It’s Sunday morning in Bulembu and the fellowship cafe, where the youth raise money by selling coffee and cake, is loud with chatter and youth screeching ‘Goal!,’ playing table football in the corner. So I grab Marie, Hanna and David, new interns in town all the way from Germany and we head to a side room to talk about testimonies and Bulembu!

The three young adults have traveled here to spend almost a year serving the youth and the Royal Rangers kids and young adults, volunteering in whatever ways they can. Our youth and ranger leaders Akki and Allison regularly have young people come through Velberter Mission organization and it’s always great to hear how people came to be here.

David Werle is the chattiest in the group on this occasion and offers his story. He has a strong connection to Africa in his family through his dad, and because his Grandfather was a missionary in Ivory Coast. He says ‘Ever since I was fourteen I’ve known that I want to give a year to God, to serve God and grow in faith, and this year is dedicated to others. As in, when I’m asked what I want to do, I’ll answer, ‘what’s most needed?’ I know God was leading when I was looking online for Christian gap years, and there were five options and I had a week to decide.’ He explains that there were all these moments in the process where God must have been orchestrating the plan, so that he would end up at Bulembu.

Marie Waßmann’s process was nice and quick, as she’d heard about the project in Germany and applied in May, and just a few short months later here she is, until midway through 2020! Hanna Kirn talks about what made her decide to come. ‘I’m taking this time to be independent and to grow as a person and I’m motivated by wanting to share God’s love here, especially as the children here have lost mothers and fathers, so they really need the love of God.’

I ask about what cultural experiences they have had and if anything surprised them about eSwatini and Bulembu in the first weeks, as they haven’t been here long. Hanna speaks up, ‘I didn’t expect to be so cold!’, she laughs, and the others agree. ‘And it’s amazingly quiet, almost too quiet sometimes! But, we have hot water, that’s a good surprise!’

I enquire whether they’ve tried local cuisine yet. ‘We’ve all tried pap. (the local cooked maizemeal staple) It’s fine, but the main thing is that you eat it with sauce and then it’s nice.’

The girls talk about the teens and kids they are working with, and how they are really knowledgable about popular culture around the world. ‘The kids know all the same celebrities that we know, which we maybe didn’t expect!’

Hanna says ‘Something I really noticed and like here is the way that there is more respect and people greet each other in the street and interact, no one ever passes anyone without saying hello.’ Marie adds, ‘that’s similar in rural parts of Germany, you don’t ignore people, you communicate but in a Germany city people won’t do that.’ It’s true that here everyone is friendly and in Bulembu that seems all the more emphasized to everyone who comes, which is really special.

Lastly, we talked about whether they have already had highlights in their few first weeks and David pipes up, ‘I loved the braai (referring to a barbecue) that we had! Sabelo slaughtered a pig! That’s a cultural experience, haha! Then we all ate together, it was great.’ Marie says emphatically, ‘My highlight is everything,’ and David adds, ‘and youth is like a party (the weekly church gathering) every weekend, when we have worship, it’s awesome.’

Today a few weeks later I go to pick up my kids from royal Rangers and the three interns are hard at work finishing up session one of holiday club, clouds in the sky but smiles on faces, having been making bivouacs with the youngest group, and are expecting two more age groups to spend the very busy day with. They are teaching the children important skills for the December camp and David, Marie and Hanna are occupied, focussed, in the centre of all action and look right at home, because for this year that is exactly what they are, and the Bulembu family is very glad of that!

If you are interested in volunteering here or know someone who may be, please refer to for information, we would love to hear from you! Thank you for reading.