Lisa van der Merwe’s work in South Africa was preordained
Inspired by her sister Megan’s visit to Africa,
teenager Lisa Monreal began to see herself there.
“Seeing her pictures and hearing her stories was impactful to me, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” Life Spring’s Early Childhood Director Lisa van der Merwe recalled recently.
Throughout high school and her first two years in college, the vision of serving God as a missionary in Africa stayed with her.
Eventually, Africa began to dominate Lisa’s conscious and subconscious.
“I would dream about it. And I would see myself in different places—in a hut or walking on a road,” she said.
Lisa, who said she likes “to be in step with God,” prayed for guidance with Pastor Tony Amatangelo.
An answer came in the form of an old friend who told her about Jabulani Africa Ministries (JAM).
So in 2008, Lisa put her studies at California State University, Northridge on hold, said goodbye to her family and friends and headed for Cape Town, South Africa.
In South Africa, Lisa saw herself as an extension of Life Spring church, which supported her not only emotionally and spiritually but financially as well.
As an intern with JAM,
Lisa helped support the local churches, and through its youth camp programs,
helped develop young leaders for Christ.
“We would train the teenagers – and they would teach the younger children,” Lisa said. “It was life-changing for everyone involved.”
At JAM, Lisa learned to minister to people - not in the sense of a pastor with a theology education - but as someone who is able to point people to Christ while addressing their present needs.
“If you love God and love people, you will be able to do amazing things,” she said.
It was in South Africa that she met her now
husband, Thinus van der Merwe, a South African and fellow missionary who is now
Life Spring’s Youth Director.
In addition to a willingness to leave the comforts of home and travel halfway around the world, Lisa believes that education is a key component of a young child’s life.
She received a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis on education from CSUN in 2009 and now teaches in Agoura Hills at Born Learners School for pre-elementary students.
As Life Spring’s Early Childhood Director, Lisa oversees all programs for kids 0 years of age through kindergarten.
While in South Africa during the second half of 2016, Lisa and Thinus were praying and consulting with Pastor Tony about a possible return to Life Spring.
“Pastor Tony told me that there was a need here for a youth director and an early childhood director,” Lisa said.
Lisa and Thinus returned to Life Spring in January 2017 and took on their current roles within the church.
While Lisa missed her family and friends during her time abroad, she has a heart that is open to God’s calling, whenever and wherever it may be.
“We both have an available heart. For the time being, we know the Lord is calling us here, to California and to Life Spring,” Lisa said. “Our prayer is that we remain in God’s calling on our lives in the future and present.”