Prankster becomes a networking whizz

Going to school in the small town of Bethulie in Bloemfontein was a treat. All the kids knew each other, there were plenty of friends to be made, and plenty of pranks to pull on affable teachers who knew their students well. To some, life might have seemed perfect for young Emmerentia Muller, but little did they know the deep longing she had for the companionship of siblings and a loving dad. 

Emmarentia grew up an only child and her dad passed away when she was only one year old. She was raised by her grandmother and her mom, who worked as a missionary.

“I was conscious about death from a young age because of my dad’s absence and my mom who worked with terminally ill elderly people,” she says. “But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in the house, although my mom was a very serious woman we had a lot of fun and my gran taught me to love and rejoice in God.” 

Emmerentia describes herself as being a “happy-go-lucky” child who found community through holidays that were spent with cousins and men from her family’s church who played a fatherly role in her life. 

She travelled to the township often with her mom who she says taught her that everyone was equal at a time when South Africa was under apartheid. 

“My mom had a strong influence on me becoming a Christian and the ministry work I do today,” she adds. “She also kept me focused on the news in South Africa and what was going on, so when I was in high school I wanted to travel overseas to study political science.”

Finding her own path

When Emmarentia completed high school, her mom had a near fatal accident that left her permanently bed-ridden. Uncertain about her own future, Emmarentia applied for a bursary and received support from the church to further her studies. She obtained a degree in journalism and her dream to make an impact in the world was reignited. 

“Coming from a small town, school was great because we all knew each other and then I went to university and discovered I had thousands of new friends, it was a big adjustment,” she giggles. 

“I had great friends, we used to pull pranks on everyone. We pulled our biggest prank on the rugby team when they were not performing well in the final. We stole the team’s rugby jerseys off the washing line and sewed them together so they couldn’t put them on,” she laughs. 

“When I was in my third year things got more serious. I joined the student council and was in charge of overseeing Olienhout student residence, which was a hotspot for racial conflict. I learnt mediation skills and we made a huge impact bringing change and restoration.” 

It’s no wonder she is passionate about the What's Your Story? initiative and continues to work to bring healing and restoration in Bloemfontein. 

After university, Emmarentia continued making an impact. She landed a job working in communications in child welfare and became part of the national Red Nose Day campaign to help raise funds for disadvantaged children.

Connecting with Heartlines

She also went on to do ministry work, organise youth camps and later began using her journalism skills to connect people, church leaders and organisations. This is how she got connected with Heartlines and has worked with the team to provide her community and network with resources. 

“I remember attending a What’s Your Story? event and asking a black church leader if he had forgiven white people for apartheid, he said he was grappling with the same question,” she says. 

“That’s when I made the decision that as long as there are still people hurting and carrying the wounds caused by apartheid, I would commit my life to helping others heal.” 

Emmerentia says she has found the What’s Your Story? grief resource to be powerful in her work assisting people in emotional distress as well as the Fathers Matter resources which she envisions will make a great impact in her community and networks. 

“I once met a young man who was in anguish about his mother’s passing and had lost all faith in God. He was very angry and had lots of doubts,” she says. “The second time I saw him I asked him to tell me his story and I watched his journey of healing unfold.”

“Everything we do should begin with asking people ‘What’s your story?’ and listening with understanding. Heartlines’ resources are incredibly powerful and I look forward to continuing to share them with the people of Bloemfontein.”