Published on 16 October 2014

Marinda Van Zyl

Words & photo:

My Collision with Purpose

"What will I do with the rest of my life?" I asked when we said goodbye. It felt as if my world had unravelled between photographing the project and getting on the plane destined for home; the once familiar place that suddenly seemed foreign. This was not at all about emotion, or about relationship, this was about purpose. It has been wired into human DNA to live with purpose. Anything less leaves us wanting, searching, seeking, abusing, obsessing and empty. That ever present discontent is a longing to live out our God given purpose. Anything less leaves us with the gnawing feeling that there has to be more to life.  Once you've tasted living out your purpose, how will you regain a taste for mediocrity? Surely you cannot? 

Alas, purpose cannot be avoided, it is to be toiled with, collided with, worn like a cloak, not to be discarded. It rests heavily on your shoulders, but it envelops you in comfort, in peace. Anything less is a fabrication of the truth.

The project in question was a Corporate Social Initiative aimed at building schools and teaching centers in Malawi, a desperately impoverished country. My photographs will be used to prompt corporate staff to raise money for these projects. It is worth noting that Malawians lack the overall sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in South Africa. They have very little, yet you won't find them begging. My heart was stirred by their warmth. I once again felt like my work was making a difference, impacting those in need, those without a voice, who cannot stand up for themselves. This was their chance to be heard. 


There is so much talent buried under poverty. So much potential goes to waste because of lack of resources. When I look into the children's eyes, I see hope, curiosity, intelligence. Something has to change, they have to be given a future, indeed they are being given the best future possible with this project.

Its essence is making something out of nothing, building a future that would previously have been unthinkable.​ This is what I was a part of, this is the purpose I lived out, this is what I feel I'm leaving behind. Is it any wonder I'm feeling a little melancholy?


As this was not my first foray into this kind of project, I was prepared for the onslaught of emotions that would inevitably follow disembarkation. I dread suburbia, I dread the process of reintegrating into society, blending in, becoming one of the herd again. I am averse to our culture, the vanity of it all, grasping for the wind. It is all so meaningless, yet it is the culture I'm entrenched in, entrapped like quicksand until the time will come when my deep desire to make a difference, to use my talents for God's glory will be realised. Until then, brief moments of respite from the ordinary will have to provide a glimpse into that which is possible, yet only by the grace of God.