Nomaswazi Tinus is the Founder and Director of African Mamas Crafts – a social enterprise based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her corporate career focused on the fields of Cartography (Mapping), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Geography – with almost 20 years’ experience in the property and telecommunications sectors. She is passionate about community development that is sustainable and inclusive.
Over the years, as I applied the principle of ‘working with all my heart as unto the Lord and not to men’, God showed himself faithful, and I continually experienced favour, promotion and influence (to paraphrase Luke 2:52). It was as a result of this sense of ‘partnering with God’ to bring His kingdom expression on earth, that I resigned towards the end of 2014 to start African Mamas Crafts.
I had recently completed my BSc (Hons) Geography research on the livelihoods of women in urban African cities, with a specific focus on the informal settlement of Orange Farm in Johannesburg. I was challenged by the fact that in the urban areas of South Africa, women face more unemployment than men, and that the general demographic profile of the unemployed is uneducated, female and black. The research presented me with an opportunity to explore solutions. Convinced that part of the solution is to focus on the skills and assets people already have, we started with, “What do you have in your hands?”
Rural women already use weaving and beading to support their families, and so we empower these women to manufacture beautiful crafts in the areas where they live, and connect their products with relevant markets. We also encourage the use of available land for agriculture, in the hope of strengthening and building sustainable rural communities. Currently we work with about 80 people (mostly women) in three provinces (Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo).
One of the fundamental things God taught me (and is still teaching me) in managing and growing the business is that organic growth is good. Essentially this means that a caterpillar does not become a butterfly in one day, but comes to maturity through a process of metamorphosis and stages of growth. It also means that I must not rush ahead to do things alone, but invite Him into my plans.
As I was reflecting on where to start this testimony, I was reminded of an experience I had many years ago. It was about nine years into my career, while working for a state-owned entity in the Johannesburg CBD. A few colleagues and I used to meet during lunch in one of the company boardrooms to share Scripture, encouragement and prayer – both personally and for the organisation. It was a diverse group, brought together by our shared work and Christian faith. Looking back, I realise that the consistent coming together in fellowship both encouraged and grounded me – giving me a solid foundation to share and live out my faith in the workplace.
It was during one of these meetings that I received a Scripture that has had a profound impact on me: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24, my emphasis). I have always had a good work ethic, but this revelation of working for the Lord and not for people’s approval, really transformed how I viewed work. Knowing that I was not working for an earthly boss – who either sees or does not see or appreciate my work effort to reward me accordingly – made a tremendous difference in how I approached my work.
After moving to a multinational telecommunications company (where I spent the next ten years of my career) I craved the Christian community I had left behind. Then I found a group of believers who met in the boardroom during lunch. I felt at home. Again, this was a diverse group of people from very different backgrounds, brought together by work and faith.
In my working life, I have really come to appreciate the strength and wisdom that is released when Christians come together to read Scripture and pray. God really intervenes in situations when we ask Him. We are more powerful together, than when we stand alone.