Meet Francois van Heerden, the National Director of Christian Surfers South Africa. Francois has been in the role of National Director for two and a half years. He grew up surfing in Durban and currently lives in Jeffreys Bay with his wife Marieta and their three groms, all of whom are young locals in the surf and skate scene. His favorite spot here in Jeffreys Bay is of course, the legendary Supertubes. Francois notes he came into Christian Surfers as an "outsider" to the organization, as he surfed his whole life but never made the connection between surfing and living out his faith in a missions capacity. CS has given him a role where he can combine his love of surfing with his passion for missions and reaching the lost with the Good News.
How has it impacted CS South Africa having Groundswell Aid in your backyard?
I think from my perspective, we sit with these outreach ministries [here in South Africa] that have needs and as a national mission, we scratch our heads thinking how can we support these ministries financially or make things happen to equip them to fulfill their mission? They have needs that we [as a national office] aren't able to meet.
Fundraising is hard in South Africa because there is so much need. Historically, it has been difficult to raise funds for a “surf mission,” so when we want to support missions it is hard...it’s like a mountain you look up at and ask, “How on earth will we get the funding…?” Then we get Groundswell Aid which comes along and says, “Hey, we want to partner with you and help you to reach this dream of being more effective in ministry.” It’s really, really amazing to see how effective it’s working so far, even in these infancy days.
The big thing that was a question mark for some people when GS started is: is this organization coming with a “big bang” and giving donations out, or are we talking about long term relationships with [service] projects? Can trust can be built and they know that they are not just a beneficiary or a “once off?” [What’s important] is a long term relationship and in years time you can see the fruit of the donations and people can see the difference. What I appreciate about Groundswell Aid is that it has this long term outlook and goal of building relationships with and walking alongside projects.
Another thing I appreciate about Groundswell Aid is that the vetting process is so robust, which is so critical. People come into this country with a lot of money and donate things, like surfboards [for example] and think they are doing this good thing, then they leave. What ends up happening is these gifts can actually do more damage in the community then good. The issue in these cases is that it’s not run by an organization that has proper controls and boundaries in place. It’s not right to just dump things on the poor in order to feel good about yourself. We really appreciate Groundswell’s vetting process and how it is properly run. It gives me as the national leader a lot of confidence that it’s not just about “looking good” and then people [the national team] are left with a mess afterwards to clean up.
What are your hopes for Groundswell Aid in South Africa?
That it would grow in it’s reach. Currently we have two specific projects in South Africa. There are obviously a lot of needs in South Africa and for me, what's important is longevity... that Groundswell Aid will continue long term in their relationship with South Africa and it’s projects. In CS we are talking about the tension between this idea of going “deep and wide” - even if we don’t look at [adding] more projects and instead, we went “deep” with the two existing projects, that would be so huge for us. There are specific needs in these projects like transportation and even what would be amazing is assisting a leader in one of the projects to become full time. In these ways, if we can have a deep impact in a community it would be so much better as opposed to spreading ourselves too thin and not making as much of an impact.
Thanks, Francois! We are stoked for the ways God is using Christian Surfers South Africa and Groundswell Aid to make an impact in every surfing community!