Kelebogile Mercy Mphela was born on March 13, 1997 and was carried to glory on March 8, 2022 not long after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
In 2021, she came to Cape Town from Johannesburg to spend a two month break from her studies with her sister Massie (Thato’s wife) who had recently given birth at that time.
Like most young adults, Kele had dreams of finishing her studies, getting a good job, finding “Mr. Right,” and getting married. Cape Town was not really part of the plan, but while visiting her sister, she attended our Sunday services, met the church, and was quickly making new friends.
Around November of 2021, she started complaining about stomach aches which required her to go to a clinic and see doctors several times.
In February, she was finally diagnosed with cancer.
By then, it was already at stage four.
The day that she found out, I went to meet with her for encouragement and prayer. I expected a very anxious 24 year old, and was preparing myself for high emotions, a lot of weeping, and “why me” questions.
When I got to the house, I found a calm woman; full of confidence in her sovereign Lord.
After sharing with her from God’s Word, she said, “Pastor, when I came here, I had no intention to stay. But then I started attending Sunday services, met the church, and the Lord saved me. I was taught that God is sovereign and that we should do everything for His glory. If He decided that I must get cancer, then it is for His glory, and I am okay with that. I know I’m still young, but why not me? God is in control of this.”
I remember leaving there encouraged, but also thinking that she may have been telling me what I wanted to hear.
After a few days, her health started to decline rapidly, and she was hospitalized. Members of our church were with her every single day, giving of themselves sacrificially to support our dear sister, Kele.
Praying with her at the hospital and seeing how much pain she was in was almost unbearable. She suffered so much!
As I held her hand, she told me, “Pastor, I am suffering for Christ. I want to suffer well. I am suffering for His glory.”
My wife stayed with her that day, and as I left, I wept for her pain, but more than that, I was weeping at the wonder of our God. Kele was still a young believer, but her confidence in God and devotion to Christ seemed to be way beyond her years. When God saves a person, He keeps them through the toughest of trials. I stood amazed at the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.
I wept for the many out there in my community who are swept away by that false “gospel” that claims only health and prosperity will flow from God. It robs people from the glory that comes from suffering for Christ. Kele was committed to doing everything to the glory of the Lord. Even her suffering!
As the cancer progressed and she started getting weaker, she told one of our sisters, “I’m not afraid.” She knew that she was in God’s hands. I told her that the best place for a 24 year old to be is face to face with Jesus. She smiled and nodded her head in agreement.
The day before she died, on March 7th, although she was in much pain, she used all the strength she could muster to sit up and tell the people in her ward that Jesus had saved her, and that she hoped that He would save them as well.
Up until her last breath, she was a Gospel witness to lost people. She did it amidst so much pain and suffering.
She did it to glorify her Lord. Oh how precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints!