The Quist Family: A Secretly Incredible, “Normal” Family
JS: Christina, you and your husband, Kevin, left your comfortable homes and lives here in the United States to move to South Africa. Tell me more about what your life was like before the move.
Christina: We were both teachers at a private Christian high school. Kevin taught math and I taught mass communications and English. In addition to teaching, Kevin also coached the varsity basketball team. My extra-curricular activities included leading a Bible study with 24 girls in it.
We have 5 children, ages 17, 15, 13, 11, and 11. They kept us incredibly busy. All of them played sports at some level, some on elite traveling teams. And of course Kevin and I volunteered to help coach as well. Add on to that driver’s education, homework, friends, church activities, etc.
Our lives could be easily described as busy and hectic. Calendars ridiculously full.
JS: And then you decided to up and move to South Africa to live a different life. What happened?
Christina: Our souls had been discontent for about 4 years. Restless. Displaced. We were doing everything we were “supposed” to be doing, yet doing nothing at all.
We would read about underground churches in China, people who were martyred for Jesus and become so jealous of their faith. They knew Jesus in a fierce, life-giving way. We knew Him in a comfortable, 90-minutes on Sunday way. Surely He is worth more than this!
So, we read and prayed and pleaded and wrestled and on a whim, e-mailed Living Hope to see if we could visit South Africa for 2 weeks. Turns out, they were looking for someone to start a sports ministry and to work with teens through discipleship. It seemed like more than just a coincidence that they needed someone to do what we were already good at.
When you see the hurt there, it is palpable. It is also mixed with the residue of apartheid. Racism and bitterness are thick. That is what drew us to South Africa – the injustice of it all. These people, are forced to live in one sector of a beautiful city, within shacks made of tin, no running water, house built upon house, crime and sickness rampant.
They live and work next to people who live in opulence and wealth.
It is heartbreaking. We wanted to make every effort we could to get there, so we could deliver the message that they are worth more than they could imagine. Even if we deliver that message to just one person, it will be worth it.
JS: So you went to South Africa. Saw a need. And then found yourselves wrecked by a heart broken for a group of people. What did you do next?
Christina: So, we made some fledgling fundraising attempts, sold everything that wouldn’t fit into a suitcase and moved in with my parents to save money. We moved into their 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house for one year (That, my friend, is another story!).
And in time we bought 7 one-way tickets to Africa.
We’ve been here a little over a month. We are still learning to drive on the left side of the road and cook using the metric system. When we go to Masi for a game of pick up soccer and I see my kids playing with kids with no shoes and dirty feet, I think, this is how we should have been living all along.
On many levels, we need Africa more than it needs us. It has been very difficult and painful at times, and other times, so confirming. One of our favorite Bible passages that propelled us into action is Isaiah 58:10.
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
We’ve spent the first 19 years of our marriage trying to polish the exterior of a shallow faith. We really want live the next 19 being totally spent. That would be living.
JS: Tell me more about the specifics of your ministry.
We are located near Cape Town, South Africa. Essentially, we are working in a local township called Site 5, or Masiphumele. There are about 45,000 residents here. 1 in 2 males are unemployed. The latest estimate is that 28% of the township is HIV positive.
Our main avenue for outreach is through sports. Kevin hopes to establish a grass roots sports ministry, especially directed toward the hard to reach male teens.
I would like to work alongside some of the Living Hope staff to develop relationships with the teen girls, who face a very difficult life. Skills building, tutoring (education is abysmal) and parenting classes are a few of the ways.
Right now, we are both just trying to develop relationships and trust within the community.
JS: Do you ever get overwhelmed or scared by the work?
Christina: Yes, we do. We heard the very clear call of God. So we followed. For us that means we came with only 30% of our financial support raised. It means dealing with an unsettling crime rate. It means putting our oldest son on a plane back to the U.S. for his senior year in high school.
You know what keeps us going? Two months ago, I never would have pictured our life like it is now. We spend time daily in a local township. We see people, not just faces living in poverty, inside a tin shack. We see them. And they are admirable. And lovely. And full of life. And they have given us our life back.
For the first time in a very long time, we are living. It feels good.
JS: Your story is truly inspiring. Thank you for being the people to sell all you have and move to South Africa. Thank you for caring about these people you see. Thank you for sharing the gospel of Jesus with them.