“Siduhla sa zambane,” the children shout. It is Zulu for “fat potato”, a ring game the children play at Kya Sands squatter’s camp. Although there are many different languages spoken by the children of Kya, all of them understand ‘siduhla sa zambane’.
On several occasions, my wife and I have had the privilege of working along side our daughter and her church friends at this squatter’s camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. These dedicated Christian folks, mostly women, work with the children in a field at the edge of the camp (a sprawling slum). In spite of hunger, deprivation of every kind, lack of sanitation and other basic human services, they come to the field. You can hear them coming as they fill the air with laughter and enthusiasm.
Their time in the field seems to bring a blessed relief from their tiny tin shacks and the rubbish that comprises most of their world. The children are led in exercises that contribute to hand-eye coordination essential to learning how to read. They also work with large motor skills and muscle development. The workers help children with basic vocabulary, sharing, teamwork, and so many other survival skills. Developmental goals are woven into activities and games the children enjoy.
One of the games the children love to play is ‘fat potato’. Squeals of laughter echo across the field as the one in the middle of the ring picks someone on the outer circle to come to center of the ring and be the fat potato. Running, jumping, peeping and hiding are the order of the day. I am sure there are many nuances of the game that are understood by the children that escape me. I do know that the joy they express by being able to play in a safe environment, surrounded by adults that care about them is a beautiful thing.
Let me share some thoughts that deeply moved me as I watched the Kya Kids in the field. This was a place where they could come and for a time:
- Be free from fear
- Be loved unconditionally
- Be accepted, valued and be confident enough to be the ‘fat potato’
- Know there are no ugly people and that all children in the field are equal
- Know clothes, possessions, and skin color are not things by which they are judged
- Find hope for tomorrow and the future
- See Jesus in the people who surround them
- Get a nutritious snack (perhaps the only food for some that day)
Observing them, I recalled the words of Jesus, “And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:13, NIV). How grateful I am that I have a ‘place’ in Jesus. He is my safe place, my field. Do you have such a place? Look the list above. Are you willing to become as one of these small ones in childlike faith and receive Jesus’ unconditional love? He will be your field.
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
~ Brother Roy