Comfort Ndhlovu knew that his first name means to ease grief and distress, but he often wondered why he had this name, because his life was full of trouble and pain.
Comfort was born and raised in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, and lived with his grandmother, who showed him unconditional love and left him with wonderful memories.
“We lived a humble life and never went to bed hungry. My grandmother was a strong woman, rooted in prayer and my step-grandfather was a good man. I lived with them until I was nine years old,” he says.
“I was a good student in school, but everything changed when my school
bag disappeared. I lied to my grandparents about it. It affected my
confidence and I started struggling to perform well at school. I started
stuttering, I struggled to express myself and became rebellious. When
my grandmother found out, she called my father to intervene.”
This led to Comfort having to leave the comfort of his grandparents’ home to live with his father who was rigid and very harsh.
“It was a horrible experience. My dad had a new wife and daughter and I felt like an outsider in their home. I was often beaten up for things that I didn’t do and I was not allowed to socialise with other children, outside of school,” he says.
Although he believed his step-mother was a kind woman, their relationship lacked warmth because she only spoke to him when she needed him to run errands or do chores. He longed for his mother. He knew she was alive but did not know where to find her.
By the age of 15 Comfort had developed a deep resentment for his father, whom he felt was cold, abusive and favoured his sister and step-mother over him. He started attending church to escape the harsh conditions at home.
The following year, a chance encounter with his biological mother would open the floodgates of love and acceptance he needed.
“I was walking home from school and when I was at the market I locked eyes with a woman who looked very familiar, but I did not know where I recognised her from. After she walked past me, she turned around and called my name. When I replied, she recognised me as her son and we embraced and cried, and she apologised for abandoning me,” he says.
“We only lived a few blocks away from each other and I was shocked that it had taken us so long to find each other.
Comfort kept the relationship with his mother secret because they feared his father and knew he would not approve.
“I changed. I was performing well at school, taking on more chores around the house to assist my step-mom and attended church regularly,” he says. “But the lack of recognition and acknowledgment of my efforts by my father hurt me deeply. On one occasion he told me I would never succeed in life.”
“I matriculated with good grades but I knew my father could not afford to help me further my studies, so for two years I stayed with him feeling helpless,” he says. Comfort’s grandmother stepped in to help. She offered him to come back and live with her and she encouraged him to find employment.
Building a career
“I was offered a job at Youth For Christ (YFC) that completely changed my life.”
Comfort’s good work at YFC saw his career bloom as he was constantly being promoted. Today at the age of 35 he is the Director of Youth For Christ in Mpumalanga. He recently completed a degree in teaching and is also a loving husband and doting father to three children.
“My relationship with my father made me very conscious of my role and how I raise my children. I have learnt to be patient and often check myself when I’m angry with my kids. I don’t want to be harsh, or emotionally absent like he was.”
Comfort has been working alongside Heartlines since 2017, helping implement its programs in his community as a champion for the Values & Money campaign and now also taking on the What’s Your Story? and Fathers Matter projects.
“I see how powerful Heartlines resources are for community development and helping individuals tackle their issues so they can be effective in their personal lives and communities,” he says.
The power of forgiveness
Sadly, his mother died in 2018 and he eventually told his father that he and his mother had had a relationship for many years. His grandmother was murdered in 2020 and this tragic event brought him closer to his father.
“I wish people would see and understand the power of forgiveness and learn to value relationships no matter how difficult they are. Today My relationship with my father has greatly improved as we treat each other as brothers. I have seen how What’s Your Story? changes lives and whenever I share my story so many people feel inspired, encouraged and motivated to do the same,” he says.
“I do not only use Heartlines resources to change others, but also to teach myself a better way of being. Heartlines has given me a heart of forgiveness and made me pursue a better relationship with my father. I would encourage those who have been through a similar experience to take advantage of Heartlines resources so they can build a strong relationship with Christ because it is possible to live a life with positive values and with perseverance and support, you can change your circumstances.”