Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. ~ C.S. Lewis
Loss of Joshua du Toit
We have all been deeply impacted by the tragic loss of Joshua du Toit, the 14 year old son of our new principal, Jakes du Toit. After the car accident on Wednesday 9th March that resulted in Joshy’s being taken to ICU in a coma, he remained on life support for three days until on the Saturday he miraculously breathed on his own, and doctors began doing everything they could to stabilise his condition and aid his recovery. During the ten days that Joshy remained on earth with us, prayer, petition and worship went up from thousands of believers, and many churches, including Gateway Community church, held prayer and worship meetings throughout the day and night on his behalf. People were impacted by Joshy’s bravery and the family’s incredible faith, across South Africa and across the world. When Joshy did finally go to be with Jesus on Saturday evening 19th March, it was after friends and family of the du Toits, and friends from Gateway community spent five hours singing and worshipping the Lord outside his window in the ICU unit. In his letter after Joshy’s passing, Jakes wrote the following:
We knew Josh had come back to us when the machines were switched off 7 days ago and he came back to life, but today, in the prayer for his resurrection, we had a clear feeling that he had a choice whether he wanted to battle with all the injuries or be with Jesus. He chose reality: Eternity with Jesus, and we can’t blame him for that! We choose to celebrate his life, as he has touched thousands… and if this is the result of Joshy’s seed falling to the ground and dying, then we are blessed as parents. We are going to celebrate his life!
The du Toit family certainly did celebrate Joshy’s life at the memorial celebration, where everyone wore Joshy’s favourite colour – orange – the colour of courage. Joshy was a boy who stood out to everyone he met, for his warmth, gentleness, kindness and sense of humour. He loved Jesus and he was ready to be with him – a friend who prayed for him in October 2015 recently shared with the family that Joshy had mentioned to him that he felt that his "time was short" and he wanted to make right with God. He was baptised in the Orange Grove pool just one week before the accident.
As a school, and as a community, we stand with the incredibly brave Du Toit family. We feel so blessed and privileged to have this dynamic, God loving family in our midst with the incredibly faith filled Jakes du Toit as our school principal. The family is very much on our hearts as we walk through the next season together with them.
School Name Change
After many meetings and discussions last year, the beginning of this term brought the school’s official name change from Plumb Line Christian Academy (PLCA), to Orange Grove Schools (OGS). The name change is part of new branding to streamline the projects of the greater iThemba Trust so that they all reflect the name of Orange Grove Farm, the land that God has given us and from which we impact the community and surrounding areas.
Orange Grove Schools (OGS) welcomed new staff members to the school this term, and we wish them all God’s richest blessings working together with us under open heavens in Tarkastad.
Leon and Marelize Poolman hail from Kathu in the Northern Cape, and they bring with them their two small boys, Andre and Phillip. Leon and Marelize are hostel parents on the boys’ side, and we are very grateful to have them caring for our precious hostel children. Leon is the supervisor of the Grade 4 and 5 class, and is also the Sports Co-ordinator for OGS. Marelize has very kindly assisted with supervising the Grade 6 and 7 class for this term, but has plans to move into her gifting in music from next term. She is a qualified Kindermusik teacher, and also teaches piano and violin.
The Orange Grove Hostel also welcomed Judy Le Roux to the Hostel staff team in early March. We are delighted to have this special lady that brings a wealth of wisdom and knowledge from her experience in establishing and running a school on the Wild Coast in Natal. Judith’s adopted son Emmanuel is in Grade 1, so we warmly welcome this little family to our school.
The hard working Pre-school team gave a warm welcome to Etrecia King in January. Trish, as we all call her, is a qualified pre-school teacher, and OGS is privileged to have her head the pre-school phase and teach the Grade R class, assisted by Nandi Mayedwa. Heidi Ferrar continues to provide her warm, loving and consistent teaching to the pre-grade R class where she is assisted by Gloria Yose who is also new.
New Computer Lab
This term a new computer lab with 12 computers has been established in the central admin block, and the students have been divided into smaller groups to attend computer lessons on a weekly basis. Our new computer teacher Mr David Fourie is a whizz at all things technical, and the children have been enjoying their new classes with him, as well as this opportunity to expand their technical horizens.
Christian and Donna O’Brien travelled from Austin, Texas in Februrary to enjoy a hunt with Charles and Angela Price. They are friends of Kenny and Talaya Frazier. Talaya’s foundation, Champions for Children have close ties to Ithemba Trust. The hunt was auctioned off at a charity event to raise funds for CFC. The O’Briens enjoyed a fun filled day at the school experiencing first hand all that the Fraziers had so passionatley shared with them about the vision.
The Klarr family from Michigan consisting of Gunnar and Louise their two daughters, Bekha and Sally along with their Aunt, Scotty and her son, Jake, also visited the school in March. Bekha and Sally have been sponsoring a little boy since the inception of the sponsorship program, so are very close friends of iThemba. They were amazed to see the growth of the vision and the project since their initial visit in 2009 while negotiations were under way to secure the property, Orange Grove. We so appreciate their support and passion for the vision and look forward to new ventures with them.
We were all delighted to have Martin Fick visiting again on Monday 21st March. Martin has visited OGS before to talk to staff and students about Aquaponics, a uniquely successful farming technique that combines raising aquatic animals such as tilapia, with hydroponics, or the cultivating of plants (vegetables) in water.
This time Martin brought two associates of his, Bucky Buchstaber, executive director of the non-profit organisation Fly Fishing Collaborative, and his friend Paul Ridgway (see the website at http://www.flyfishingcollaborative.org). These men have an amazing ministry where they use their love of flyfishing to have an impact on the global sex trafficking trade. Their goal is to use fly fishing to raise money for aquaponics projects within places of safety for children rescued from the sex slave industry. These aquaponics projects situated across Africa and even in Thailand, create sustainable livelihoods and economic support for these children and adults. Aquaponics is one of the areas that Orange Grove is planning to grow into; it is an ideal skills development tool. So watch this space!
Valley Christian School Students
On Saturday 13 February we welcomed the teachers and students from Valley Christian School in San Jose, California, for their second visit to Orange Grove Schools. They arrived bearing huge suitcases of gifts for the school from tennis balls to educational toys for the preschool. Six senior students travelled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to come and be a part of OGS, giving of themselves and their gifts and talents to the children at our school – in a group context, and in an individual context. We also welcomed back our special friends, Micah Shyu as their teacher, and Judy Marais and her daughter Jessie, who have family connections with the Porter family in Tarkastad.
Patrick Cairns and Asisipho Mabuto from the Orange Grove Adventure Centre were the friendly faces in charge of the vist, and did a great job of co-ordinating the various logistical aspects so that everything ran smoothly. The Valley students stayed with host families for part of their time in Tarkastad, and also camped in tents at the Outdoor Centre for some bushveld and fireside experience. They enjoyed a braai (traditional South African barbecue) there on the Sunday with the Gateway Community Church family. During their week at the school, the students were blessed with prophetic art drawn by the children, and they also participated in the Youth meeting on the Wednesday evening. They assisted in putting up a fence around the OG hostel pool, and climbed the Tarkastad mountain one cold and misty morning. The visit was sadly over far too quickly, and they left to visit the Addo Elephant park on the Thursday morning, and flew out back home on the Friday morning from Port Elizabeth. Our connections with Valley Christian School remain close, and we hope to have them back to visit us very soon.
Wedding of Janine Theys and Marchelle Peters
On Saturday, 19th December 2015, Janine Theys and Marchelle Peters, were married on Orange Grove Farm. Janine and Marchelle have been dating for over ten years, so both were pretty certain they knew what they were getting into, but that did not stop many tears falling as family and friends watched this dear couple pledge their love for one another. Janine was a very beautiful bride, as we all knew she would be, and Marchelle looked extremely smart in his dark grey three piece suit. The wedding colours of white, red and black, were elegant, and the guests enjoyed dinner and dancing on the lawn under the thornveld ridges of Orange Grove in celebration of this special couple.
Summer Water Fun Day
On Friday 22 January, the Orange Grove children arrived at school in their costumes and beach clothes to enjoy a day of water fun at the hostel pool under the cool willow tree. This year the school had obtained an inflatable water slide, and the children had hours of fun shooting themselves along the soapy runway into the waiting pool at the end. Water pistols and water balloons (wielded with frightening accuracy by Uncle Jakes and Uncle Tony) increased the fun of stalking unsuspecting teachers, and Aunty Marian suffered the ultimate fate of being tossed, fully dressed, into the pool. Thank goodness she is a very good sport!
Tarkastad Agricultural Show
OGS children made a special effort to participate in the annual Tarkastad Agricultural Show in February this year, and with over 120 entries, were awarded the prize for the school with the most entries in the show. Children contributed various works of art and handwork to be judged as part of the competitive activities, and the feedback from the judges was that all the art received was of a very high standard. Many first prizes were awarded to students at the assembly following the show, as well as many second and third prizes.
The older girls participated in the “Bake Like a Koekedoor” Cake Decorating Contest on the Friday afternoon, with the word “Koekedoor” being an Afrikaans word referring to a cooking expert. Marli Visser, the winner of the Kyknet Koekedoor competition on DSTV, adjudicated their efforts and gave the girls some helpful tips. After a fun afternoon, Zukie Siqaza ended up going home with the first prize for her beautifully decorated cake which was judged to be closest to the theme of “flowers”.
Hannes Mouton mentored some of the children through the Tarka Youth Show in the categories of meat (mutton) sheep, boergoats, dorpers and chickens. New student, Siphokazi Mashiya received first prize in her age group for her show chicken, and several of the other students also qualified to compete further at regional level.
Water Baptism for Gateway Youth Teens
Dave Hood has been heading the Gateway Youth meetings for teenagers on a Wednesday evening, and under his leadership the Youth has grown, and been challenged to live out their faith in a real and practical way, rather than just “talking the talk”, which is very easy for many of us to do, particularly when we live in a very Christian environment. Dave opened up the opportunity for the students to undergo baptism, and a number of them indicated that they wanted to take this step of faith as an outward witness of their inward decision to follow Christ. What followed was an evening at the Orange Grove pool that took those attending by surprise in the intensity of the spiritual atmosphere that descended on that humble little pool, and on the teenagers and adults there. Most touching in hindsight of the events that followed a week later, was the baptism of Joshua du Toit, his brother Johnny and his sister Beth.
AEE Educator’s Convention
OGS staff travelled to Port Elizabeth for the annual Accelerated Education Enterprises (AEE) Regional Educator’s Convention on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th March. This is always a time of refreshment and encouragement with excellent speakers, and fresh input on educational matters. AEE has been joined by Mandla Mthembu, a man of considerable experience and knowledge of the government education system as he was an advisor to Kadar Asmal, the former Minister of Education, and also worked for Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance for Further Education and Training (FET). Mandla is passionate about serving God in the education sector, and his talk on the hope that the ACE curriculum provides to the sad state of education in our country was very inspiring.
This term Bev Wardle introduced Culture Club as the exciting new Wednesday afternoon extra-mural activity for OGS children. Students from Grade 1 to Grade 12 were able to sign up to one of four groups to enjoy various activities throughout the afternoon. The aim of Culture Club is to introduce the students to different experiences with regard to a variety of activities that might come under the heading of “Culture”. This term these activities included Hip Hop Dancing with Marchelle Peters, Bead Making with Magda Greyling, Art with Bev Wardle, and Drama and Public Speaking with Debra Cairns. The children loved participating in the different activities, and the plan is to continue and grow the club in the terms to follow.
This term we began with Athletics (usually a fourth term sport), as a decision was taken to encourage our students to try to compete more with the local government schools where the standard of athletics is at a high level. The training and experience the children received from the focus on athletics this term will also stand them in good stead for the South African Christian Schools Sports Association (SACSSA) Athletics season at the end of the year.
The first Athletics Meet took place on the 29 January in Tarkastad. The students competed with excellence, and most of our athletes qualified for the next meeting in Cradock. Our Juniors then competed in Cradock on Friday 5th February, and the Seniors on Saturday 6th February. They did their school proud against what turned out to be extremely stiff competition. The learned a lot from the meeting that will benefit them in their general athletics training.
Janine Peters began netball training with a group of girls, with the aim of having a competitive side ready for the coming netball season. As usual we had our spirited interhouse competition continuing throughout the first term, and competition became intense by the end of the term when volleyball tournaments and mini cricket matches were the final determinents of the term’s team sport champion. In the volleyball, Gemsbok was victorious for both the junior and senior matches. In Rounders, the foundation phase had a lot of fun, and Kudu won the day, while in the Mini-cricket, Kudu also triumphed. So the result is a draw between the two sporting sides for the first term. The competion continues into the second term!
Archery Field Shoot in East London
Five students and three adults from Orange Grove Schools attended a "Field Shoot" at the East London Archery (ELA) Club on the 30th and 31st of January 2016. Field archery is a challenging discipline in which archers generally shoot for upwards of 5 hours. Emmanuel Mari, who is 11 years old, attended his first shoot, and shot it with an unsighted recurve bow. Siphe Dakada shot his second Field competition but this time with his new compound bow, which was donated to him by Erika LaBuda from New York. Liso Mngqibisa shot his fifth Field competition but this time with his high tech bow, bought for him last year through the generosity of a sponsor. All of the students stuck out the long days admirably and shot very well.
iThemba Trust News
Bear Grylls Survival Academy
We are very excited about a new partner in our sponsorship program, namely, Bear Grylls’ Bear Gryll’s Survival Academy. His foundation will be sponsoring Amkitha. Bear Grylls has become known around the world as one of the most recognized faces of survival and outdoor adventure. His journey to this acclaim started in the UK, where his late father taught him to climb and sail. Trained from a young age in martial arts, Bear went on to spend three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS. It was here that he perfected many of the skills that his fans all over the world enjoy watching him pit against mother-nature. His TV show Man Vs Wild and Born Survivor became one of the most watched programmes on the planet with an estimated audience of 1.2 billion. Emmy nominated, the show ran for seven high-octane seasons.
Regarded as the most challenging and empowering survival course on the planet, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy (BGSA) is designed to provide enthusiasts from around the world the opportunity to learn Bear’s extreme survival techniques. The current portfolio of courses are tailored to both adults and young explorers, in diverse locations including the mountains and forests of the UK, three locations on the island of Ireland, the mountains of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and New York State in the USA, the deserts of the UAE, the peaks and valleys of the French Alps, the vast wilderness of Australia and the wild terrain of Zimbabwe; with a 2016 launch planned for courses in China.
Fundraising Dinner at The Story
Dave Hood and John Heath are taking a group of OGS youth to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho for a mission trip early next term. Fundraising efforts have been diligent, and as part of this, The Story restaurant offered a steak evening to the residents of Tarkastad. As a chef of note, John dished out the delicious steaks himself, and the students hurried around as the waitrons for the evening of togetherness and good food for all who attended.
Busi Pita’s New Baby
We would like to warmly congratulate Busi Pita, our talented chef at The Story, on the birth of her baby boy, Iyaza which means "God knows". We held a surprise stork party for Busi in February, and the number of people who came to bless her and bring her a gift was an indication of the great many people she has touched in our town. We wish her all the best and every blessing with her new little boy.
Asisipho Mabuto Joins the Orange Grove Adventure Centre
With Zubenathi Sunduzwayo sadly leaving to study further in Durban at the end of last year, Patrick Cairns felt extremely privileged to have someone of the calibre of Asisipho Mabuto join the Orange Grove Adventure Centre in January this year. Asi has been connected with Gateway Community Church since he was at school in Tarkastad, and he worked at OGS for three years where he was an indispensible asset in the classroom and on the sports field, as well as serving on the hostel staff team. Asi has spent the last two years working in Johannesburg, but has returned to a role of assisting Patrick Cairns with the Orange Grove Vegetable Garden, and Adventure Centre.
Orange Grove Adventure Centre Class Camps
Marelize Poolman’s Learning Centre enjoyed a camp this term, as did Leon Poolman’s Learning Centre. Both groups enjoyed a wonderful night and day at the very green campsite, and while there was a little bit of rain on one of the nights, the weather was generally hot and summery. The lovely weather lent itself to fun in the sprinkler on the soccer field, and long hikes up the rocky ridges above the camp site. Leon’s class had the privilege of a trip to nearby Comre Game Ranch, where they were able to see a herd of Cape Buffalo wandering peacefully in the veld, and were also able to meet a baby Kudu, that is being hand reared at Comré.
Orange Grove Adventure Centre Junior Hunter’s Course
The first five day Advanced Junior Hunter’s course of 2016 began at the end of March with ten boys aged from ten to sixteen, from all over South Africa. Two of the students had attended the course before and came for the second time. Patrick Cairns, Asisipho Mabuto and Dave Hood were the main facilitators of the course, and took care to maintain a strong conservation ethos in their overall presentation. Students learned about hunter and gun safety, animal identification, hunting skills, hunting ethics and ballistics. Dave is an expert in tracking, and introduced students to the basics of this fascinating skill. While it is essential to a hunter to be able to track effectively, tracking can be enjoyed for its own sake in the outdoors, in the unique way it opens up a new and deeper understanding of exactly what our surroundings are able to tell us when we are out in the wild. The course culminated in a two day springbuck hunt, and all the participants were able to put their new skills into practice in obtaining their buck.
Orange Grove Vegetable Garden
Asi Mabuto has been a great asset to the vegetable garden this year, and has opened up more local markets for the sale of the vegetables produced in the garden. Eric and Wonga, our other valuable team members, have worked very hard as well, and an excellent crop was harvested this summer season, including spinach, broccoli, potatoes and cabbages.
I have been looking forward to Judy’s texts about your progress every day to hear more about how God is working miracles in your life. Since getting the terrible news about your car accident a couple weeks ago, I have found myself praying constantly. I also started fasting every week. The last time I fasted was during my senior year of college because we wanted to come up with a fun project to do with our freshmen small group. That was six years ago.
I think deep down I felt as if I prayed hard enough and if the people of Tarka prayed hard enough and we cried out to God enough that we would experience an impossible miracle. And it seemed like God was answering our pleas for his mercy to fall upon you. You went from being brain dead to being in an induced coma to your heart and respiratory rates going up to being able to breathe on your own for a bit, all the while doctors and nurses being utterly shocked and speechless at your progress. God was bringing you back to life.
Each day I looked forward to Judy’s text about how you were doing and Saturday was no exception. Except the text that read “Hi everyone, very sad news. Just heard from Josh’s dad that Josh passed away earlier today…” At first it didn’t hit me what I just read. And then I had to pull over to the side of the road and weep in my car, tears dripping down my sunglasses and clouding my vision.
We went over to Judy’s that afternoon just to be with one another as we tried to process the news. We wrote letters to you to try to describe our thoughts and feelings about your death. I couldn’t stop crying. We threw our letters into the fire pit in the backyard and watched as the embers slowly overcame our words to you. Then we prayed together for your family and your community in Tarka.
Since Saturday, I have not stopped crying every single day when I think about you. Life seems to move much slower.
I prayed for God to bring you back to life because I knew and had faith that He could. I never doubted that God could restore you back to perfect health and looked forward to when I could see you again next year. I believed your life of restoration would be an incredible testimony to the power of God. And yet, God took you away to be with Him. I selfishly wish that you were still here with us, but know that you are in a better place with God in heaven. I am so encouraged by your life. I am encouraged by the way that you accepted Jesus and decided to get baptized just a week before your accident because you felt a sense of urgency to do so.
You did it. You are with Him.
Every time I think of you, I think of the pain of losing a friend, one who’s life was cut short, one who I just met and spent time with, one who I should’ve had more experiences and memories with in the years to come. But I’m grateful for the week I had to spend with you. I will miss your joy, your “just joking” response to the times we called out your mischievousness, and the fun we had playing mafia together.
When I think of you, I also think of the bond I have with Tarka. They have truly become my second family. I cry and feel the pain of your family and the community in Tarka as they mourn your death.
When I think of you, I’m reminded of God’s grace in the midst of sorrow and suffering. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words: “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” I think of the goodness of God even though I can’t comprehend it. I think of the way that many people drew closer to God because of your life and how God helped me to see Him as my treasure above all other things.
There is real hope after this life. You taught me that.
Tomorrow is your memorial day. I wish I could be there with the people of Tarka. I wish I could hug every single person in your family and cry with them and just be near them and celebrate your life.
I’ll be wearing the color orange all day to honor your life as one of courage. I miss you.
Letter from Micah Shyu, teacher at Valley Christian School, San Jose, California