RESKU Mission

CapBDerekandHeatherhekulwandle, South Africa, 2003: Graves dotted the yards of most of the family homes in the area, filled with the bodies of AIDS victims.

Derek and Heather Liebenberg observed the devastation of the villages.  Men and women ravaged with the AIDS virus haunted the streets and makeshift huts, left to die alone by their families who were afraid of catching the disease themselves.  A few of the “lucky” ones were allowed to remain in their homes in a shut-off room.  Many were succumbing to starvation quicker than aids could take them, as their families saw no need in “wasting” food on someone who was dying anyway.

ZuluKingandQueenBhekulwandle was in the grips of a full swing AIDS pandemic, from the initial spread of the infection in the late 80’s/early 90’s, to the resulting deaths which swept the villages hard beginning in the mid 90’s, leaving behind thousands of orphaned children.  It is not uncommon to find children there as young as 10-years-old caring for their younger siblings in the absence of parents.  The vicious cycle repeats itself with new infections daily.

In South Africa, there are more than 400 tribal groupings that come from a tradition in which ancestor worship is the norm, and evil spirits are believed to cause misfortunes and disease.  The followers of this belief system will not accept such notions such as “human immunodeficiency virus” (HIV).  The popular myth is that sex with a virgin will cure AIDS, and help to prevent the contraction of HIV from an infected person.  Thus, child rape is another disease that plagues South Africa with a vengeance.

Derek (native to South Africa) and wife Heather (a Canadian) traveled to Bhekulwandle to check out an abandoned Bible college campus, as they had received permission to attempt to reclaim the campus from a group of squatters that had taken it over, and use it to minister to the people of Bhekulwandle and surrounding areas.  It was to be an extension of a mission they had started in North America, MEDIC, now known as Seed of Hope.

Immediately, Derek and Heather faced fierce opposition from the squatters that inhabited the campus as they worked to clean it up.  Over the years, the sewage had backed up and several of the rooms had been used as toilets.  Animals were housed in more rooms, and the remaining were riddled with used drug paraphernalia.  The windows were broken and the grounds were terribly overgrown.

Local authorities could not be counted on to help vacate the campus of the squatters, as one of the squatters was in fact a police officer who threatened Derek’s life.

Help came by way of volunteers from local churches and Canada.  Together, they began a massive renovation and repair project, including cleaning out and painting several of the rooms, installing new windows, steel doors, burglar bars, and cleaning up the gardens and grounds.

As they worked, vandals set fire to the facility on two separate occasions, and windows were broken out almost as quickly as they were put in, but they continued their efforts, and finally were able to open the doors of the ministry.  They started with the children.

An afterschool children’s program was implemented, and long-term plans were set in place for the remaining buildings (still occupied by squatters), for a hospice for those dying of AIDS, short-term housing for AIDS orphans and a training center for the Bible College courses.  Their goal was to raise up Zulu leaders and empower them to take over leadership.  (Zulus are the largest ethnic group in South Africa.)  On January 29, 2005, King Goodwill Zwelithini, High King of the Zulu nation, officiated at the official opening of MESDA (Seed of Hope).

RESKUWOMEN-0799Later that year, a team of youth and sponsors from Sapulpa, Oklahoma went to visit several AIDS ministries in South Africa.  Included in the team was a group of women from Oklahoma (Shauna Bush, Adrian McGowan, Terra Morrow, and Tami Reavis), a group of ordinary women — wives and mothers whose plates were already full with family, church and careers — who felt called to do something more.

The work in South Africa left them physically, and emotionally drained.  They only spent three days at the Seed of Hope working with Derek Liebenberg, but they could see how the power of God was breaking through in an area once dominated by the power of darkness.  In spite of the spiritual oppression of the area, many people were accepting Christ as their Savior.

Back in the US, the women’s hearts remained burdened for the children of Bhekulwandle.  They recruited their friends in seeking God’s grace and favor for the Seed of Hope Ministry.  Soon, they felt a call to do more.

In November 2005, Derek came to Oklahoma to speak at a youth camp.  While there, he met with the women, and others that had been diligently praying for the ministry, (including Elaine Geerdes and Tanya Karasek from OK), and asked if they would consider forming a non-profit organization that could potentially partner with his ministry.  Thus, RESKU International was born.

A month later, Derek died of a massive heart attack, leaving behind a pregnant wife and the Seed of Hope ministry.  Suddenly, RESKU International faced a critical pivot point, a defining moment where RESKU was to make a ready difference, or do nothing. They decided, and RESKU International became a fully functioning 501c3 non-profit organization!  Most of the members now have been to South Africa to experience The Seed of Hope first hand.

RESKUKidsRESKU serves alongside of organizations in South Africa, Canada, and the US by supporting various ministries and by educating people about the AIDS pandemic.  Members are committed to the purpose of raising support for AIDS education, HIV counseling and testing.  There are also AIDS support groups, home health care for the terminally ill, afterschool children’s programs, tutoring for youth, training for vocational skills, care for orphans in South Africa and Romania, and spiritual counseling and mentoring.  In addition, they provide support for feeding programs for children and youth, medical supplies, food packets for needy families,  food and clothing for the homeless, and other social initiatives — all while sharing the love of Jesus Christ.  Its Board of Directors is comprised of the six women from Oklahoma: Shauna, Adrian, Terra, Tammi, Elaine and Tanya.

HeatherandCalebToday, Derek’s widow, Heather  Liebenberg,  serves as the Pastor of Calvary Church of the Nazarene and volunteers with Seed of Hope (on the board of Directors and leads morning prayer and afternoon devotions once a week), in addition to raising her young son, Caleb.

Meanwhile, RESKU International continues their RESKU mission of helping to share life-changing hope with a people that once thought hope had forgotten them. PivotPointEndingBug

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