Jack Koma recalls his childhood, growing up in the scenic village of Moshira in Limpopo, herding cattle, ploughing the fields, surrounded by song and prayer, spending time with his great-grandfather, who was a Lutheran minister and who planted several churches.
“It was very nice growing up there. School was only five minutes from home. My mother was strong in her faith and my spirituality comes from there,” he says.
Despite enjoying the simplicity and beauty of his childhood, Jack felt his father’s absence deeply. Jack’s father worked as a migrant labourer in Johannesburg and would only visit every few months.
At 13, life took a dramatic turn for Jack when he started running away from school and he eventually dropped out in Grade 6. His mother moved him to the township of Lebowakgomo to live with his aunt and cousins. This helped him perform better at school and he emerged a quality soccer player, travelling throughout the Lebowakgomo homeland for tournaments.
However, he still missed the emotional and physical presence of his father and when his family moved to Johannesburg to live in a new house, he looked forward to a new relationship with his dad, only to be sorely disappointed.
“The living conditions were terrible. My father had taken on a second wife, but we didn't know we would be living with her. They had children and at some point we were seven kids living under one roof,” he says. “I was the first child in the family to complete matric and was disappointed when my father said he couldn’t afford to pay for my further studies.”
Hustling to survive
Jack says he ended up doing “loxtion management” – a slang term meaning he was hustling to survive in the township.
“I would sit around and count cars as they drove past and I knew everyone in my neighbourhood. I then found odd jobs doing door-to-door sales,” he says. “The money I made from commission helped me afford my basic needs. In 1993 I made a personal decision to become a born-again Christian. Despite my mother coming from the Lutheran church, my parents had converted to the ZCC.”
He believes it was this decision that led to a divine intervention.
“In 1993 I was filling out registration forms to help my brother (who was in matric at the time) apply to study at college so that he did not end up like me. When the forms came back, my brother was 400 km away in Limpopo and the forms had to be returned in four days to Daveyton, which was impossible. That is when I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me, that I should apply because I had all the necessary documents. That is how I got admitted to Daveyton College of Education in 1994.”
Jack developed great relationships in college and joined the Student Christian Movement (SCM). This opened opportunities for him to travel abroad. After obtaining his diploma in teaching, he made the decision to work full-time in youth ministry with the SCM.
When Heartlines was launched in 2006, he started promoting the films and setting up events as a regional rep. In 2010, he resigned from SCM. Today he manages a Community Education and Training Centre run by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
“It’s been wonderful presenting Heartlines programmes. They have been received with great enthusiasm. A local Christian radio station organised for us to present the programmes at a seminar and the feedback we received was great,” he says.
Having grown up with the physical, and later emotional, absence of his father, Jack is particularly drawn to the Fathers Matter programme.
“Because of my own father-issues, I see great need to restore fatherhood in our communities,” he says. ”The present but emotionally absent father is a major problem facing young people in my community and it has led to family breakdown. I look forward to going into various areas to minister to people and help them navigate this difficult topic”
“I also look forward to the new films and to see how they will get the message across about being a responsible father.”
Jack has found Heartlines programmes to be highly effective in his role as an educator and when working in ministry. He continues to see potential for reaching others, and with that, he believes anything is possible.