Estelle Willemse has written to News24 in response to the recent KwaSizabantu Mission exposé and related articles, saying she is saddened by the allegations.
I came to the mission in September 2011, at the age of 25, after being inspired by the testimony of a missionary whose life had changed here.
In the years prior to coming to the mission, I had been very troubled and had been seeking help at various places, only to come away empty.
When I arrived at the mission, I stayed with a dear family (unknown to me prior to my arrival), who took me in and treated me as their own child. I stayed with them for three months, after which I moved to a dormitory. In December 2011, I started working at aQuellé, and have been happily working for the company ever since.
My first Christmas at the mission was spent in Reverend [Erlo] Stegen's home, among his family. His daughters made me feel so welcome. They showered me with love and even gave me Christmas gifts! Whenever I felt homesick, his daughters would invite me to be with them. On one occasion, I had my wisdom teeth removed in hospital. I had a reaction to the anaesthetics and became very sick and weak. When Ruth Combrink, the General Manager of aQuellé heard of this, she fetched me and took me to her house. There, she and her sisters nursed me back to health with so much love and care. I will be forever grateful to them.
Whenever I had a need, the people of the mission would support me. On one occasion, Esther Bornman invited me to stay with her and her family. I stayed with them for a few months and enjoyed the love and safety of their home. They treated me so well, I never felt unwelcome or that I was a burden.
There are many such instances I can recall here, but there would not be enough space or time to tell them all.
For this reason, I am saddened to hear of the allegations against the mission, aQuellé, and some individuals who have been affiliated to the mission. I find it difficult to comprehend because my experience has been so incredibly uplifting.
I came to the mission as a broken person and am now healed. What I have experienced of the people, the projects, the preaching...it's all about helping people.
People come and go from the mission. Some are helped and revive and some remain the same. The choice lies with the individual.
That said, we are all human and make mistakes. So, I feel for those who have been hurt and I heartily invite those making the allegations to come and see the mission as it is today and be reconciled, because I believe in doing that, will they truly find peace.
-Estelle Willemse, Cape Town