DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – Dan and Rachel Smither sold their home, their cars, and their furniture to help raise funds to begin the Key of Hope ministry in Durban, South Africa, in 2007. One year later, they had boots – and 16 suitcases – on the ground.
At the time, South Africa was ranked third in the world for murder, kidnapping, robbery, assault, and rape. Not to mention that this was a nation living in the wake of a lengthy period of deeply-rooted racial tensions.
The Smithers, however, were responding to the clear calling of the Lord to share the hope found only in Jesus Christ to children affected by extreme poverty and AIDS in the shanty towns in and around South Africa’s third-largest city. Durban and the surrounding region was, at that time, also “the worst AIDS affected area in the entire world.”
The Key of Hope Ministry Model
Key of Hope’s discipleship model is to love and serve the Lord with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength – and to encourage others to do the same. Their website illustrates the model this way:
“Heart: Giving children emotional support through mentoring relationships at home visits.
“Soul: Teaching children about who Jesus is and how the Gospel impacts their life at our Kidz Klub, Youth Night, and devotions.
“Mind: Providing children’s school fees, uniforms, and transportation to receive tutoring at our Hope Academy program.
“Strength: Nourishing and strengthening children with food parcels and our Sports program.”
The Key of Hope Methodology
From the very beginning, the Key of Hope method has been about building long-term relationships by visiting children in their homes. It is there that the children are first introduced to Jesus Christ. Every child involved in a Key of Hope program receives a visit from a staff member every week. The commitment to that method has never changed. It is just as important today with 2,000 children as it was just over a decade ago with one child from one home.
The weekly Kidz Klub is the gateway to the other Key of Hope programs. Hundreds of children gather on Saturdays for “an exciting mix of games, singing, prizes, puppets, and Bible teaching.”
The Key of Hope Choir provides children with an opportunity to worship the Lord in song and to minister to others. Every two years, the choir visits sponsoring churches in the United States.
The Feeding Program distributes free food packages to families living in abject poverty every week.
The Creche Project provides childcare from newborn to the age of six through a network of daycares in the communities where the children live.
Cross Training provides organized sports activities, such as soccer and netball. Teams compete in tournaments every month. Every practice session includes “a practical Bible teaching related to that day’s activities.”
Hope Academy offers classroom tutoring in English, math, etiquette, and public speaking.
Garden Groups are held several times each year when South African schools are not in session. These groups are much like those held in the U.S. by Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Spring Camp is an annual five-day retreat in the Drakensberg Mountains for older children. Like any Christian camp for kids, it is a time for refreshing and responding to the Lord.
The Key of Hope Maturity Programs
Children grow up. As they do, they need additional guidance. Key of Hope has created the M&M Program and Leadership Development program to ensure that children do not “age out” but continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
“M&M” stands for matric and marriage. Matric is equivalent to the senior year of high school. Key of Hope prepares young adults to successfully navigate these important passages.
Key of Hope provides Leadership Development for those who have demonstrated leadership qualities, “taking them through a pipeline of increasing responsibility . . . [to] equip young leaders to fulfill their God-given callings.” As the Lord continues to expand the ministry, Key of Hope expects that the young adults in this program will become future staff.
Key of Hope is a ministry located where it is most needed to influence the next generations for Christ in the nation of South Africa.