Lydia’s Circle – Recycling Lives

Guest post from Terry Brown

It was picture perfect fall morning in eManzana, also known as Badplaas, in eastern Mpumalanga, South Africa. The sun was up, the air was crisp, and the sky was an incredibly beautiful clear blue. What better way to start this day visiting our daughter Claire in South Africa, then by taking her garbage and recyclables to the local dump?

You see, Claire has followed the still small voice of God to minister to the women who work in the dump to earn enough money from collecting recyclable cardboard, glass and plastic to support themselves and their families at a level most would consider far below subsistence living. They are the definition of “the least of these.” It is in this place, under the shade of the lone scrub tree, the lives of these women are being recycled at Lydia’s Circle. The group’s name is inspired by the story of Lydia on Acts chapter 16. The presence of God is palpable in this garbage heap… sound familiar? The life change is beginning to unfold before our eyes if we will only look for it.

We first deposited Claire’s garbage into a large pit where 2 cows were busy enjoying their breakfast. The aroma, while not overwhelming on this temperate day, was inescapable. We unloaded the 4 large recycling bins from Claire’s rondavel and the ministry farm with the assistance of the dump attendant. We then turned our attention to the real purpose of our visit; the ladies of Lydia’s Circle.

The ladies we’re all gathered sitting on a makeshift collection of old plastic chairs and crates under the lone tree. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Claire, her teammate Char, intern Kelsey and our translator, Busi. My wife, Rita, and I were along to observe this meeting of Lydia’s Circle. We received a warm greeting and were introduced at Claire’s parents, visiting from America and am fairly certain we looked the part. 😉

The meeting began with acappella singing of several hymns sung in siSwati. It was a beautiful sound and as we watched and listened we were reminded of the line from the Newsboys song, He Reigns, “It’s the sound of the redeemed, rising from the African plains.” Claire then taught from the Old Testament book of Ruth about Naomi and Ruth’s faithfulness to God and each other. The group then discussed the story of Ruth and talked about their life challenges and where they have seen God’s faithfulness to them and their families. At the conclusion of the teaching and sharing, we moved into a time of prayer for the group. One of the ladies asked for prayers for her brother, Michael, who was sitting silently on the outer edge of the group. We learned that Michael had been living in the dump and was struggling emotionally. He agreed to have the group pray for him as he sat in the center of the circle. We later heard that Michael’s bother found and took him to live in his home. Coincidence? I know that’s not the case.

The women of Lydia’s Circle are a living example of beauty from ashes in a place where the rest of the town discards their garbage. God is clearly not finished with these ladies.

The last part of that Lydia’s gathering was even more compelling for Rita and me to see firsthand. Claire has studied books like, When Helping Hurts, The Hole in Our Gospel, Toxic Charity, and Charity Detox. God gave her a vision for a small scale micro-business that would allow the Lydia’s Circle women to work toward an improved financial future by investing in skill development and helping them to produce products for resale in the local market. This particular meeting was the first time that the ladies brought their products (hand woven mats and brooms) for inspection and possible purchase for resale. The women presented their handiwork with great pride and were overwhelmed with joy when Claire bought all of the items that day. Claire subsequently sold all of the items to local merchants, generating capital to reinvest for the materials need to produce more products.

Lydias CircleWe learned that God is in the business of recycling lives, among the cows, under the shade of the lone dump tree. Thank you, Lord!

Empower a Woman. Impact Generations.

Lydia’s Mission empowers and teaches women skills in rural South Africa to feed, educate, and care for their children by earning a living wage. When a woman begins to grasp her value in Christ through discipleship and Biblical training, her life becomes the first ripple of hope…that will last for generations.