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In South Africa, a love grows along with mission teaching

It was more than 10 years ago when their story first began.

Little did they know one of them would have to travel to South Africa before they could actually begin their love story.

It all began when Sarah Eanes of Halifax began searching for spiritual guidance in a new young adults group.

She found herself at a new church in Raleigh, N.C., where she met Mitch Hassell.

“We attempted to date several times but it just wasn’t the right time,” said Mitch.

Sarah instead left for two years on a mission journey to work with youth in Rustenburg, South Africa.

“I had to go by myself (to Africa) and I had to have my own calling,” said Sarah.

The two remained good friends and after spending two years doing mission work in South Africa, Sarah returned home to Halifax and would begin dating Mitch.

This time, the time was right.

The two got married in March 2008 and would return to South Africa together in July 2008.

Calling Rustenburg, South Africa home for more than five years now, the Hassells mentor youth and “disciple to the community.”

Joining Youth With A Mission they completed discipleship training school and started to live out the program’s mission, “to know God and to make Him known.”

“We go into the public schools and teach Bible classes…they have all kinds of beliefs, I just want to expose them to God,” said Mitch.

According to Mitch he just wants to change their mindsets. Like so many they equate God to their parents and many of them have been abused whether it be physical or emotional, “we just want to change their mindsets.” 

Mitch was encouraged to show the youth God’s story through movies and how “we fit in,” sharing that he loved to see the expressions on their faces when they saw things for the first time.

“They had an all new view themselves, God loves that. It’s very difficult there because of the peer pressure,” said Mitch.

The couple partnered with a church in Rustenburg named Vantage Point. Sarah said that when the couple first joined, the youth only consisted of eight. The meetings were held on Friday nights, however Mitch called for consistency and a year later the youth now has 30 members. Most of those youth come from other churches or no church at all. 

“You can find him in the middle of a crowd of young people. They want to listen to him, they take lead from him,” said Sarah about her husband.

The children can be found sewing, knitting, playing monopoly and even completing computer training.

“By playing monopoly they’re learning to count money, completely unaware that they’re learning,” said Mitch.

The pair admits the journey can be “trying at times” and a lot of churches in the area have split but they have just began to feel like they are getting in to the groove of things and the program they work with has really opened doors across the board.

However crime rates are high and the cost of living in South Africa is no walk in the park, and they don’t receive any financial help other than from donations. Compared to the states, just a galloon of gas is nearly double costing $6. 

“We don’t have a Walmart with great low prices,” said Sarah.

She did confess she splurged on a can of Lysol, costing $10.

After being in South Africa for over four years, the Hassells were blessed with a surprise. Sarah found out she was pregnant. At the age of 37, it wasn’t something the couple had planned but Sarah said, “I had to trust the Lord as we tell others to do, so I did.”

The first time mother to be had researched the nearby hospitals and ultimately made the decision to have a water birth.

However with the uncertainty of never knowing if you’re going to have water or electricity the idea of a water birth was soon tossed as Sarah went into labor a month early.

“It was about four in the morning and my water broke. When we got to the home of my mid-wife she wasn’t quite ready for us, she had no electricity to warm the water, so I just laid on the floor,” said Sarah.

After six hours of hard labor, Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby girl weighing five and a half pounds.

Now with a newborn, the Hassells strongly believe the Lord has a “big purpose” for little Nyomi.

“We live by faith… we have good months and we have bad months,” said Mitch.

However, the proud new dad said that Nyomi, now eight months old has adjusted well to life in South Africa and constantly changing surroundings.

She even endured the 18-hour flight from South Africa back to the United States without a big fuss.

Because their families hadn’t had the chance to meet the new addition to the family they wanted to visit. The Hassells have been in the states since April visiting all the family and churches they can to tell them about the program, their mission work and to show off their newest family member.

The Hassells are true believers that the Lord provides what one needs.

“Our fridge broke and we went and looked at one and it was too much but we needed it. So I told Sarah we’d come back and if we really needed it we’d get it,” said Mitch.

The Hassells received a donation of money for the amount they needed for the fridge.

“The Lord provides,” said Mitch.

Two area churches and individual families support the family throughout the year.

“We live on what people donate,” said Mitch.

Leaving in August, the Hassells plan to return back to South Africa and continue their mission work. Although there are no definite future plans they both agree they will “stay here (South Africa) until we hear God say something else, go somewhere else or come home.” 

Sarah is the daughter of Fred and Mary Eanes of Halifax and Mitch is the son of Leroy and Zella Hassell of Troy, N.C.