds and for the older ones 15-30. Up to 50 of the younger ones attend the studies. They call themselves the “Revolution” and they bring their younger siblings with them. Cake baked by Marilyn is served at the end of the class. And if she doesn’t have time to bake the cakes, she serves cookies/biscuits.
Marilyn also edits a magazine THE SOURCE for St. John the Baptist Community Church, which is located in the bush, 20 Km (approx. 12.5 miles) from Vaalwater, South Africa. “People from all over the world come to this church and they overwhelmed by the casual yet deep spiritual messages and fellowship,” Marilyn pointed out. Her magazine can be viewed on her website www.mission2sa.org, where donations can also be made.
So thanks to Marilyn and her 48 years as a missionary serving the disadvantaged peoples of South Africa, many children in the township have a nutritious meal at least once a week along with Christian education and fellowship. And they keep coming from all over and lining up in advance for the 2 pm Kid’s Club meeting each Wednesday and those PB&J sandwiches with milk.
Donations may be made to Marilyn Cook so she may continue her missionary work in South Africa. Her 5013C agent in the USA is Brian and Lois Lund, Mission to South Africa, PO Box 50063, Casper, WY 82605.
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