When Nowandile Ngezana’s sister died from complications from asthma, Nowandile’s world collapsed around her. She sobbed at the sight of her sister’s picture hanging on the living room wall. And the very mention of her sister’s name caused her to tense up with grief.
“I was badly hurt at that very moment,” Ngezana said. “I could not care if I died also when I saw that she was dead.”
Christianity is the predominant religion in South Africa. For the Xhosa people of Grahamstown, faith is a means of support during difficult times. For Ngezana, a member of the United Methodist church, her faith in God kept her going after the death of her younger sister.
It wasn’t until Ngezana saw her sister’s coffin lowered into the ground that she fully realized her loss. A month later, she said she still hadn’t come to terms with it. But her faith has eased the pain.
“One thing that will help me, which people are advising me, is to talk to the almighty God, the one who reigns heaven above,” she said. “Now, because of prayers, I can see God’s work inside my heart.”
Michael Zideba, a pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission church, said it’s not uncommon for members of the Xhosa community to turn to faith during hard times, especially after the loss of a loved one.
“It’s a cultural thing,” he said. “For me as a person, I cannot give you hope. But if I pray to God to do something about your bitterness, I believe God can do that.“
Although there are many denominations of Christianity, each in the Xhosa culture focuses on the importance of prayer. According to their beliefs, prayer, or the communication with God, is essential not only for a heavenly afterlife, but for a peaceful present.
“People from the church are different from random people,’ said Cynthia Sizeka Sam, a bishop in the Bantu Apostolic Church of Zion. “A person who goes to church will go to you and comfort you and give you some Bible verses. And they will tell you that there will be a rainbow after the storm.”