emptyhandsBOOK REVIEW NOVEMBER, 2016


One Woman’s Journey to Save Children Orphaned by Aids in South Africa

A Memoir


Forward By:  Desmond Tutu

 “Bring me some sand,” her father said.  “Just shovel it up with your hands.”  Arms stretched out, hands filled with sand, I walked up to him.  He looked at me, smiling, and calmly started peeling a banana.  “Would you like this?” he asked, offering the banana to me.  I nodded but was a bit confused.   “What should I do with the sand in my hands?”  “Well,” he said, “when your hands are already full, it’s hard to receive something, isn’t it?  You need to let go first.  Remember, you can receive in life only when your hands are empty.”  This was the way he would teach me. ________Excerpt from Empty Hands


Her mother, in her early forties, was dead after the birth of her thirteenth child.  Her father, albeit filled with the wisdom of life, was a hopeless drunkard.  Her siblings had either died or were scattered over the land.  Her life, at the age of six, was absorbed with staying alive by foraging for food, patching the rondavel with cow dung and mud to preserve her ‘home’ and caring for her father.  Thus was the world of Abegail Ntleko who, at a very tender age, decided to clothe her mind, heart and hands with the resources that would create a better world for herself and, in so doing, her fellow South Africans.  This is an inspirational story of a truly remarkable human being!


Abegail has been confronted with extreme challenges all of her life.  When she came to the realization that the only way she could improve her standing in life was through education, she fought ignorance, racism and, above all, sexism until she achieved her goal.  At the age of fourteen, she was enrolled in first grade and determination, intelligence, tenacity. self-discipline enabled her to forge ahead, eventually becoming the recipient of numerous certifications in the field of nursing, which had been her passion from the start.   Equipped with a keen medical mind and a strong desire to bring healing to those in desperate need, Abegail set forth into the interior provinces of South Africa to aid the thousands who had long been at risk for the lack of adequate treatment.  What began as an attempt to heal the neglected turned into a full-blown effort to save lives when the AIDS epidemic struck.  After peering into the anguished faces of the waifs that were orphaned  as a result of this scourge, Abegail committed herself to preserving their lives at all costs.  In order to do so, she adopted dozens of lost children, providing the love and care that was needed to secure their lives into adulthood.


Abegail Ntleko (now in her eighties) draws you into her life from the moment you open this book.  In simplistic language, she tells the tale of a woman who was never satisfied with the status quo and would leave no stone unturned in assisting those in need.  Her hands were always overflowing with compassion and a deep-rooted love for mankind that once absorbed by some, were refilled to start all over again.  To acknowledge and celebrate such gracious, caring, loving ’empty hands’ is a wondrous thing, indeed!

Empty Hands by Sister Abegail Ntleko
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