The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
May11FriHow a "one-off" volunteer experience turned into a forever family. May 11, 2018 by Giselle Randall
When Shoshanna van Dijk talks about her children, the joy and pride in her voice are unmistakable. “They’re wonderful!” she says. “My daughters are 10 and 11, and they’re both into drama, dance and music—they love to express themselves. My sons are seven and eight, and they’re balls of energy—they don’t walk, they bounce!”
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They became a family while Shoshanna was volunteering in South Africa at a children’s home in Johannesburg. “These four just snuck a little bit further into my heart,” she says. “Finding adoptive families for children with special needs is really difficult. God had them there for me. And so—they were mine.”
Shoshanna grew up in Willow River, just outside Prince George, B.C. “I’ve always had a passion for the voiceless, and I’ve always wanted to be the arms of love somewhere in the world for little people who didn’t have anybody,” she says
In 2004, after her second year of university, Shoshanna found an orphanage in Johannesburg that was desperate for volunteers. “I went for three months, and I thought it was a one-off summer experience,” she says. “But I lost my heart.”
She returned the next summer, and the next. After she graduated, she volunteered for two more years, thinking that would feel long enough and she’d want to come home. “But, instead, I looked after my two daughters for those two years, nursing them around the clock for months and months.
“For me to leave, knowing they would never have a family—I just couldn’t do that. I felt God saying I was the person they were supposed to have. I was Mom.”
Shoshanna got a job and started the adoption process, which went through quickly for Siphesihle (Sihle). But partway through Pamela’s adoption, the laws in South Africa changed.
“Suddenly, you had to be on a work visa for five years before you qualified to adopt, and I’d only had one for six months,” she says. “But Pamela was already living with me as Mom—I had to make it work! So I waited the extra four and a half years to be able to adopt her.”
In that time, Pamela’s younger brother was added into the fostercare placement and adoption application. “Musawenkosi (Musa) was my surprise from God,” she says. “As a single mom, I didn’t think I’d go past my two girls, but he has been such a delight.”
“For me to leave, knowing they would never have a family—I just couldn’t do that.”
“And that’s how my little family came to be. God just kept opening doors.”
“We Love It!”
In 2015, after eight years in South Africa, Shoshanna moved back to Canada with her kids. They settled in Prince George, where they started attending The Salvation Army’s community church.
“In South Africa, I really struggled to find a church—many are still segregated,” she says. “But from the moment we walked into the Army’s South Rand Corps, they were so warm and welcoming, and it was so multicultural.
“When we returned to Canada, we looked up the Army here. My kids felt at home instantly. Within two weeks, they were begging, ‘Can we please stay? We love it!’ We never looked back.”
All of the kids are involved in S.O.UL. Dance, a recreational and competitive dance program offered by the church, as well as the worship group and Ready to Serve, the children’s discipleship program. Pamela and Sihle are junior soldiers (church members), and Musa and Nicholas aren’t far behind.
“Every possible thing they can do, they’re right in the middle of!” says Shoshanna. On Saturdays, they help with the Army’s Operation Hunger Leave, preparing and serving food to about 150 people downtown. “It’s so cool to watch them interact with the people who come—the smiles they get. They really enjoy being part of that.”
A Mother’s Dream
Although they are thriving, life isn’t without challenges. Every few months, they travel to Vancouver to visit British Columbia Children’s Hospital for appointments and treatment. Sihle has cerebral palsy, and Nicholas will one day need a kidney transplant. Three of the kids have a diagnosis of PTSD, and trauma-related behaviour comes up in day-to-day life.
“There are definitely days I feel stretched,” says Shoshanna. “But God is good. He is big. The support I have is just amazing, from my parents, to their school, to our church. And being their mother, being their voice, is my calling.”
It was Shoshanna’s dream to be the arms of love for children who had no one. Now, she dreams her children will “grow up to be confident, empathetic, compassionate, people who love God with all their hearts, and are His hands and feet here on earth, wherever it is they’re called.”
Shoshanna describes her kids with tenderness and affection:
Pamela dances through life. She loves anything active and sporty. She helps teach one of the younger dance classes, and always has a group of little kids chasing her around because she’s so kind to them.
Sihle’s middle name is Lorato, which means “love” in Zulu. And she is so caring, be it animals or babies. Wise beyond her years, she loves to talk about big subjects and hard things. Living in the body she’s in gives her a lot of opportunity to think and reflect on things that aren’t always easy.
Musa is my teddy bear. He’s so cuddly and soft-spoken, a little gentleman. At school, he’s always the one who helps other kids undo their backpacks or clean up their tables.
Nicholas is my firecracker—he never, ever stops! He’s like a whirlwind that flies through, and you’re like, “What was that?” He’s just so exuberant and full of life.