Our History

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  -John 1:5

We love to tell the story of how Friends of Mukhanyo came to be. But first, we want to tell you about our name because it embodies so much of who we are and what we do. In the South African Ndebele language, “Mukhanyo” means “light.” Why reference light? Potent forces of darkness―poverty, AIDS, hopelessness, death ― cast long shadows over the lives of many South African children. But this we know: the darkness cannot prevail against the light of God.

In our case, incandescent light shone through the life of visionary and founder, Beth Rettig. During the summer of 2007, Beth and her husband Ed visited South Africa with a group from their church in Durham, North Carolina. Orphaned herself at the age of 16 when her parents were killed in a plane crash, Beth’s heart was stirred by the stories of the young AIDS orphans she met. What could she, a former educator and grandmother in her 60s, do to help? The answer: build a school.

Beth Rettig, one of the co-founders of Mukhanyo Christian Academy.

Beth Rettig, one of the co-founders of Mukhanyo Christian Academy.

Shortly after her return to the US, Beth was stricken with ovarian cancer. She did not live to see the fulfillment of her vision. But she used her last days to advocate―with urgency and with passion―for others to continue the good work God had called her to begin.

In January 2010―just three short months after Beth died―Mukhanyo Christian Academy opened its doors to 20 bouncy, enthusiastic young learners in kindergarten (called “grade R” in South Africa) and first grade. Beth’s husband Ed, friend Keith Brown, and fellow visionary Haleh Modasser (who had accompanied Beth on her seminal trip to South Africa) raised funds in America. Onsite visionary, Dr. Flip Buys, founder of neighboring Mukhanyo Theological Seminary in Mpumalanga, South Africa, provided critical partnership, support, and resources as the school took shape.

Since the early days of 2010, our school has grown and now serves more than 60 children in grades R through 5. We home our story will become interwoven with yours. We invite you to join us in supporting these vulnerable children who have the potential to be tomorrow’s South African leaders.


“For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.  -Psalm 100:5

The original mission was to provide a safe, nurturing academic environment for AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. That remains today, but the mission has broadened to include opportunities for American children and teens to be involved in fundraising efforts through Runs for Mukhanyo, in creating camping experiences for the MCA children, in teaching academic lessons to Mukhanyo children, in developing friendships with South African children, friendships that have the potential to span their entire lives. Today two continents are being joined by the efforts, not just of adults, but the efforts of kids with a vision for helping other kids whose lives and circumstances are vastly different.

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