As is easy to imagine, everyone at The Luke Commission loves the kitchen staff. What’s even better, the kitchen staff like one another. Consequently, what emerge for all to enjoy are meals, so many meals, cooked and baked with melodious merriment.

Explained one staff member who eats from the kitchen daily: “The food is great. Nutritious, with fresh fruits and vegetables from TLC’s farm. Varied, with a touch of Liswati and South African flavor.”

Gcinile dishes breakfast for patients outside TLC’s hospital.

Base Camp participants who are in a three-month training course at the Miracle Campus receive lunch every day. Whenever asked what they are most grateful for, “lunch” heads the top of the list.

“I am grateful for the scrumptious, balanced meals TLC gives us,” said one trial staff member in his unity report.

Another wrote: “I would like to thank the team that is preparing lunch. I do enjoy it. It’s always well cooked and good tasting.”

Kitchen staff load lunches for transport to eye patients in another building.

“That lunch is my one meal a day,” said one Base Camper. “And it’s every day I’m here. At first, I could not believe it.”

Who is this kitchen team that touches our hearts, and our bellies?

It’s led by Nontobeko Dlamini, who in her profile quotes a leadership speaker she heard a few months ago: “The ceiling of my potential is the floor of God’s room.”

New members are added to the kitchen crew, while many seasoned staff love their
jobs in the whirlwind of food preparation for hundreds.

Nontobeko is not sure of her title and laughs when her title is discussed. “I’m not sure what to call myself, maybe chef.” (Typically, titles are not viewed as significant at The Luke Commission. Rather, it’s the team working together.)

When Nontobeko came to TLC’s kitchen three years ago, 6 people worked there. She came from a hotel kitchen. It was not long before she was promoted. Today, she has 14 on her staff.

Joyce (middle) serves lunches to the last of almost 500 staff members fed here this day.

In a “normal” day, that staff prepares 800 meals for staff, not that there is much normal about TLC or the kitchen staff.

And that’s just the start.

Patients at the Miracle Campus hospital are given three meals a day, for another 360 meals. Any patient who stays the night at the Miracle Campus is given breakfast. Daytime patients on campus also receive lunch for another 90 to 120 meals, and that number of patients is increasing daily.

Dishing, dishing more, making takeaway boxes by the dozens will be gladly received throughout the Miracle Campus.

Sunday meals are prepared in takeaway boxes for patients and staff who are on duty. Last week that was 115 meals, said Nontobeko.

Special events always crop up, and food is often what makes them especially special. More than 300 extra meals for each of breakfast, lunch, and supper are prepared during CARES eye surgical sessions.

Last Friday 200 meals were prepared for people attending a prayer gathering. Special times at Christmas and other holidays, the kitchen staff prepare cookies and cakes.

“Morning, TLC. The porridge is simmering.”

How does Nontebeko lead this always-busy, usually-singing, rountinely-smiling team?

“I used to tell each one what to do, but I learned another way at the Global Leadership Summit that TLC took me to at Potter’s Wheel Church.”

Now, she asks her staff individually what they would like to do. “I ask them to come to me with ideas, and I listen. We work together and make what they suggest,” she said. “It helps them to grow, giving them responsibility to check what foods we have available and how they can be used.”

Fresh vegetables from TLC’s garden are as pretty as those who prepare them.

Nontobeko places three separate orders a week for groceries, meats, and fruits/vegetables. “Winter is approaching, so we will get most of our vegetables and some of our fruits from TLC’s farm,” she smiled.

Staff members walking outside the kitchen or working in the adjoining multi-purpose room can hear singing and laughing bursting from the kitchen.

Why such merriment? “We are a well-organized team. Teamwork plays a major role. I make them keep the unity of the team. Singing pulls and keeps us together,” Nontobeko explained.

Nontobeko (in grey) gives her staff much freedom within the framework of a unified team.

As the kitchen produces more and more meals for more and more people, Nontobeko says the increase does not bother her in the least.

She appreciates the diligence of her “Joshua” (second in charge), Gcinile Dlamini. “She is a hard worker who supervises the meals being distributed all over campus.”

Nontobeko also appreciates Sonet Pouwels, a volunteer who brings new recipes and fresh dishes to campus every week. “We really enjoy having her around.”

“We wait for feedback, and then if our people like the recipes, we put them on the menu.”

Does Nontobeko enjoy her job? “Oh, yes,” she replied. “I like serving people. I like feeding people who might not get fed otherwise. I like coaching a team and then working with that team.”

Meet some of the kitchen crew, who will break into song several times today.

Nontebeko lives in staff housing on the Miracle Campus. She has two daughters, ages seven and three, who live with her mother at the family homestead “far away. I make sure to go home once a month and check on them,” she said. Neither of the girls’ fathers is in their daily lives.

“When someone comes to the Miracle Campus, he or she will be healed, no matter how serious or bad the situation,” noted Nontebeko. “The healing will take place either physically or spiritually, because some people come to the Miracle Campus just to receive Christ. I believe that’s the greatest healing a person can receive before meeting death.”

Not only does Nontebeko like her job, but also she loves being part of The Luke Commission family. “TLC has helped me very much to grow and to know God. In my church, I was just told not to sin but not how.

“Here I learned that I must have a relationship with Jesus first. Then as I grow in my intimacy with God, the Holy Spirit will guide me to do right. The Holy Spirit will tell me what to do. I am glad I have gotten to know Christ better.” Then came Nontobeko’s shy smile that lights up her eyes.

It’s her trademark. That and the kitchen team’s food that blesses so many in Eswatini.

by Janet Tuinstra, who also is grateful for TLC’s kitchen staff