The Zulu people are a strong and proud kingdom, the largest ethnic group in South Africa at 10 million strong, living mainly in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The past 30 years here have brought triumphs and challenges.
Studies and surveys have shown that KwaZulu-Natal has suffered the highest number of HIV-positive people and AIDS-related deaths in South Africa. KZN also has the highest rate of tuberculosis cases and deaths. Thanks to progress in the fight against AIDS, the province has come back to a life-expectancy of 60 years old from 49 years old in 2006. Children are one-third of the KZN population, and of those about 21% are orphans (842,000 children) and another 5% have a living parent but reside with a relative or friend. A number of homes in the area are child-headed households.
Much has been done by the government and the private sector to provide housing and subsidies for the poor and to care for vulnerable children, but situations in local communities are continually changing and local answers are needed. Further, with 22-27% unemployment, jobs are needed as well as the education and training necessary to get good jobs.
Aware of the economic, educational, and health needs in the local rural communities, the 7 Rivers Outreach team (itself fallen and broken but redeemed) sees these issues as symptomatic of a deep spiritual brokenness. The answer begins with the destiny-changing and life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ – the true gospel. One by one, we are seeing life-change toward Christlikeness as hearts are changed by the truth of God’s Word.
Our mission is not to address symptoms, but root causes. Our mission is to bring about gospel-driven life-change and community-transformation, and then to transfer that model to other rural villages through the training and development of godly leaders.
Our key performance areas, which are progressively unfolding, are 1) compassion ministry, moral teaching, and evangelistic outreach in the community, 2) the creation of The Village at 7 Rivers, a place of love, safety, teaching, and foster care for orphans and vulnerable children, and 3) the 7 Rivers Farm, which will sell produce and products to help fund the village, provide work for our Christian foster parents, and train locals in entrepreneurship and local job skills.
We try to plan and act consistently with the following values:
Ministry moves forward on its knees. Desperate prayer is essential (Colossians 4:2-6).
Local churches are the focal point of God’s work in the world today (Acts 14:21-23).
Bible preaching and teaching in the local heart-language is essential for community transformation (Acts 22:1-21).
Biblical gospel ministry involves the gospel message, moral-practical teaching, and compassion work (Matthew 4:23, 9:35).
Relief, rehabilitation, and development each require different levels of assistance. We must give a hand up rather than a handout, and not do for others what they can and should do for themselves. We must show compassion without creating dependency (Luke 10:30-37).
Developing the heart, head and hands of leaders from within the community is essential for lasting transformation (Romans 15:14).
Transferring biblical values and parenting skills is essential to generational transformation of families and communities (Proverbs 29:15-17).
Work is good; God created us to work and then rest in order to provide for ourselves and to share with others in need. Character and job-skills training are critical to human dignity and thriving (Ephesians 4:25-29).
Kelly and Cherise Smith settled in our valley in 2005 and began what was to become the 7 Rivers Outreach, sharing Christ and healthcare information from home to home in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They have begun many of the outreach efforts of 7 Rivers, are involved with a local church-plant, and are involved with developing infrastructure on the farm. They serve with ITMI (In Touch Mission International) and have five grown children.
David and Virginia Morris moved to Amanzimtoti in 1986 and helped plant and lead Grace Baptist Church of Amanzimtoti, the church that later adopted 7 Rivers Outreach as one of its ministries. David transitioned out of the pastorate in 2007 and is a theology teacher developing area pastors and emerging leaders. He also serves as the Director of 7 Rivers Outreach. The Morrises serve with ABWE and have four married children and six grandchildren.
Scott and Erin Kemp settled in our valley in 2015. They are active in discipling young leaders, developing infrastructure at 7 Rivers, are involved with a local church-plant, and are heading up the skills-development/entrepreneurship elements of 7 Rivers. The Kemps serve with BMW (Biblical Ministries Worldwide) and have six children still at home.
Fifi Smith grew up in our community and was adopted into the Smith household during her teen years. In 2017, she completed a course of theological studies at Berean Bible Institute in Johannesburg, and has returned to the valley serving with ITMI (In Touch Mission International) to focus on community health evangelism and job skills development for teenage girls.
David and Karin Brown have been involved with church-planting and leadership development in South Africa and abroad since the 1990s; they moved to Amanzimtoti in 2018. David did his doctoral work in compassion ministry in the African context, is heading up Grace-Toti’s GEN2 projects, and will succeed David Morris as Director of 7 Rivers Outreach. The Browns serve with BMW (Biblical Ministries Worldwide) and have four married children and nine grandchildren.
Dan and Debbie Willoughby settled in our area in 2015. Their main function is networking with pastors in the African community, mentoring young men and couples for future pastoral ministry, and providing training in evangelism and counseling. The Willoughbys serve with BMW (Biblical Ministries Worldwide) and have five adult children living in Europe and the U.S.
The 7 Rivers Outreach is one of the GEN2 (Generation 2) ministries of Grace Baptist Church of Amanzimtoti. The 7 Rivers Board of Directors is comprised of godly ministry and business men and women from all over KwaZulu-Natal representing the diversity of South Africa. The chairman of the 7 Rivers Board is Desmond Venter, pastor of Grace-Toti, and the Director of 7 Rivers is an elder at Grace-Toti.