Shalom in the City - Part Two
- a devotional challenge to lament and repent as part of bringing shalom
In the last newsletter we looked at how we are to be bringers of Shalom as God’s people. In this edition, let’s focus on the lament and repentance that we have to go through as God’s people in order to be bringers of true shalom. Before we proceed, take time to read Leviticus 26 and 28 as a reminder of what God expected of God’s people. These scriptures relate a lot to the year of the Lord’s favour or Jubilee as found in Leviticus 25 and Isaiah 61, the passage we are going to engage with in part two of Seeking Shalom in the City.
1. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2. to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3. to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 4. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Isaiah 61:1-4
The above passage is mostly used to justify our service to the poor. Perhaps we run too quickly to serve the poor without having taken time to reflect on what this passage was saying to the original people of God. Verse 4 makes it clear that it is about Jubilee (year of the Lord’s favor) Lev 25. It is a message of comfort to those who are imprisoned, who are captive and who are broken hearted. Who needs to be freed here? Is it the people of God? May I suggest that the ones who need to be freed first are the people of God?
Why am I saying that?
· They had have rebelled against God - Isaiah 1:2
· They had forsaken the LORD - Isaiah 1:4
This was the message God has been saying to God’s people over and over again through the message proclaimed by the prophets. What response was expected of those who heard it?
Let’s look at Isaiah 1:16-17. Verse 16 says, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil.” Repentance was what God was seeking. Verse 17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Be all who God created and intended you to be.
God’s people in the age of the prophets consistently failed to be what God intended them to be. The good news therefore was to the afflicted people of God who were mourning their deplorable state. Notice that the comfort, favour and freedom is given only to those who mourn (v 2). What is mourning? What does it have to do with repentance? The Old Testament speaks a lot about ashes and sack cloth when people are aware and want to be repentant about their sin. It also speaks of oil after a person has repented. Remember the Story of David and Bathsheba when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan?
Notice the reference that is made to ashes and oil (v 3). In the Old Testament mourning is about repentance. When David was aware of his sin, he mourned by putting on sack cloth. God’s favour/Jubilee was for those who were going to turn away from their wickedness and embrace the identity and the character that God had always intended for them. Notice also that it is only then that the oil of gladness will come (v 3). It is only then that they will become oaks of righteousness/justice, the planting of the Lord. (v 3) What God wanted was for God’s people to recognise where they had failed Him. They needed to mourn, lament their failures before He could bring the oil of gladness. What was the fruit of repentance? To cease to do evil, to learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. It took them being taken to Babylon before the message could sank in. Look Daniel’s reflection in chapter 9 recognising the reason they were in exile in Babylon.
May I conclude by saying that unless we, as the people of God, are willing to squarely look at ourselves and recognise where we have failed God in our ways of doing and being the Church, we will continue to be largely ignored by the world. Unless we are willing to face up with what we have failed to be, we will not play the role God has called us to play in the healing of our communities.
Changemakers change the world
This is what we at The Warehouse call our focus on working with young people. We seek, in close partnership with like-minded organisations, to inspire, equip, connect and nurture young Christian leaders, whether they are taking up recognised leadership positions at churches or organisations or whether they are emerging thought leaders and community mobilisers.
Changemakers was innovated under the Micah Challenge (now known as Micah Global) banner at the start of 2014 with the aim to equip and inspire young Christian leaders to advocate and campaign effectively around the issues that their respective communities face.
Through our partnerships, networks and experience we come alongside young leaders to:
* help to shape their perspectives, build their capacity for effective advocacy, campaigning and development responses
* help them reflect theologically on the link between social justice, local and global sites of struggle and oppression and the biblical text
* help them understand the role of repentance and forgiveness in the work towards justice, reflecting on their own place in the historical and present story of injustice
* help them reflect on world views, historical context and the interpretive lenses they use when reading the bible
* equip them with the skills and theories they need to lead interventions and dialogues that will ultimately transform the country
* grow in their ability to discern the time in which the country finds itself, and to craft an appropriate, strategic response
* further develop their critical thinking skills
* create the space with them where they can test and shape their ideas and spark generative dialogues
* grow in their capacity to facilitate discussions, events and training workshops
* grow in their understanding of power, and how to influence those in power as well as use their own power
Some exciting activities so far this year have been:
- Changemakers workshops commenced in May with the youth leaders of St John’s parish churches and other youth leaders from Anglican churches that they are in relationship with (next session: 6 August- all welcome!)
- Plenary talk and Changemakers workshops run by The Warehouse at the Christian Community Development Conference in partnership with Micah Global, Germany in June (http://www.micahnetwork.org/christian-community-development-conference)
- Development of the Changemakers resource: this manual reflects the past decades worth of workshops, methodologies, tools, dialogues and one on one interactions we have had with young Christian leaders who are champions of justice in their churches, communities, campuses and other spheres of influence. This is in it’s pilot stage - you are welcome to contact us for a copy of the resource in the current form with the request that you provide us with feedback that we can integrate into our final edit. We will let you know when this is available to purchase for your own church or to purchase for a church that cannot afford a copy. We also hope to be translating it into Xhosa and Afrikaans - please let us know if you would like to sponsor this next step!
The Justice Conference is coming to SA
WHY SOUTH AFRICA
Forty years ago, the youth of South Africa rose up in protest against apartheid in a movement that changed the course of South African history and forged a generation of activists that ultimately caused the law of apartheid to crumble. Followers of Jesus were a key catalyst of this movement, giving it energy, ideas and hope.
Over the past 18 months, we have seen the emergence of a new generation of young South African activists rising up with a determination to finish what their elders started, to see the spirit of apartheid fall. Young Christian leaders have participated and engaged enthusiastically, and inspirationally, in this movement, speaking out boldly into the economic, educational, social and political realms. They have garnered national attention, have walked boldly in the public space, and have spoken truth to power at every turn.
These young leaders will frame the struggle for justice in South Africa over the next two decades. Over and again, we have heard South African’s young and old alike, struggle to find coherence between their faith and their pursuit of a just world. This disconnect between the theology we hear preached in church and the theology we’re walking into on the streets, has left some disillusioned and discouraged. Many students have struggled to find the language of justice they hear spoken by their peers echoed back to them by their churches, by their pastoral leadership, or in their scripture. We, like them, are thirsty for a faith that has something significant to say – in thought, in word, and in deed – to the fight for justice we’re finding ourselves engaged in day to day.
We stand at a critical juncture in our history: teetering between hope and desperation, restoration and destruction, faith and fear. It’s time for us to put Jesus and Justice back together – first in our theology and then in our lives.
Connecting with a global movement like the Justice Conference, with a vigorous commitment to local expression and context, has the potential to make a strong contribution to this journey. The work of following Jesus in the pursuit of justice is not simply a local one, it is global. Our hope is that the Justice Conference will:
* Help young leaders root their struggle for a just world in their faith and following of Jesus
* Build connections globally to people who share the same passion and struggle
* Build strong theological and practical foundations for the ongoing work of justice in South Africa
The Justice Conference South Africa seeks to:
Spark a conversation about the ways our faith influences our being just and our doing of justice
Fan the work of justice personally, locally, nationally and globally
Feed a robust theological and social justice dialogue in South Africa
The Justice Conference South Africa Team
Shalom in the City
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.”
As God’s people we are called to bring shalom to the cities/places we find ourselves living in. We have to face the fact that there is little peace and prosperity in our cities (and the world) today. We are going to take a journey looking at how to bring this peace to our cities over the next couple of newsletters by wrestling with some bible passages.
Let’s start with the one we love to use - Jeremiah 29:4-8. The context of this scripture is that God’s people have been taken into exile in Babylon. The reason for the exile is that they failed to listen to what God expected them to be as his people living under his rules in the land of milk and honey (signifying prosperity). God had made it clear to them what he expected of them (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28).
For a number of years God warned them through the prophets time and again, yet they would not listen to their messages! They wanted prophets who were going to say “peace, peace - when there is no peace.”
As God’s people we are called to be bringers of God’s peace/shalom, but we have to face the fact that there’s so little of God’s peace in some of the spaces in which we find ourselves, especially in the places that claims adherence to the Lordship of Jesus. We have to take a hard look at the history of God’s people and see how we have also not listened to what God is saying to us and expecting of us.
We need to look at the logs in our own eyes before we blame society for its lack of order and maybe see that we are actually partly responsible for the lack of God’s peace and shalom in our cities. Let’s keep our ears open to what God is saying to us through the prophets in South Africa today.
Hard discussions bring Hope to Student Activists
We asked some of the participants for their feedback on the retreat hosted in January. The Warehouse partnered with Freedom Mantle in designing a process of listening, discerning, resting and wrestling with young students involved in activism on campuses around the country.
Hard: “The imbizo had a profound effect on me that has shaped the way I have entered the year. It was hard to go through 36 hours of listening to others’ pain, hurt and anger and then dealing with my own. At times I was confused, not knowing what I had to offer. I kept wrestling with my thoughts and with God, with my identity and where I had come from. It didn’t feel enough to just listen. Did I even have a place to be a voice? While I am still wrestling, I feel sure that this is where God is wanting me to be – in a place of discomfort, not knowing what to do, but to be prayerful, to engage and to discern and seek God at all times.”
Hope: “By the end of the time I was filled with hope – God is raising up a generation that is wanting to engage, that is not afraid to speak out the truth; that is not afraid to say it as it is. What encouraged me most was that here is a generation that is not staying in that place of anger, but is ready to engage with Scripture, to seek God’s face and listen to each other. I have been in many student spaces where we have not got to that place. I think what was different was that we created a safe space where we could be authentic, where we could look to Jesus and where God was very present. I am praying for more spaces like that.”
Hard: “What I found hard at the beginning was trying to figure out the intention of the retreat, and wondering how we, as strangers to each other, were going to find a common understanding. This difficulty came as a result of the complexity of how Christianity has been taught and received differently in our local churches and communities. Further, on the political side, what concerned me was the fact that both universities and the government were not pleased with the student movements and on various occasions have tried unsuccessfully to stop the movements. Now my fear was whether this retreat was another tool employed by these bodies to silence the students.”
Hope: “When I learnt that some leaders in the imbizo had been in other struggles before, and that they had done so believing that the Lord was calling them to participate in the ways they did, I trusted the God in them. Another aspect of hope was the genuine willingness of most people to learn and unlearn some things as they had previously been preserved. The last and most important hopeful experience was people sharing their personal experiences, and how these have influenced their position, passion and dedication to the struggle. This brought hope to me because to hear about something and to experience it is different, and thus such experiences often sustain the struggle, thus the assurance that Aluta Continua!!! What I am grateful for, is the confidence that the God of Israel is the God of our own struggle and this was confirmed in the Imbizo spiritually.”
Hard: “It was hard to hear students of today saying of the present government the exact things – and with the same animosity – that students of the 70s and 80s were saying of the apartheid government; painful to hear those whom we “oldies” regard as our heroes, being questioned, denigrated and almost dismissed. Harder was having to acknowledge the truth in what these students were saying, conceding that these young people have been born into the South Africa that we see today, and that our past struggle and its heroes are mere history – a history that doesn’t seem to have done anything for them or South Africa as a country. For the poverty, the disparity between black and white, the daily struggle of life in the townships is still the same. Painful too, was hearing their same-same struggles with the church that doesn’t seem to care for the suffering of people, a God who seems distant, a Bible that doesn’t seem to give them answers, and an understanding of prayer that sees no power, but instead a cop-out. Hardest of all, taking all this together, was acknowledging that our generation has failed our children, for we never really taught them what we know.”
Hope: “What brought me hope was the pure, passionate, tangible presence of God – the way he guided, answered, spoke and filled the listening spaces. It brought me joy when we listened to and heard each other, when we listened to and heard God. Themes that emerged through speakers and scripture, in prayers and in worship, were God’s love, his fatherhood and the chosen-ness of these particular students for this time in history. Hope settled deep when at the end participants shared having found this a safe space to freely be Christian and angry; found new faith in the Bible as “a revolutionary book”, in God being present in the struggle, in the possibilities that church presented, and in Jesus being with us all the time. In such things, hope finds wings.”
Thank you so much to all who contributed by investing financially, praying, supporting, giving lifts—we so value every part you played.
Making things right together
René August explains how the story of the “Good Samaritan” is so richly applicable to how we think of restitution and, in far wider and deeper ways, how we think of ourselves as disciples of Jesus, whatever our background in South Africa.
When we read parables, the stories only make sense when we look at whom the story was being told to, and who was with Jesus at the time. All parables are stories about the Kingdom of God. They tell us about God’s dreams for the world.
In Luke’s account of this story (Luke 10:25-37), he gives us a clue about the “why” of this story. Verses 25 and 29 are very telling. A lawyer, who is an expert in The Law, wanted to trick Jesus by asking a question about laws. The geography in which Jesus locates this story is on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is the road for Priests, Levis and others who would frequent the temple for worship. (The story of John 4, the Samaritan woman, hints at the soci-political and religious dynamics within these relationships.)
The issue is that this man who is asking is an expert in the law, which means he understands the law. And the Levitical law says if you strike someone and cause them harm, it is your responsibility to make sure that they are cared for and to pay for any loss of income ... and to take care of the person and pay their medical bills until they are completely restored to be able to to live again. That’s the Law. Nothing about restitution. Nothing about injustice. If you beat someone up to the point that they can’t work, you must look after their family. That law is in Leviticus (or Deuteronomy), so this expert in the law knows this. Then Jesus says, “... you’ve answered correctly” ...and the man says: “BUT…I wonder who my neighbour is?” Remember: he’s the lawyer, he knows the law ... he is wanting to trick Jesus. And so he asks Jesus, “So, who’s my neighbour?” and Jesus says, “There was once a man who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho…”
Where’s Jericho? Remember the walls of Jericho? The Promised land. From Jerusalem: that’s where the temple is. The people of God travel on that road, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho all the time. So to find a priest on that road: no surprise. To find a Levite on that road: no surprise. These are also people who know the law. And there’s a man who has been badly beaten up, lying bleeding in the gutter. They’re not touching the person…“I might become unclean…because I’m on my way to the temple and then I must still wash and I can’t speak to people for seven days!” And the Levite: same story. There are demands on their lives and on their responsibility which makes it “impossible” for them to care at all about this guy.
Then, the Samaritan! You would spit that name if you were Jewish… use the word when you’re telling a bad story. They have no business on THIS road. (John 4) “They are half-breeds, they’ve got no religion, they’ve got no culture… no temple… who the hell cares what happens to them?”...he comes along and sees, “Oh no! A man!” and Jesus says about this Samaritan “This Samaritan is filled with compassion.” That’s what happens… God is filled with compassion. So Jesus attributes a God character to a ... Samaritan, a “kwerekwere” [A derogatory word for African Foreign Nationals in South Africa, with undertones of violence]. And this unclean, unreligious “filth”, stoops down and cares for the man who was beaten up.
Then Jesus asks this lawyer: “So who is the neighbour?”
He says, “The one who had compassion.”
And klaar [finished]…
That’s the answer! Who’s your neighbour? The one who is least like you, the one who is in need of your compassion ... whether you were responsible or not is not an issue.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to love your neighbour as you love yourself… and you can’t walk by someone in the gutter. You can’t! It doesn’t matter why they are there; that’s not the issue. It’s the wrong question. The question that we must answer is, “How can I love my neighbour as I love myself? How can I love my neighbour in South Africa today?” There are many of my brothers and sisters lying in the gutter. And I can’t walk past them, not if I claim to love my neighbour as I love myself. That would be heretical.
And the Samaritan begs the question: Are you willing to pay the price to restore the human dignity of your brother or sister, at your expense, even if it’s not your fault? Are you willing to do that? Because that is what it’s going to take for you to demonstrate that you love your neighbour as you love yourself.
What then does this story tell us about God’s dreams for the world?
Even outside of the realities of our Apartheid history, this question is critical. In light of the increasing inequalities and growing poverties that are caused by historical injustices of greed and hatred and white privileges - because the privileges were man(It’s not just white privilege; it’s white privileges. Past and present continuous tenses need to be used) - what is our response?
God’s dream, is that we will all act like this Samaritan, but this will require that some give more and some less. To some, much has been given, and much will be required.
Sustaining Hope in the Face of Struggle
The act and practice of remembrance is an important one in the human story. In March we remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus over the Easter weekend, and the Jewish people remembered their escape from Egypt in the celebration of the festival of Passover. In South Africa we remembered the defiance campaign against the pass laws and the subsequent Sharpville Massacre on 21st March 1960, although many tend to ignore that story and celebrate it as Human Rights Day.
Remembering is part of celebration and it is also a part of healing. For cultures that are focused on comfort and removing all pain from life, like most western cultures, the act of moving towards pain in remembrance can seem almost offensive and often uncomfortable. However, trauma and grief research is increasingly pointing to this as a critical part of healing. To truly heal we need to build the capacity to be present in our own pain and in someone else’s pain.
If the church in South Africa is going to significantly change the narrative of our country we will need to learn how to articulate a Gospel-centred hope that isn’t naive about the reality of this pain - that can recognise and name it, lament it, and listen to it, without being captured by it. We need to all take responsibility for nurturing a prophetic, critically tempered hope that is not naive about the challenges we face, but is determined to proclaim with Jesus a Gospel that is good news to the poor.
The fight for justice in South Africa will not be complete when “Rhodes has fallen”, or the state is freed from its capture or President Zuma has left or when restitution has been made. The fight for justice will be a multi-generational one that will need commitment and perseverance - something for which we all need to take responsibility.
That is the work of the South African church—in all our diversity and blind spots, our human frailty and communal strength. The Church being who we are meant to be in this season could, and hopefully will, make all the difference.
Blind in Both Eyes
I write this letter largely to the Christian community, since it is from within the Church that my own worldview was first formed. Yet much of what I have said here is relevant within all faiths, though not equally true.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHURCH IS BLIND IN BOTH EYES
The notion of “blindness” was used in ancient times by theologians and teachers to describe a spiritual condition which plagues people of faith when they lose their capacity for accurate perception and stumble along in darkness. In scripture those possessed by this evil are treated either by washing the clay from their eyes, recovering their sight by seeing the light itself or being admonished to remedy their spiritual ineptitude as a patient who administers a balm. In the end, the ability to see things as they truly are, in the light of day, is the cure.
The South African church suffers from two forms of blindness that threatens our peace and worse, our freedom.
According to Pew research, the vast majority of South Africans, somewhat 85% of the population, believe in God and most of them practice their faith regularly. Place alongside this fact the reality that, were it not for social grants received from government monthly, 17 million citizens, that’s 31% of the nation, would be living in abject poverty. Faith is widespread in South Africa, alongside extreme social exclusion - these are incompatible and we have to face this ethical crisis as a moral issue now. But the Church, the majority, is walking blind in both eyes.
To provide context; the media reported in 2015 that ten of the most expensive private homes in South Africa were priced at between R70 million and R200 million each. ABSA estimated in 2015 that the average nominal value in the “middle-segment” of homes is between R830 000 and R1,8 million depending on the size of the home. So, while one-in-three South Africans would starve were it not for government support and often do go hungry, some are earning between R27 000 and R6 000 000 per month! - the disposable income required to finance homes in the range mentioned. It is therefore unsurprising that South Africa’s average wage sits at around R17 500 per month, cold comfort when 25% of job seekers are unemployed.
The point is, South Africa is a country deeply scarred by fundamentally unjust and unsustainable socio-economic arrangements. This is not a matter of governance and economics alone; it is a matter of conscience. If you are a person of faith and your income falls in the broad range mentioned above, this letter is addressed to you.
YOUR FAITH HAS BEARING ON THE WELLBEING OF THE NATION
If your pastor or priest is teaching you about prayer and devotion, good, these are the lifeblood of faith. However, if you have not heard a sermon about the state of our nation, you may have been undernourished without knowing better. Importantly though, this is not about church leaders, this is about church members. We sing in our Churches about love and truth and righteousness and peace, often without realising that the measure of these is not that which is shared between friends but by that which is exchanged between strangers in the street, even enemies, such as the good Samaritan and his patient revealed.
INJUSTICE IS THE ENEMY OF PEACE
We have enjoyed tremendous freedom of religion in South Africa over the last two decades. Democracy has not only brought about voting rights, it has also provided broad freedom of speech, of assembly and thereby provided space for our beliefs to thrive. So what have the faith communities done with this grand liberty? What wounds have we bound up?
A great many South Africans spent their Thursday evening this week glued to their television screens for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the President. The business elites no doubt listened for signals in the President’s speech on how he intends to stave off further ratings agency downgrades which would dry up foreign direct investment and prevent us from borrowing the money we need for long-term development projects. I’m sure they hoped to hear of a plan of how to push GDP growth above 1% and create jobs. Many millions who watched SONA were merely attracted to the anticipated drama of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) provoking the President, calling for “Zupta” to fall, a reference to President Zuma and his controversial friends, the Gupta family.
In some ways the National Assembly in session, or Parliament, is a microcosm of South Africa and plays out like a predictable scene in a play. The African National Congress (ANC) are the new powerful elites, in that position due to their liberation legacy but increasingly disconnected from the people they claim to serve. The official opposition, a patchwork of mostly white affluence that largely makes up the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) parliamentarians, seems lost on how to translate efficient governance in the Western Cape into an attractive brand for the millions of largely black voters who express loyalty along the lines of identity and not policy. The EFF is the noisy and undisciplined youth in the South African family, who comes across angry and irrational. Be warned, out of the mouth of babes… the longstanding issues of injustice in this nation will be brought to the centre of the national agenda.
This year their voices were thrown out of parliament. Yet, the cause they represent will not be thrown out of South Africa’s public discourse for decades unless addressed at the root, a truth that threatens our social stability and could tear apart the social fabric of this nation.
YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S CARE
The basic notion of spiritual sight is that one is somehow enlightened to the reality of the divine. To some this speaks of a capacity for spiritual connectedness and consciousness, a harmonious coexistence with the powers of the ancestors or of gods. To the Christian faith, this points to a simple familiarity with God through the human face of Jesus Christ. In all these cases, especially in the latter with which I am familiar, spiritual sight is the capacity to perceive the dual reality of the infinite Divine and one’s finite neighbour in union, and to live from this premise. At the core of this message of enlightenment then, there is necessarily a bond between one’s relationship “vertically” with God and “horizontally” with people. Your faith is seen, by your works - toward others, one teacher explained.
This is the crux of the matter. If we say we perceive God but we do not see the 17 000 million citizens who do not have homes and jobs and hope, we are either denying the witness of our first love or blindly convinced of sight we do not possess. I do not say this judgementally, since I would not be able to write this was it not for the many privileges I enjoy. I say this with great care and concern - the South African Church is blind in both eyes. May God help us regain our sight and serve the cause of justice in this nation. Our own peace depends on it.
Marius Oosthuizen is a theologian, strategist and entrepreneur. As a faculty member at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), he teaches leadership, strategy and ethics and heads up the Future of Business in SA project.
State of African Theology - Part Two: Decolonising
Bitter Sweet History
One fact we can never run away from when reflecting on the advent of the gospel in Africa is that of the brutal and invasive packaging in which it came. The history of the church in this continent holds the classic reference of the term bitter-sweet. It was bitter because of the imperialistic approach used by early missionaries that destroyed the host culture, institutions and worldviews all in the name of enlightening the Dark Continent whilst at the same time lifting the flag of the queen, king and all that lot. Yet, it was sweet because in the shallowness of the imperial worldview emerged the liberating seeds of the kingdom message driven by Africans, which took all sorts of forms in an incarnational manner.
Breaking the colonial worldview and monopoly of theology in Africa
One of the most effective strategies of western colonisation was to charitably ‘educate’ Africans in western methods so that they were forced to function within a predetermined western paradigm and format. This enabled the colonialists to take undisputed control and monopolise the rules of the game. This same effect, whether intentionally or unintentionally, applied to the church and its theology. Though black Africans were educated to understand the substance of Scripture, the monopoly of who holds the true understanding of its interpretation and application was still reserved for the white male scholarly elite.
More indigenous attempts to theologise were and still are treated with suspicion and are measured according to western standards. Africa is overrun with western theological material with many of its advocates thinking that copy and paste will work within the continent. Very little attempt is made to inquire and learn from already existing local leaders and trying to adapt their learnings into meaningful studies.
Voice for the Voiceless?
Sometimes I become confused when people in the academia lament the lack of authentically African theological input. A friend once said in commenting on the well-known term in development circles which allude to the “poor being voiceless.” His comment was that there is no such thing as the voiceless, but that the poor are either ignored or unheard. I believe this analysis also applies in theology in Africa. We have to be honest in acknowledging that both the demand and supply chain in theological information are controlled largely by the western orientated individuals or organisations, from theological institutions that shape knowledge to publishers who compile and dispense information. They hold the sifting funnel and get to pick and choose whose voice is heard above the others.
A question once emerged at a forum hosted by The Warehouse on inter-dependency that struck to the core of the preference towards western rather than local theological influences. A pastor asked why it is that black leaders are the ones who always have to attend workshops and the likes run by white churches or organisations, but the white church never bothers to attend anything run by black initiatives in townships. A follow up question then became, “Why would the majority of white leaders prefer to buy a book written by Bill Hybels instead of engaging a local leader in Khayelitsha who has been in ministry for the past 40 years?”
Preference and value of all things western
These questions highlight the matter of “preference” and “value”. We then come face to face with the fact that in a less romanticised Christian perspective, even believers always follow their preference guided by what or who they value the most. Perhaps this is why we are not seeing authentically African thinking on the horizon - because both the compilation and distribution of theological knowledge is still very much colonial driven. Therefore, which information is more important is decided in a matter of preference and value. Written is seen as superior to oral, and if it is written by a white male, then its worth engaging, but if its a black author, it is often treated with caution for ‘heresy’.
Not many of Africa’s leading theological influencers are inclined to write for various reasons - chief amongst those being the oral culture in Africa, rather than written culture. Even those who have sought to write find it very expensive with the local publishers and distributors preferring more well-known western authors.
African Theology’s contextual reflection
Someone once said that perhaps black African pastors are so busy on the frontlines of ministry that they don’t get the chance to get to writing. Perhaps this too is a factor given the demands and economy of ministry. However, we can never be correct to insist theology that is authentically African and reflects the African experience is in deficit. We should rather reflect on how to decolonise the atmosphere surrounding hearing those voices that are seemingly unheard or ignored.
Using Spheres of Influence to Tackle Racism
I recognise that people define themselves in many ways but for this article the term “People of Colour” includes Black, Coloured, Indian as all these people experience racial oppression by the systems in our country. However I affirm the individual, uniqueness of each human being and recognize we are not defined by our skin colour.
Let’s get vocal…
If you are like me, then your heart has been crushed by all the racist attitudes, thoughts and opinions that have been expressed in our country recently. I’m grateful for voices of those who have boldly declared their commitment to changing the atmosphere and social vibe in our country by speaking out whenever any act of racism is witnessed. Calling out racist speech and actions is so vital, but we don’t have to wait for someone to show us their racism before we start taking action. This post is to share some ideas of how we can proactively use our voice to question the outcomes of racist thinking. We can challenge things that seem so normal to us in our South African context, but are actually racist in nature and are often also maintaining the inequalities in our land. How we use our wealth and resources is a crucial question, and being proactive in the land discussion is also important, but I will not be focusing on these in this post. Not all of these are my original thoughts, but I’ve gathered ideas from various conversations online and off. I’m not proposing that everyone should be doing all of these things. But I hope that as you read through these ideas and questions, something will strike a chord with you. One last note, this post is aimed at white people who understand and embrace the notion of “white privilege” and are thinking through how to be an ally to people of colour in the fight against racism, and are looking for ways to participate in the dismantling of white power and privilege.
Let’s Influence our Workplaces
What is the culture of my workplace? Is “whiteness” the standard and are “white ways” of doing things the norm? Have we embraced different cultural practices to ensure that our workplace is inclusive and all people of colour feel as comfortable, and as “at home” as I do as a white person? If I don’t know, maybe I can have a chat with a colleague of colour and ask about his or her experience. Am I actively being vocal about the need for transformation in my work place or is it left up to the staff of colour to voice this? Am I silent on this issue, thus unintentionally reinforcing the message that all white people are against transformation? Am I speaking out about potential exploitation that might be happening in my workplace? Do I know if all staff are paid a living wage and are their working conditions good? Will I raise my voice to shine a light on these issues, rather than wait until the low-paid staff strike?
Let’s Influence our Children’s Schools
Am I asking questions about educators and how we can have more educators of colour on staff body? Are there any admission criteria that end up excluding or, at least, making access more difficult for children of colour? Am I speaking out about these practices and policies that result in artificially reducing the number of children of colour who have access to the school? How is the school providing support to children from disadvantaged backgrounds to mitigate the many challenges of poverty that they may face so that they can participate as equals within the school? Am I encouraging the school to explore fun ways to celebrate the diversity of our country through art, music and language? What is the language policy in the school and are African languages offered and encouraged? Am I challenging the school to best prepare the learners to engage with a diverse nation, rather than a small minority of the same language and culture? What kind of books are the children required to read or are read to them? What kind of books are in the library? Do these books have main characters that reflect the diverse people and cultures of our country? Am I aware of what is and is not included in the history syllabus and does it accurately portray the struggle against slavery, colonisation and apartheid so our children will grow up not making the mistakes of the past?
Let’s Influence our Alma Mater
How am I supporting the students from my alma mater? Can I be vocal about transformation in the institution and support call for more professors of colour, and curriculums that honour the diversity of our nation and continent? Can I be contributing financially to support students who are restricted by financial difficulties?
Let’s Influence our Local Communities
Do I know the local councillor’s name and contact details? Am I challenging the municipality for any bylaws or procedures that further divide our city according to race and that end up discriminating against people of colour? Am I petitioning the municipal government regarding unequal access to services in my city, rather than just letting those who receive poor/no service delivery do the protesting on their own? Am I speaking out at Community Policing Forums and Neighbourhood Watch meetings/facebook page/whatsapp groups when racist comments are made and when racial profiling is used to spread fear and distrust of people of colour?
Let’s Influence our Churches
Is our church mainly filled with people who have the same skin colour as us, and is this starting to make us feel uncomfortable? Are we seeing people of colour represented in the leadership in our churches? Does the vibe and church culture reflect the wonderful diversity of our country? Are the teachings of the church addressing the crisis of racism? In particular, are the white people of the congregation encouraged to engage in discussions about race and listen to experiences of people of colour; and then strengthened and supported to work through their residual racist thinking and actions?
Let’s Influence our Family and Friends
Can I start sharing with my friends and family about my struggles with racist attitudes, my hopes for equality, and my thoughts about the dismantling of white privilege? Can I start these conversations, and not just wait for someone to say something racist first before I engage? Perhaps I can write a letter or email to share with my friends what my thinking is. Or invite them around to a meal or out for a cup of coffee in order to intentional talk about this. We need to take our facebook activism off the screen and do some face-to-face connection around this topic. This list is hardly exhaustive; it’s just a start. I would love to hear from you what your ideas are regarding using our voice to proactively challenge racism.
Some last thoughts…
I end by reminding myself that as we determine to raise our voices, let’s do so from a place of first having listened well to the people of colour in the situation where we choose to engage. Let’s be vocal in partnership with people of colour, and if possible be led by people of colour. Let us not, in our enthusiasm to make things right, rush in as saviours, using our loud voices, and in so doing further silence the very people we wish to help. Let us be willing to work out solutions together, not impose what we think needs to be done. And let us not give up as soon as the going gets tough.
These calls to be vocal and to question the way we do life are actions we can all do. It does not require wealth or resources. However it will require choosing to engage rather than waiting for someone else to do so first. It will require courage and sacrifice. It’s easier to keep quiet and just go with the flow. I know, my heart pounds at the thought of speaking out. But what is the cost if we don’t? What will history say of us, what will our children say of us one day, if we choose the easy road of silence today?
By Jacqui Tooke
Support 1000 families with Crisis Kits
The Warehouse coordinates the RESPOND churches collaboration that manages the church response to large scale disaster incidents across the City of Cape Town. On the morning of 29 November a fire destroyed between 800 and 1000 homes in Masiphumelele affecting around 4,000 people. As a result the RESPOND network of churches has been activated and have been liaising with the primary responders since early this morning. The response is being coordinated by MercyNet operating alongside Living Hope in the Fish Hoek valley.
Since significant support is being received from local partners it has been agreed that the best use of our resources will be to target a specific set of items that will help over the next few days. We are seeking to get 1000 family crisis packs delivered to the site within the next few days. These packs can be directly collated by individuals, families and churches or a donation of R250 per pack can be made and The Warehouse (http://www.warehouse.org.za) will take responsibility for purchasing and collating the kits. Kits can be delivered to your church or to The Warehouse.
Donations towards the Masi fire response can be made here https://www.givengain.com/cause/1976/campaigns/17003
If you want to make up a kit yourself the contents are as follows:
• 4 plates and 4 bowls
• 4 plastic bowls/plates
• 4 knives, 4 forks, 4 spoons
• 4 Plastic cups
• 2 Dishtowel
• 4 toothbrushes and 1 toothpaste
• Towel - large
• 4 face-cloths
• 2 Toilet rolls
• Sanitary pads
• 1 Basin/bucket
The kit should be packed into the bucket as shown in the photo. Volunteers will be needed at The Warehouse over the next few days to get kits ready for distribution. Please feel free to come along - 12 Plantation Road, Wetton.
Fire in Masiphumelele
There was a fire in Masiphumelele last night that burnt down between 800 to 1000 homes affecting a few thousand people. The Cape Town RESPOND churches network will responding and we’ll be helping coordinate that.
We’ll post more information on helpful ways in which you can assist. Right now you can be praying for the community leadership, for disaster management and for other role players as they work to establish what is needed. Our assistance is best provided once they have established what is going on.
Please let us know if you’re willing to co-ordinate your church community responding.
*The picture is not from this fire incident
Seven minutes on Cape Pulpit
A great interview with Caroline Powell on Cape Pulpit—7 minutes that help explain what we do, our heart for the church and how sharing one’s times, treasures and talents is part of God’s heart for every believer.
Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn - A book review
One day I will look back on 2015 and say to myself that was the year we had our minds blown and perspectives shifted as we studied the book Money, Possessions and Eternity. Some may suggest I live a fairly boring life but it is rather that the experience has been so life changing that it will no doubt form part of the highlights package of 2015!
The journey began when friends of ours invited my wife and I to join them as they re-read Money Possessions and Eternity, which had profoundly shaped a great deal of their thinking about money and generosity. We agreed to meet over 10 weeks. Each week we would prepare by reading two to three chapters of the book in order to discuss the issues that particularly challenged or inspired us. The benefit of reading, praying and studying the book together meant we could not only hold each other accountable to what God was saying to us personally, but also that we could share stories of our journey with money and generosity.
Money is often a topic which we shy away from, it is something which we keep a secret and often do not discuss. But money is important as the book reminds us in the first chapter - the author, Randy Alcorn, points out that 2,350 verses in the bible speak on the topic of money (more than any other topic in the bible by a long way). This showed us that God does not shy away from the topic and our fruitful and transformative discussions reminded us that we, as the church, need to continually engage with the topic of money.
As the name suggests Money, Possessions and Eternity is about money – but more than that, it is about power, control, it is about faith, it is about pride and greed, it is about the danger of materialism as well as our attitudes and mind sets which we have been fed by the prevailing culture of our time, often without even knowing it. Randy Alcorn reminds us that money is just a valuable piece of paper. So when we started unpacking our motivations and attitudes towards this piece of paper, only then, did we start having the real, honest and challenging conversations needed, for us to be changed through the process.
Randy Alcorn has written a gem which is not only littered with quotations and scriptures but is also filled with personal stories and practical advice which makes the book easy to follow and very applicable. But be warned the book is also incredibly challenging, and can leave you at times a little uncomfortable. After all how do we sugar coat Jesus allowing the rich young ruler to walk away from salvation because he could not give everything away, or how do we hear the call not to store up for ourselves treasure on this earth but rather in Heaven? With chapters like; Tithing: the training wheels for giving, The dangers of materialism, Giving: Reciprocating God’s Grace, Helping the Poor and Reaching the Lost, you will be left feeling sufficiently challenged to at least look at your own life and start asking some pretty honest questions.
Randy Alcorn is not scared of attempting to answer some of those really difficult questions which include things like; should we give everything away, should we as Christians have insurance, go into debt, save our money and have retirement plans? What does storing up our treasure in Heaven actually mean? Who does our money belong to and what are we leaving behind?
There were times when, my wife and I, whilst reading through the book needed to put it down and discuss what was written and what God was saying to us. One particular moment was after having read this quotation by CS Lewis, “I do not believe we can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
What we have realised through this journey is that we need to allow the questions to guide us and that we cannot walk this journey alone. The questions are important in lifting the lid on the things we would prefer to hide and the relationships are vital in helping us stay on course.
My only regret is that I had not read this book sooner.
Mark van Deventer
Trustee and friend of The Warehouse
Jesus and Restitution 101
There has been a lot written lately about privilege, power structures and wealth, but I am not sure (maybe I have missed it) whether there has been much on social media for Christians specifically and how and why we can approach the topic of restitution through the lens of our faith. There are, of course, the broad sweeping narratives through the bible of God’s heart for justice and the poor, the laws in Deuteronomy which protect against unshackled accumulation of wealth and perpetual poverty, and the entire New Testament which ushers us in to a new Kingdom and a new way of being – no dividing walls of hostility, no difference between slave and free, a body where, if one part hurts, the whole part hurts.
But, for an active way to start engaging, I thought it would be helpful to put together some thoughts which have come through various conversations at the Warehouse. These reflections on, and practical guidelines around, Zacchaeus’ story have helped me, and so I offer them to you. Have a read quickly if you have forgotten the story: Luke 19: 1-10.
1. Nurture a courageous curiosity for who Jesus is
Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector (not the person who would actually collect the taxes from people, but the one who would collect from the collectors) – a very important man in the system which ruled the land at that time. He had clearly heard something about this Jesus and the bible says “he wanted to see who Jesus was”…the rest is made famous by the Sunday School song. But, before you gloss over that familiar strain, think about how counter-cultural that move must have been: he didn’t demand to get to the front of the crowd (perhaps he was a bit scared of some well-timed elbowing), he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up a tree! Clearly, his status and reputation were not as important to him as his urgency to see this Jesus. I wonder how counter-cultural our curiosity actually is: how eager are we to see, to know, to experience Jesus that we would be willing to look plain silly to do this. Are we running ahead of the crowd, or are we in the middle of the jostle, OK with just seeing the tip of His head as He walks past, and perhaps hearing what He is saying and doing via a broken-telephone of passed-down reports?
2. Acknowledge and accept the identity Jesus calls out in you
There are (at least) two points around Jesus using Zacchaeus’ name:
Firstly: The meaning of the name Zacchaeus is “pure, clean, innocent” – not a terribly good description for those who knew him and what he had been party to. BUT, if we are Jesus-seekers and followers, this is perhaps the most important starting point we could ever have when examining our possessions, power and privilege, where we have perhaps benefited from unjust systems, and working to rectify this: we start from a point of innocence, of purity, of having been made righteous through Jesus. We need to accept what Jesus says about us and our relationship to Him and our relationship with God through Him. This is a starting point of freedom and joyful abandonment, not one of guilt, fear and shame. Our actions need to be in response to this, first and foremost. Secondly: Zacchaeus was called by his individual name – not as part of a crowd, not “the chief tax collector of Jericho”. Where do we need to acknowledge that we, as individuals, are being addressed – not just as a part of a general narrative or in our roles in a greater system of injustice, but as individuals who seek to be responsive to Jesus calling us out by name?
3. Know the deeper meaning of Jesus inviting Himself to eat with you in your house
This relates somewhat to the point above. In Jesus’ time, to eat with people meant full acceptance of them – it meant community, knitted-in-ness and equality. That’s why people were so upset that He ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes: because He wasn’t eating with them in order to “win them over” – His act was one which said they were already won, they were already acceptable to Him. Zacchaeus was accepted by, and precious to, Jesus before he had done anything to make right. Again: we need to know this deeply before we engage with generosity & restitution – if we act out of guilt or coercion, rather than the joy of belonging to Jesus and being citizens of His Kingdom (on earth as it is in Heaven), then our actions will only lead to more hurt and injustice. KNOW you are accepted, loved, that you belong.
4. Accept the invitation for Jesus to come right in to your home
Allow Him to come in to the deepest parts of your sanctuary. Allow Him to give you new eyes for looking at your life, your choices, your priorities and your actions.
5. Be humble enough to listen to the mutterings of the crowd
Can you imagine the commotion as the crowd heard this and passed the news down through the jostle? It must have been difficult for Zacchaeus, in this time of affirmation, to hear it. A white, Afrikaans, male friend who is passionate about restitution told me, “I have to love the person enough to listen to their perceptions of white people, even if it is really difficult to hear”. A LOT has been written about those of us in places of power and privilege learning to listen to the anger, to the pain, to the daily struggles of people who have endured generations of systemic and personal oppression – without getting angry, defensive or fragile in the face of it, or telling people that their way of expressing their pain is not in keeping with what we think protest or expression can look like. Zacchaeus must have been deeply humbled by Jesus’ act of acceptance: he didn’t lash out at the crowd, and nor did he hold back on his actions because it would be “giving in” – he was all in with a radical commitment to allowing Jesus to transform every part of his life.
6. Acknowledge the multiplying nature of (your) privilege
I remember reading the story of Zacchaeus when I was younger and wondering how on earth he was able to pay back four times the amount of money he had stolen! I wondered where he got the extra money from. This is before I understood the multiplying nature of wealth and privilege. Again, there has been a lot written about it, so I won’t go in to that here, but it is so important – after continuing to develop courageous curiosity for finding out more about Jesus, accepting that we have already been made righteous, already been fully accepted, being humble enough to listen to others’ perceptions of us, and accepting Jesus’ invitation into the fullness of our lives – that we grow in our consciousness of where our privilege, power and wealth comes from and that we get to grips that we had much BECAUSE other people didn’t. (I know – it is hard to think hear that, but think of South Africa’s education system alone: I was able to go to a school with all sorts of incredible advantages BECAUSE the money was not being distributed fairly to all other children of my age – my school would not have had the state budget allocation it did if all people of South Africa had been treated fairly).
I want to point out that Zacchaeus didn’t actually personally collect any taxes – he was not responsible for physically taking money from the poorest of the poor while looking them straight in the eyes. But he knew he was part of system which did this. And acknowledged that he had been part of the theft. He also gave away half his wealth — even the wealth he had gained “legitimately” (not stolen), he realised was far more than others had, and that this needed to be remedied.
7. Act: Just. Do. It
(relationally, humbly, with love, with Holy Spirit-breathed creativity, from a place of true identity and acceptance…but just do it!)
Now: Imagine with me what the world would look like if all of us, operating in our true identity and acceptance in and through Christ, would allow our lives to be transformed in this way! Imagine what a witness the global church would be to the transforming power of Jesus – power to transform our hearts, our relationships, our systems and structures. People would look and see that truly Jesus came to seek and save all that has been lost, and put their hope in Him.
By Wendy Lewin
Kairos - a moment in time
From 17 to 20 August, an international group of about 200 people will gather at the University of Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Kairos document. Since the launch of that document, several other Kairos documents were launched across the world, the latest two being the Palestine and Swaziland Kairos documents.
The Greek word “Kairos” means “God’s moment” or a “moment of truth”. It is a special time and is the opposite of ordinary “chronos” time. It is used several times in the New Testament in texts such as Luke 19:44, Mark 1: 14 – 15, etc.
While many people think of the Kairos document as a “challenge to society”, the Kairos document was actually sub-titled “a challenge to the churches”. It challenged the Church to ask itself whether it is a sign of hope, an Easter sign of resurrection (which it should be as the risen body of Christ), in a particular time and place for all God’s people. It also then analysed the church as divided amongst itself and not being united by the Spirit of Truth and Love.
These questions and analyses made some people very uncomfortable, but to this extent it was thoroughly prophetic, if prophecy is understood in its original Biblical sense as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”. It is said that former President PW Botha had a copy of the Kairos document on his desk and would challenge any church leader who went to meet with him. For Kairos theologians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. And if Caesar is particularly oppressive and not a servant of all God’s people (as we analysed the apartheid system to be in the 1980s), then it cannot be obeyed by Christians. This is why the Kairos document called on the churches to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against apartheid.
Kairos theology is particularly potent when some people of faith use the Bible and the name of God as justification for their oppression and evil, as happened in Germany and in South Africa and as is happening today in Palestine and Israel. There are many situations of injustice and oppression in the world, but as Christians we take special notice when our Bible and our God is misused in situations of oppression, and when the Church is either silent or wants to be “neutral”. These two stances of the Church only benefits the oppressor and not the oppressed.
The first step in Kairos theology is to “discern the signs of the times” and to ask whether this moment we are living in is a moment when God is speaking to us in a special way. This is some of the work of discernment those gathered at the Kairos conference will begin to do, but whatever is discerned there would need to be tested with a wider group.
The week before the Kairos conference has been declared as a week of prayer, fasting and discernment and everyone is invited to join in this week of prayer. The question for discernment during that week is: Is there today an equivalent to the 1985 “Kairos-moment”, in which God is challenging us?
Kairos theology is generally not done by individuals but is typically done in small groups across the country, who then discern together whether this is a “Kairos moment” we face, either in South Africa or globally.
Please pray with us and please keep the Kairos conference in August in your prayers.
by Edwin Arrison, Kairos SA General Secretary
For further reading, please see
Most of the Kairos documents at http://ujamaa.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/manuals/The_Kairos_Documents.sflb.ashx
A 2012 Kairos SA letter to the ANC: https://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/kairos-logo/
The Palestine Kairos document: http://www.kairospalestine.ps
Kairos SA response to the Palestine Kairos document: http://www.voltairenet.org/article164794.html
Spare your people, Oh Lord
As we consider our beloved country, the words of Paul to the Galatians come to mind: You were doing so well. Who stopped you from being influenced by the truth? Gal 5:7 (God’s Word Translation).
While we never stop celebrating the fact that apartheid is gone and we are living in a democratic South Africa with much that we give thanks for, we cannot deny that there is much of grave concern. Mounting frustration with slow service delivery, increasingly violent protests, unrelenting poverty and unemployment, continued inequality, crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, school dropouts and teenage pregnancies leave us reeling. While it may be true that such challenges are common to young democracies and developing nations, and even understandable in a nation still struggling to extricate itself from a heritage of appalling statutory inequality and injustice, there remain even greater concerns:
• Government is struggling to find workable solutions to the challenges, and much of their response is reactive rather than pro-active; patching up rather than addressing root causes. Criticism or confrontation on the issues is more often met with denial and self-protection or even counter-attack, than acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility. Those institutions that question or challenge government or in any way seek to bring it to order are subject to vilification or attack.
• Party interests are overriding the interests of co-operative governance, so that community needs are taking second place while the parties engage in blame and mudslinging.
• Racism, rather than declining, is growing, becoming increasingly prevalent among young people and public servants and officials. It is also becoming a convenient scapegoat for any type of conflict that arises, so that the real issues in the different cases are being skirted.
• Bribery, corruption, negligence and seeming disregard for the rights of citizens have caused growing mistrust in those institutions that are meant to protect and uphold civil society.
• The type of violence we are seeing, particularly among young people, is of a type that shows total disregard for generally held societal norms and values. The rape of elderly people and young babies and acts of brutality display real socio-pathological tendencies.
And what of the church?
People from various church affiliations are speaking about South Africa being at another critical point in history, a “kairos moment” as we were before the first democratic elections. Several have made reference to the national prayer movements and concerted action on the part of Christians that helped pave the way to a peaceful transition. Many are in agreement that the church needs to make a similar stand now; that we need to pray, make our voices heard, as well as taking action where needed.
It is of great concern that the church is not rising to be the voice, hands and feet of Christ at this time in our nation; that we are joining the voices that blame and complain instead of standing and proclaiming God’s way. It is the church that needs to highlight areas of rot and laud areas of righteousness, and especially demonstrate God’s righteousness in all that we do and say – be the light in the darkness and salt where there is rot. Our country needs a mindset change, hope, direction and role models of righteousness. Much healing is still needed, and the church should lead that.
But in order to get to that place we need to look to ourselves first. The truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 still stands. We, as the church, need to pursue unity among ourselves, seeking forgiveness and letting go of offense. We need to put down self – our programmes, our achievements, our agendas. We need to seek God’s face in all that we do, not only seeking his direction, but also to lay down all in ourselves that is not of him; to acknowledge, repent and return – turn from our wicked ways. And we need to pray.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children… Let the priests who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the alter. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord”. Joel 2:15-17
By Colleen Saunders
5 first steps Christian believers can take to make a difference in SA today
Many South Africans are asking how they can become more relevant. Here are some first steps that may help ...
1. Read the bible with people who are not the same as you and allow the reflections that emerge to change the way you understand your cultural reading of the bible.
2. Take a look at your lifestyle - how you spend your time, treasures and talents. Do you live in a way that changes the way things are in the South Africa? How do you live in ways that keep South Africa the way it is?
3. Listen! To other people, to your own heart, to the world around you and to God. What are you hearing? What do you need to take notice of? What are the first simple steps you can take in response to what you have heard? Who can you talk to about this?
4. Speak! Tell your story. Our faith is a story-telling faith. The richness of all our stories make up our hope for a different South Africa. Talk about what you have learnt from other people’s stories. Weave your story and others’ stories into God’s big story and share this with everyone you meet. We need more than a single story about our country and each other.
5. Ask yourself this one simple question: “Do I believe that all South Africans have been created equal in the image of God?” If your answer is yes, then ask the following question: “Does the way I and my family and community live, reflect this truth?” Start making small changes where it is obvious that what you believe is not reflected in how you live.
How can The Warehouse serve you?
The Warehouse inspires, equips and connects churches to better respond to poverty, injustice and division. There are many ways The Warehouse can serve you this year.
Click here to see some of what is on offer during 2015.
South Africans live very different realities - mostly due to our unjust history. How does the Church enter into this reality and move beyond simplistic answers and relief, to more sustainable transformation of communities?
Sharing your treasures
How do we share well with those in our city? Many people are generous and want to share with others, especially during times of crisis. However, sometimes this giving is done without the care and dignity that people in need deserve.
We have put some tips together to help us give well, in ways that enhance dignity.
• Ensure that all items, whether clothing, household items or toys are newly washed, smell fresh and are not stained, torn, chipped or blemished.
• Donate items in a well-packaged, attractive condition: folded or well stacked and protected in sturdy cardboard boxes or see-through plastic bags (avoid using black refuse bags) and if possible, pre-sorted and labelled into genders, sizes and ages.
• If an item is in generally good shape but has something that needs fixing (e.g. a button sewn on, a hem cleaned up or toy fixed) please spend the time doing this before giving the item.
• Consider buying additional gifts such as brand new underwear to accompany clothing.
• If you would like to spend money, contact the organisation you are planning to give through to find out what current needs are, especially during disaster relief. The Warehouse and churches will also have this information on websites during specific responses
• Ensure that you donate seasonally appropriate items: this may mean that you go through your cupboards at the beginning of each season and donate what can be used immediately, or if you have items for a different season, store them until the correct season.
• It is difficult for relief organisations to store excess items and often causes them to become mouldy or stale smelling.
• Ask yourself these questions: Would I give this to someone I love? Would I be blessed to receive this? Does this give someone the message that they are made in God’s image?
• Please see the insert regarding what Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse is able to help you distribute, and our website during disaster responses.
In a country that is in turmoil around race, xenophobia, inequality and divisions of every kind, there are people choosing to live another way ... Meli Moyo is one of those people ... listen to some of his story here.
If you would like to donate towards The Warehouse making more movie clips like these, please click here http://www.givengain.com/cause/1976/projects/15498
Winter School at The Warehouse
Do you want to see the Church responding well to the South African context?
Join us for our three-day Winter School from July 28 to 30.
Venue: the warehouse, 12 Plantation Rd, Wetton
Who should attend?
All church- and ministry leaders
God sees, God calls, God equips
The following questions will be addressed over the three days:
When God sees the church in its context, what does he see?
How does God call the church to respond?
With what does he equip us?
Some more detail on the three days:
Day 1 ~ God Sees
Day 1 explores God’s heart for humanity, his concern for the suffering that exists, and his desire for transformation in all aspects of human life. We examine how poverty expresses itself in different ways, affecting not only people’s material circumstances, but also their personal, spiritual and social life and their perception of the power available to them. Participants will be invited to reflect on their own communities (wherever they lie on the economic spectrum) and identify those aspects of their contexts that God would be concerned about.
Day 2 ~ God Calls
Day 2 introduces God’s call on the church to be a transformative presence in the community in which it is placed, challenging participants to view mission and evangelism as something that not only transforms the spiritual lives of individuals, but also impacts the context, desiring to transform all that does not reflect the character of God or his design for human existence. Together participants will identify principles of development and social involvement that bring about transformation.
Day 3 ~ God Equips
Day 3 offers some practical tools for finding, understanding and addressing the areas of need in communities, and also reminds participants of the ways in the Holy Spirit has equipped the church with wisdom, discernment and power to do God’s work, and also with the hope needed to inspire us in all that we do.
The Winter School offers an excellent opportunity to think, pray, talk and act on things to which God is leading you and your Church.
or you can sign up here:
Cape Town churches responding to disasters
The primary focus of our work is engaging churches in longer term transformation strategies addressing poverty, injustice and division. In this context inappropriate crisis based relief can actually do more harm than good. However, there are times of crisis when relief is required due to a disaster incident and in these times appropriate relief should be effectively delivered within an appropriate time period.
Over the past two years we have been working with the Consultation of Christian Churches in Cape Town to increase the effectiveness of the collaborative response of churches in the City of Cape Town and surrounds to larger scale disaster incidents. The core working group now has committed participants from 15 different church networks and denominations along with key NGO support partners. The scope of this network is as follows:
1. Provide an effective centrally coordinated church response to disaster incidents affecting more than 500 people within the City of Cape Town (CoCT) and Stellenbosch areas that interacts effectively with government and civil society partners.
2. Improve collaborative church based responses to smaller incidents within this area through increased capacity and communication networks.
3. Increase the disaster mitigation and preparedness capacity of churches within its impact area.
Over the past month sadly we’ve had to activate the network for two separate incidents each impacting just under 1000 people. A fire in the community of Masiphumelele destroyed 250 homes and very shortly thereafter approximately 235 households were evicted and their homes destroyed in the community of Nomzamo. In both these incidents those impacted had to face severe Cape winter storms in the days after the event. It was tremendously gratifying to see the church network responding rapidly and appropriately providing incident coordination support, large amounts of clothing and blankets and food support.
If you’d like to support our work in developing this network you can find out more here:
Or you can click here
God of the Empty Handed by Jayakumar Christian
Jayakumar Christian, in his book God of the Empty Handed, grapples with the question: How can the kingdom of God transform the powerlessness of the poor?
Christian worked among the poor in India for over thirty years, exploring the relationship of poverty to powerlessness. Within this exploration he integrated a vast range of subjects into his studies including anthropology, sociology, politics, and theology. He avoids the easy solution and offers a new paradigm within his book, which can shape our responses to the poor and provide a workable framework for grassroots organizations.
In this book, Christian begins with a narrative approach: stories that capture the human dimensions of poverty. He then examines and analyzes secular development theories, including Liberation, Dalit, and evangelical theologies as well as several historical responses to poverty. He questions the meaning of powerlessness and describes challenges facing the modern church. Finally, he explores the fundamental understanding of power according to the theology of the Kingdom of God. He concludes by stating: “only when we realise that we are all empty-handed before God can brokenness in relationships be fully restored.”
For those who work with impoverished communities, this book will challenge, inspire, and hopefully impact your worldview and understanding of relationships in regards to poverty and power.
By Rachel Self
Rachel Self is a new intern with The Warehouse. She is currently studying studio art with a concentration in graphic design at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. She is excited to be a part of a team of individuals who also desire to see transformation, justice, and shalom become a consistent reality for the vulnerable in their city.
Loving our Neighbours in crisis
The Lwandle evictions, Masi fire and ongoing freezing cold weather - there are many people in need of some neighbourly love at the moment.
Here are some ideas for helpful giving ...
1. Clothing donations
Clothing must be sorted and bagged according to gender, age (child - teenager - adult) and type (pants - skirts - shirts - jackets - shoes etc) and should be clean and in decent condition. Please can we arrange for this to happen either by the people donating or at our individual churches and then we can collect them centrally. There is a very particular need for children’s and infant clothing.
2. Baby care kits - these are helpful and needed.
2 Wash cloth
1 Baby Towel
1 Small Tub Vaseline
1 Small Baby Powder
Bottles / Nipples
4. Plastic sheeting, gumboots, umbrellas
If you’d like to contribute financially to the relief effort please donate into The Warehouse account and reference the donation as Disaster Relief
Account name : The Warehouse Trust
Account number : 071 883 053
Account type : Current
Bank : Standard Bank, 4 Dreyer Street, Claremont, 7700 South Africa
Branch : Claremont
Branch Code: 025109
Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ
Or you can click here
Thanks so much for your care!
Why I walked
Why I joined in on the Walk of Witness
At our weekly staff meeting a colleague asked why I was committed to joining in the Walk of Witness over the Easter weekend, a walk initiated by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and other religious leaders to express concern over various issues facing our nation.
I believe that for many South Africans that which we thought was going to be bring our ‘salvation’ has not been, and in different ways we have to mourn that. People like Ronnie Kasrils and his peers are mourning it; and they are not quite ready to let it go yet, to vote for someone else. I was struck when reading an article where Kasrils was saying that there are powerful people in government who are afraid to speak up. I thought NO, if one can’t speak up now, one would not have spoken up against apartheid. The cost of speaking up now is nothing compared to the cost of speaking up against the previous regime, it was a dramatically higher cost back then. I was struck again by the thought that we are living in the ‘Friday’ of our nation’s history, we are living the death of a dream, but we, as believers, have to be willing to call out ‘Sunday” – declaring the good news that society can and does change.
What does that declaration look like? Sitting around a dinner tables moaning and groaning? Liking a post on Facebook? No. There are many ways to proclaim the good news of hope and transformation. One of them is in the work we do at The Warehouse. Another way is to proclaim. The Archbishop called us to proclaim over the Easter weekend – to join in a walk to parliament from District Six, a symbolic icon of our past – that it may be Friday, but Sunday is coming.
There does come a time when the bulk of society needs to start tipping towards justice and change, towards standing up and saying no, this is not what we want anymore. Its not the only way, it’s not the primary way, but it is one way. By proclaiming we are saying that we give witness to the fact that we want something different for our people; that we are not willing to stand by and let our country slip away or be taken away from its people. The arrogance of the government, the kind of grabbing of power that we are seeing, the complete disregard of the citizens whom our leaders are there to serve – where that takes us in ten years time is not where we want to be.
By joining in the walk with my family, we make a statement that we are willing to move. We are making a stand. We are strengthening society’s arm. Whilst we may not be at the center of power as citizens, we need to keep pushing into those spaces. It takes courage to stand. I walked as a follower of Jesus who wants to see change in our nation and believes that citizens have the power to bring it about in non-violent, participatory ways.
Election reflection and prayer
Some thoughts to pray about and reflect on as we approach the elections, by Colleen Saunders
1. Acknowledge what God has done
Luke 10:13-15; Matt 11:21-23
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Sodom is well known for its sexual sin (Gen 19 & Jude v7); less so for its social sin of being “overfed and unconcerned” and not helping the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). Jesus compares disregarding his miracles to sins such as these.
- What are the miracles that are happening in South Africa that we are not acknowledging?
- List the things that are GOOD about our systems and institutions, our governance, our resources.
- Repent of not acknowledging them, and then spend time thanking God for what he has done.
2. Acknowledge the influence, authority and call of the Church
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength. For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.
- What is the war that the church is waging, and what does victory look like?
- What is the knowledge that we, the Church have that should be shared?
- In which ways have we not been using our power and strength to influence society?
- To whom should the church be giving guidance and kingdom advice?
- Pray for the church and our role as we prepare for the elections.
3. Ask God for open hearts and ‘eyes’ to see
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it?
It may sometimes seem that our country is “staggering towards the slaughter” ...
- What are we not seeing? What we are claiming to know nothing about? What does God want us to see in the spiritual realm?
- Repent and pray as God leads.
4. Repent of slumber
I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
South Africa is threatened by thorns, weeds and broken walls – poverty, corruption, scarcity, division, loss of hope – while much of the church is thriving. Why and how have we allowed these things to creep in? Have we been so fast asleep?
- Pray for God to awaken the church
- Pray for God to awaken you
- Repent of slumber and ask him to give you direction for your prayers and actions.
5. Pray for hope
Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
- List the things that are destroying hope in our nation
- List the things that are threatening hope in our churches
- Pray into those issues, and pray that hope may be restored.
Our latest newsletter
To read our April news update, click here
The fallacy of the polarised gospel
In the life and activities of every group of people there comes a moment of realisation that something significant is happening – a moment worth stopping, noting and marking. The Bible is full of stories of how the people of God point us to the ancient art of remembering, of marking moments. Sometimes with an alter built in memory of God’s intervention, or a meal that helped them ‘stop and notice’ what God was doing in their lives. Recently, we experienced such a moment in one of our staff development workshops, and we stopped to notice what God was doing.
We had been exploring the ongoing and sometime heavily divisive debate regarding the definition of the gospel, mission, evangelism and social justice. As we looked at some opposing views and tried to understand them in the light of the work we do with churches, a picture was drawn, depicting two different camps on opposite sides of the paper: those who are pro-evangelism on one side and those who are pro-justice on the other. The picture shocked us! While it depicted an extreme but very present reality in the global church, the realisation dawned on us – just how entirely anti-gospel in spirit it was!
As we debated and listened to varying perspectives, we began to realise that over the years we, The Warehouse, have positioned ourselves - not always, but definitely sometimes - in the “social justice” camp, as a reaction to those who have positioned themselves in the “evangelism camp”. This could have made it sound as if we don’t believe that salvation or preaching the good news to all people is necessary. And while we may know that that’s not the full theological picture, our assumptions that others understand it as such may have alienated some of the very leaders that we have hoped to work alongside over the years. As humans we haven’t always been the best listeners and when debates get heated we tend to revert back to our ‘camps’ and argue from that polarised place of conviction.
Jesus didn’t do that. He answered challenges with questions and stories that often started with “The Kingdom of God is like…”. Instead of choosing a position on the opposite end of the spectrum to make his point, he lived, embodied and told stories about the only reality he could faithfully speak of - the Kingdom of God. He ate, slept, walked and breathed Shalom - the whole good news for the whole world – even when he acknowledged that this would not bring the kind of peace for which the world was searching.
In this ongoing debate (that should never have been a debate in the first place) the invitation is to be the kinds of disciples that do not “meet fire with fire” and choose the polar opposite view to the stated argument to try to make the point for social justice. No, we are all called to be ones who respond with the way of shalom, with the kinds of answers and stories that begin: “The Kingdom of God is like…”. We want to be disciples who invite the whole church to understand the whole gospel that impacts the whole world: Shalom for souls, families, communities, cities, political systems and eco-systems.
We regret the words we have chosen that may have put us in a camp on the far side of Jesus’ Kingdom way, and are sorry if that has made anyone we interact with feel that we do not represent the whole saving work of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. As a community of staff, we have committed to holding each other to language and actions that point to this full shalom and to challenge one another when we recognise the temptation to encamp ourselves in polar arguments.
To mark this moment, we set light to the piece of paper that depicted the two opposing camps of thought - the either/or mentality that has fuelled this debate over centuries, the ‘pendulum’ swing of the church in history. It was a significant moment. We invite you, our friends and partners in this co-labouring work with the King, to join us in this commitment, to challenge us when you see us erring and to explore together what the whole gospel for the whole world looks like in 2014.
By Caroline Powell
A vision for the church
Our February news update—an excellent vision for the church in SA (or anywhere), some news, compelling blogs, food for thought ... enjoy!
Want to see your church impact South Africa?
Are you a church leader?
Do you want a deeper understanding of what the Kingdom of God can look like “on this earth, as it is in heaven” through the Church?
How does the past of our South African story impact on your church ministry today?
What is the role of collaboration in bringing about the Kingdom of God in our city and country today? How important is it that churches work together in this?
Sign up for our Transformational Development workshops to join the conversation.
The Mandela Moment: Now it’s time to move forward South Africa
The past 10 days has been a milestone in our country’s history – there’s no doubt about that. We’ve made huge pronouncements about how we are so very thankful for all that Madiba has done for us, how we pledge to continue and honour his legacy, how so much still needs to change. But what now? I’m sure many of us are asking ourselves this question. Sure we’ve made progress since 1994 and sure many of us are already hard at work moving our beloved country forward. But this week of reflection – both of our history and what still needs to be done – has given many of us renewed energy for the road ahead.
What do we need to do to make things right for the past in our country? How does what we do depend on where we were located in the past? As an architect of apartheid injustice or as architect of resistance to injustice; as an implementer of apartheid injustice or as an implementer of resistance to injustice; as someone dishonoured by apartheid injustice or dishonoured in the act of resisting or perpetrating apartheid injustice; as a beneficiary of apartheid injustice or as a beneficiary of resistance to injustice; or as a young inheritor of apartheid injustice or as an inheritor of resistance to injustice. Definitely loads to discuss on this point – but the real point is wherever we were locate our history is complex and not uncomplicated – all of us need to participate in actions to move us forward as a country.
These actions of restitution – ‘doing sorry’ rather than just ‘saying sorry’ and ‘receiving sorry’ rather than believing ‘sorry is not enough’ - need to happen urgently and on multiple levels. Not only in the large institutional, legal and structural ways – by government through affirmative action, black economic empowerment, land restitution and our past truth and reconciliation commission but also in everyday ways – where people can contribute to making things right at individual, interpersonal and community levels – where everybody has a role to play, and does so not out of the largesse of charity (that makes us feel good but not obligated to doing our part) but out of a duty to moving forward.
So what can we do to move forward South Africa?
As an academic (at the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Cape Town) and as a practitioner (the current Chair of the Restitution Foundation, a small Cape based NGO) I have a few ideas (that I’m sure not everyone will agree with, but at least they are ideas for action). I think, however, that together we can all come up with many more creative and everyday actions. Over the next month of holidays, as a new year begins and as we live in the moment Nelson Mandela’s passing has given us to reflect, refocus and renew our efforts to change, let’s think deeply and creatively about the actions that must be done to move forward.
Broadly speaking these actions should include helping people to remember the past so our actions are motivated by duty; to recover lost dignity and to dismiss feelings of shame associated with poverty or undue senses of superiority; to experience a sense of belonging and equality no matter who we are; and to have access to a decent life through opportunities for fair work and useful education. Some will cost money; all will cost time and effort.
In practical terms here are a few I have thought about:
1. Inheritance of personal wealth: Change your will today to include someone who does not own property rather than just pass on your inherited wealth to your kids. Remember that your inherited wealth was only possible through apartheid’s unjust laws (job reservation, land ownership, differential education).
2. Education of another: Pay for another young South African to get a great high school education and go to university. Include in your financial sponsorship the mentoring and social capital that your own kids will receive because you know how to help them access jobs, helpful networks and make good personal decisions along the way.
3. Look people in the eyes: When someone asks for work, money or any other help, no matter how you respond materially, look them in the eye and talk to them with dignity and respect.
4. Living wages: Beginning with the people you employ at home or in business, sit down and do a job and personal needs assessment. Then pay the person a living wage (rather than a minimum wage).
5. Public holidays: Make each of our public holidays (Human Rights Day, Youth Day, Women’s Day, Heritage Day and Reconciliation Day) an opportunity to share a meal and a chat about its significance. Do so with a small group of people of whom at least half come from a different history in the South African community as you. Tell each other your stories of growing up in South Africa, and listen intently. Repeat frequently.
6. Cross ‘racial’ adoption: Adopt a child with a different history to yours. And live your family life in such a way that celebrates all of your historical heritages, which may mean learning another language and celebrating different customs.
7. Religious groups: Change the colour of Sunday mornings or Friday evenings/afternoons. This may mean starting something new, or intentionally gathering a diverse group of people in a mid-week prayer, study or discussion group. So many of us in this country are religious that this action alone could really help us to move forward.
8. Learn/teach a language different to yours: Works both ways. Ask someone to help you learn to speak isiZulu, isiXhosa or seSotho. Help someone become proficient in business or academic English.
9. Vote: It doesn’t matter who for but don’t just stay at home. Become active in insisting that people in power deliver on their promises for the benefit of those most excluded. Don’t let your opposition only be heard as a grumble over a beer or over supper. Support the ruling party if you like but hold them accountable to good governance at every turn (booing included!). Strengthen the opposition parties if you like but insist they come up with viable alternatives rather than just complaining about existing polices or looking after the interests of their local constituencies (potholes be damned!). This is the democracy we wanted after all.
Prof. Sharlene Swartz. Academic and Chair: Restitution Foundation
Church of Justice
“Do you know what I want? I want justice .. oceans of it. I want fairness ... rivers of it. That is what I want. That’s all I want.” Amos 5: 24
Church of Justice
14 to 16th March
Groote Kerk, Cape Town.
Shane Claiborne from Philadelphia, USA, worked with Mother Theresa, and found himself in Baghdad while America bombs rained down on the city. He works for justice through his organisation, The Simple Way, and is the author of “Irresistible Revolution”.
Antonio Carlos Costa, reformed theologian from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, lives for justice and the welfare of victims of gang violence, crime and drugs. He leads protests against government corruption and police brutality, and is the founder of Rio de Paz (River of Peace).
Many other speakers and discussion groups talking on issues of social justice.
Or visit our website http://www.grootekerk.org.za
PS: The Warehouse will be involved in some sessions too.
What does The Warehouse do and why?
We envision just and transformed communities where the vulnerable are cared for because the local church is a transformative presence.
We inspire, equip and connect the church to be a transformative presence effectively addressing poverty, injustice and division.
Please join us ..
You are welcome to join us at various prayer and worship times each week.
Join us in Monday prayers (in the building or wherever you are) as the week begins
Join us in Tuesday prayers - talking with God together in creative ways
Join us in Thursday worship & prayer - multilingual worship and prayer together
Join us in Friday intercession for issues and needs of our city, country, and world
And the prayer room is available for anyone to come and pray, rest, read .. any day between 8:30 and 4:30pm.
You are welcome.
The Warehouse is often perceived as a place where unwanted items can be donated to the poor. Undeniably, there is a mammoth need for basic relief in many communities in our city. But our desire is to develop the gleaning concept described in Leviticus for our twenty-first century urban context.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of the field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien” Leviticus 23:22
Gleaning met the needs of the poor without destroying their dignity, and that is how we want to serve our communities.
Relief that is not part of long-term processes of development is undignifying and unsustainable. The church in Cape Town is filled with people who have an excess of time, skills, things or money, but many churches are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems, and those churches who exist and operate in the poorest communities are often the ones with the least resources.
Our desire is to respond to the Christian who has woken up to the extent of the poverty crisis, and to the needs of those who are burdened by the effects of that crisis. We believe that if we want to uphold the dignity of both those who give and those who receive, we must build bridges that can facilitate mutually beneficial relationships. We want to promote considered generosity. Rather than simply clearing out garages and storerooms in the hope that some of the contents will be of use, we are seeking to ask God, and encourage you to ask God, what He is calling us to give away.
Here on the ‘threshing floor’ at the Warehouse, we sort through and store what is given to us, in preparation for redistribution. ‘Time-givers’ are volunteers who help us with that process, and the task of carefully selecting items and assembling ‘love packs’ to meet the specific needs of particular individuals or communities. Teams of volunteers and Warehouse staff will then make deliveries in response to requests that we have received from groups or churches working in communities. In this way Urban Gleaning does not work directly with recipients, but rather we insist on working through people who will continue to be in relationship with those who need relief.
It is this intentionality in how and what we give that distinguishes us from most charities. Through encouraging careful discernment from givers, distributing only need-specific items, and using time-givers to sort and select appropriate gifts, we are helping people to engage with people, not just ‘poverty’.
We want to see the church in Cape Town united against poverty and inequality, leading the way in the process of reconciliation and restitution in this nation. We pray that more and more people would be inspired by Jesus’ call to live generously and sacrificially, and that both the poor and the rich in this city would be free to live lives of dignity, godliness and love.
Looking Upstream for Answers - October News-e-zine
Have a read of our October news-e-zine for some interesting thoughts, challenging opinions and inspiring ideas around living a just life in South Africa today. #justwalking
Kairos - the 30th Anniversary Statement
Dangerous Memory and Hope for the Future
We gathered in Johannesburg (near Cottesloe) from 17 to 20 August 2015, to celebrate how the 1985 South African Kairos document, “Challenge to the Church,” responded to a moment of truth in the most painful days of Apartheid. That Kairos document inspired three decades of Kairos movements in many different contexts. This 30th celebration has now re-inspired us toward a common humanity and a concern for human dignity and our environment.
The pain of Marikana and the reasons behind it (multinational profit before people and corporate greed) hovered over our conference.
The 2009 Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth,” a cry from the Palestinian Christian community, carries a disturbing echo of the dangerous memory of the South African story of Apartheid. Kairos Palestine has evoked a powerful global response from Kairos contexts around the world. The catalyzing power of Kairos Palestine was deeply felt in our gathering. We were inspired by this renewed energy. Palestine is the space where our sacred texts are contested.
There was much to celebrate in this gathering. Our Kairos conversations were intentionally multi-generational and broadly international. We were grateful to engage deeply with Muslim and Jewish perspectives. We found much joy in our solidarity and shared struggles. We were particularly encouraged by the inter-generational nature of this gathering and how that can be nurtured and encouraged. We are particularly inspired by the birth of Zinzi Kairos Mbenenge during the conference. “… for unto us a child is given”!
A NEW KAIROS
We have reached a new moment of truth, a new Kairos. We recognize how the coming of Jesus and his teaching about a new kingdom and a new reign against the Roman empire of his day has completely passed us by. We lament that, by and large, the church of today has become distracted from this mission of preparing the way for God’s reign.
In our time, we find that various sites of pain and struggle are joined in a Global Kairos, a shared quest for justice. In our discussions, we named our shared struggle against the scourge of this global empire of our times. Empire is an all-encompassing global reality seeking to consolidate all forms of power while exploiting both Creation and Humanity. The empire we face is not restricted by geography, tribe, language or economy. Empire is an ideology of domination and subjugation, fueled by violence, fed by fear and deception. It manifests itself especially in racial, economic, cultural, patriarchal, sexual, and ecological oppression. Empire deceptively informs dominant, white supremacist, capitalist paradigms controlling global systems and structures. Global empire is sustained by weapons and military bases (hardware) along with ideologies and theologies (software).
We rejoice that resistance against empire is manifested in a plurality of struggles throughout the world. Struggles against ecological injustice, gender injustice and patriarchy, landlessness, abuse of people on the move, refugee vulnerability, political and religious persecution, social exclusion, denial of indigenous rights, neglecting children’s rights, harm to LGBTI persons, access for the differently abled, and racial supremacism represent only a portion of the struggles against empire. Since 1985, Kairos documents have expressed resistance to these and other realities in Central America, Europe, Malawi, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Palestine. In this conference, we were pleased to receive new Kairos documents from siblings in Swaziland, Nigeria, and the United States. The memory of unjust suffering in all contexts is dangerous to the purposes of empire.
In our listening to one another, we found that the context of suffering and pain created by Israel’s oppression of Palestine contains all aspects of empire. Palestine is therefore a microcosm of global empire, a critical site of reflection that can bring experiences in other locales into sharper focus. Palestine does not eclipse other situations around the globe but instead intensifies the need for greater interconnection and mutual engagement.
All Kairos movements emerge from sites of grave injustice and deep pain. Every Kairos document is a cry to God and to the world. We confess, however, that we have served two masters and preached a gospel that requires nothing of the rich young ruler, even as we build empire on the widow’s mite. We recognize that we and our church institutions have often closed our ears to our siblings’ cries and drowned them out. In many cases, very little action has followed. The church has often been ambiguous and cautious in its response to human suffering. Sometimes, the church has engaged in active opposition to the liberating work of God present in communities of resistance, increasing church complicity in structures of injustice. The church has often provided theologies of domination in the service of Empire. In our discussions, we found that the South African Kairos indictment of Church Theology is as relevant in our time as it was in 1985.
RESISTING IMPERIAL THEOLOGY
The dangerous memory of the South African Kairos document provided a prophetic critique of State Theology, theologies that validate and confirm forms of state terror. It identified as heresy theologies that justify Apartheid. In our time, we are called to expand this critique and rejection of state theology to address Imperial Theology, the ‘software’ that justifies imperial exploitation and oppression. We were encouraged to find that, although Empire seeks to divide communities from one another, peoples’ resistance can unite us across religious, ethnic and culture divides.
Imperial theology is at work in the continued oppression of Palestinians and the crisis now engulfing what is known as the Middle East. Analysis and rejection of the State Theology supporting Apartheid in South Africa was an essential element in exposing and resisting that sinful system. In its dominant forms, Zionism has been used to justify the dispossession, transfer, massacring, ghettoization and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Zionism has become an element within the dominant structures of empire. Politically, we call for an intensification of all economic and political pressures on the State of Israel, including the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). In our biblical interpretation, we strongly distinguish between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel. Theologically, we declare to be heresy any Christian theologies that support the Zionism informing Israeli oppression.
We now therefore resolve
1) to act and pray, inspired by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, God’s siding with suffering and poor communities, aiming to do all we can to return the global and local church to the mission of Jesus to enact the reign of God, opening toward a new way of relating to humanity and the earth;
2) to encourage all Christians to respond to the Palestinian Christian call to “come and see” the living stones of the Holy Land, providing hope to all who suffer under the cross of illegal Israeli Occupation;
3) to advocate that international law must apply equally to all. We reject the imperial dictate that imposes sanctions on some regimes while vetoing and criminalizing popular calls for sanctions on egregious violations of international law;
4) to impress upon our churches, seminaries and theological institutes the need to deepen theological engagement with the pressing challenges of the world, including the global systems and structures of empire and to promote Kairos spirituality;
5) to reflect intentionally on the South African experience of the effectiveness of the BDS efforts and express our full support for an intensification of BDS as an effective, nonviolent strategy against global empire;
6) to create appropriate systems to ensure that young people will be nurtured and mentored in the Kairos understanding of faith, hope, and love and supported in their growth into leadership;
7) to express public support for those working against corruption in South Africa; while we rejoice that political apartheid has ceased in South Africa, we lament that economic apartheid continues; we commit to working toward Kairos Africa to ensure that the hopes of the next generation of the African continent are not dashed by Empire; and
8) to foster and nurture the Global Kairos for Justice movement; we are because you are.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4)
20 AUGUST 2015
Kairos Document: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos_Document
Kairos Palestine: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/content/kairos-document
Kairos USA: http://kairosusa.org
Ukungalingani eMzantsi Afrika (Inequality in South Africa)
Iingcali zophando zisixelela uba uMzantsi Afrika lo ukuluhlu lamazwe aphambili ekungalinanini kwabantu. Okukungalingani ke kusingise phakathi kwabasokolayo nabatyebileyo; kwabanemivuzo emikhulu nabanemivuzo emincinci. Abo bebefudula bephethe ubutyebi belilizwe basabuphethe nanamhlanje ntoleyo ikhombisa uba akukhange kubekho mahluko wenzekile emveni koba sifudukele kwiDemocracy.
Ukungalingani kwelilizwe kweza ngoba kwahlaliwa phantsi, ngamadoda ombuso wengcinezelo, kwahlela uba iStructure sesisizwe kumelwe simiswe ngendlela ezawubangela uba abanye bangalingani kunabanye. Ngelishwa kwasetyenziswa iBhaybhile ukwakhiwa ukukhohlakala nengcinezelo yabantu ababamnyama.
Okukusetyenziswa ngoku khohlakala kweZwi lika Thixo azange ibeyinto ethintela uba kwa IZwi eli lingasetyenziswa ekuchitheni kwa lowo mbuso. Ukutsho oko, Ekubeni umntu omnyama athe wazibhaqela ngokwakha iinyaniso zeLizwi lika Thixo, waphinda wasebenzisa lona ukuzikhulula. Nakubeni ekhululekile ngokwe politiki kodwa kuye kwabonakala uba akukabikho nkululeko ngokweziqoqosho.
Umhlaba, imali, ubutyebi, izimbiwa nokunye kusesezandleni zabamhlophe. Lento ke isibonisa uba ibandla lidinga ukubuye eLizwini ukusabela uba inkululeko kwezoqoqosho ingaze ifike njani kumntu wonke ongummi welilizwe. Ibandla lehlika labuyela kwizinto zobucawa emveni koba sifumene iDemocracy, kodwa ngoku ikhwelo liphumile ukuba kudingeka abaprofeti belixesha ukuthetha intliziyo kaThixo esizweni.
Ibandla elimhlophe lidinga uba ibelilo elivakala kakhulu ekuthini thethwe ngembuyiselo ngoba lilo eliyaziyo into yokutyeba kwisizukulwana sendlala. Ibandla elimnyama nalo kumelwe lingathuli hleze leyantlukwano ithathwe ngathi iqhelekile kwaye yamkelekile. Kodwa ke ngaphezu koko, xa linomanyana ibandla ngobubanzi balo, lithetha into enye ukuchitha okukungalingani, ifuthe lingavakala esizweni siphela. Kwincwadi yeZenzo 4:32, sibona ibandla lisenza into eyahlukileyo kunoko kwakusenzeka kwindawo ebabekuyo. Bambi bathengisa ngemihlaba ababenayo “kwaze akwabikho nomnye owayeswele phakathi kwabo.” Abo babenezinto, bancama ukuze banikele kwabo babengenanto. Yinto leyo eyabangela uba libonwe ibandla baze abaninzi bafune ukubayinxalenye yalo ngoba babona intliziyo kaThixo ivezwa libandla.
Kumelwe silibandla sizibuze uba lentlalo yeZenzo ithini kuthi namhlanje? Xa sizijonga kwisipili esiliLizwi likaThixo kutsho kuvele iimpendulo zezinto ezininzi ezidla umzi.
Just Walking - News-e-zine July 2015
How can we serve you? News-e-zine June 2015
Another way to be - News-e-zine April 2015
Giving up the power - News-e-zine March 2015
Courage for the Calling - News-e-zine February 2015
Everyday heroes of Hope - News-e-zine December 2014
Trainstoppers of Hope and Healing - News-e-zine September 2014
Brick by Brick we’re moving forward - News-e-zine May 2014
On the edges of our vision - News-e-zine June 2014
The Fallacy of the Polarised Gospel - News-e-zine April 2014
A vision for the Church in SA - News-e-zine Feb 2014
A vision for the Church in South Africa
When the Doorbell Rings
This resource was produced by The Warehouse in response to the challenges faced by church secretaries and receptionists as they respond to people coming to the church for help. The book consists of four parts:
Part 1 is addressed to “the Keeper of the Gate”, that person who answers the door and is the first to face the people needing help. It deals with the balance between responding with compassion while protecting ones own needs, and includes tips on how to say “no”, how to avoid being patronising, and how to discern God’s heart in each situation.
Part 2 is aimed at church leadership. It provides ideas for supporting the front-of-house person and for drawing the whole church into a unified response to needs that arise, by developing guidelines that are consistent and of which everyone is aware.
Part 3 provides some practical tools for enhancing this ministry, including ideas for developing a resource directory of your neighbourhood.
Part 4 contains two forms for your use; one for developing your directory, and the other for keeping records of interactions with people who come for help.
The book is available in two formats: a pdf version that can be downloaded and printed yourself, and a printed manual in a ring-binder. The ring-binder enables you to add your own notes and ideas, so that the book becomes a working manual.
God, the Oppressor and the Oppressed
As I reflect back to listening to Dr Ron at The Warehouse one statement he made really struck me about God’s involvement in relation to the oppressor and the oppressed. What we often hear is that God is on the side of the oppressed, which is true, but my question is … what is He doing there? This statement is often used to comfort people in their varied experienced miseries and that can weaken the truth of this statement at times. Can we be saying the same things about God being on the side of the oppressed for more than 500 years of our history, and continue to be okay with the oppressed being on the receiving end of injustice?
I have always thought a lot about the role of a Christian in the matters that relate to justice. How should a Christian engage with the injustice of the world? In a church world that does not seem to have a room for the prophetic voice, how should one engage? I have always been against the “What would Jesus do?” question, as it suggests that Jesus is no more, which is heresy. A more appropriate question is, “What is Jesus doing?” This is a more biblically sound question for we are dealing with a resurrected Christ who is active in the world today. So, what is Jesus doing concerning the oppressed and the oppressor? If we are able to answer this question then we are no longer left in the dark trying to find out way, because we will join in what He is doing! Dr Ron made a beautiful statement here when he said that “God is on the side of the oppressed, liberating both the oppressed and the oppressor”.
If the Bible says we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves, what is it to love the one who is oppressing and what is it to love the one who is oppressed? I deeply believe that the only help for the oppressor will come from them being enforced to stop oppression. The greatest love one could show the oppressor is to enforce the oppressor to stop their oppression. I love one writer who once said we are all born free until we have encounters with others who were once free, but then were jailed by their own oppression of others. What a powerful thought. Just as our freedom enhances the freedom of others, I believe that our bondage is a bondage to others too. We should never allow the bondage of some become the burden of others. Love will be expressed by standing against the mighty and powerful and in defence of the low and powerless. God is a liberator, not just a sympathiser and comforter. What does it look like for us to join God in what he is doing to bring true freedom today?
Siyaphila - we are well
“We live in a country that has been traumatised by apartheid, and many people live with the economic and social consequences of that every day, with little or no psycho-social support,” says Hilary McLea, Loss and Grief counsellor and educator, who has developed training for people in low-income communities. “For most South Africans counselling is a luxury that they cannot afford and this has dire consequences for individuals, families and communities.”
For this reason, Hilary has developed a training course called Managing Loss, Grief and Continuous Trauma, which is designed to equip mental health professionals to better help those living with loss and ongoing trauma. In early March Hilary trained 15 professionals from various churches and NGOs in a three-day workshop that also earns Continual Professional Development (CPD) points. “All the professionals who attended are already interfacing with people who live in ongoing traumatic situations, and said it was helpful even as they faced their own grief and loss,” said Hilary, “It is specifically geared at people for whom the possibility of change circumstantially is very slim, so need help to deal with the current reality better.”
Siyaphila, rooted in the work of The Warehouse and part of the Resources offered, is lead by Hilary who has been running groups in communities for five years, and training other facilitators for two years. “We need to equip as many people to run these groups as possible, so we can reach the many people who need this kind of help,” she says. “My hope is that people who live in continual trauma in our broken country will be given insight and techniques to cope better with the challenges.”
“It was a great course and so useful to bring the two worlds ... God and trauma .. together” said one participant. “I came expecting to learn about others, but learned so much about myself,” said another. “A must for every health-care professional,” said another.
“People cannot afford the help they need and God’s heart is for the poor, so we need to make excellent support and care available to everyone who needs it. South Africa does not have the number of social workers and psychologists that are needed, so we must develop other tools that serve the purpose of bringing healing and psycho-social support,” explains Hilary, “And Churches are the best possible communities to hold this as they are generally safe places, have clean, protected facilities and the biblical imperative to bring hope and healing to the community.”
What some of our US friends say about us
We don’t often blow our own trumpet, but we did decided to let you know what some of our friends from the USA think about who we are and the work we do. We take our mission and calling very seriously and are blessed to be in partnership with like-minded Christians around the globe.
Reverend Wes Gristy
Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, Jackson, TN
“Can an organization that serves local churches in Cape Town in their response to poverty, injustice and division reach all the way around the globe to inspire other churches in similar efforts? You better believe it! The Warehouse has done just that for our little church in West Tennessee, enriching our vision of what it means to continue the work of Jesus in transforming our own community. We are blessed by ministry of The Warehouse!”
Gary L. Wyatt Ministries, Sure House Open Bible Church, Tacoma, WA
“I first met Craig Stewart and The Warehouse staff in April 2010 and I was totally blessed and impressed by the pure heart that they possessed for the poor of South Africa. In my short observation it was very clear to me that the service they provide uplifts the total man including the mind, body and soul of those who are in desperate need of assistance. I highly commend and confidently recommend them for the superb job they are doing with Kingdom class on a daily basis. I’m confident that giving financial support to The Warehouse efforts will never be in vain.”
Professor Mary Anne Poe
Acting Associate Dean of Social Work, College of Education & Human Studies, Professor of Social Work, Director, Center for Just and Caring Communities, Union University TN
“The Warehouse is perhaps the most inspiring organization that I have encountered. They offer a joyful, transformative, Christ-centered approach to the challenging work of doing justice and building community in broken and dark places. Their efforts to assist churches to reflect deeply on the teachings of Scripture and to equip them to be reconcilers is Christian practice at its best.”
Beth A. Birmingham
Ph.D.Chair, School of Leadership and Development, Eastern University, Pennsylvania, USA
“The Warehouse is characterised by good leadership, a servant posture, faithful stewardship, serious impact and is one of the best ministries in my sphere of knowledge.”
The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill
Rector, St. George’s, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
“Leaders of St. George’s Church, Nashville, Tennessee have been tremendously blessed by a developing friendship with The Warehouse over the past several years. Our visits to Cape Town and The Warehouse have been profoundly impactful in witnessing ministry at the frontier where love of neighbor confronts massive poverty and where the possibility of reconciliation meets historic injustice. God is powerfully at work through the relationships The Warehouse establishes, and we are inspired by these ministries in our calling of love and reconciliation to neighbours in our own city. I cannot commend The Warehouse or its leadership highly enough.”
Social Worker by trade, activist by heart, Graphic Designer, Jackson Tennessee
“The first time I engaged with The Warehouse, I realized I had found a group of women and men of all stripes and all brands who were seeking first the kingdom of God. I felt like I had something to offer, but I also realized I had so much to learn. The Warehouse and its staff have changed my world, and my mindset, and my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and seek first the kingdom of God.”
Support, volunteer and friend
“The Warehouse to me is all about relationships. I personally give to this organization for I know that I am supporting real people who are loving their communities. The Warehouse has a genuine ability to come alongside and bring encouragement, training, and hope to those that are seeking to see their communities transformed.”
Management Consultant, Satori Consulting, New York
“I cannot recommend The Warehouse more highly. Having worked in community transformation in Cape Town for five years, I know firsthand what a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavor it is. The Warehouse’s relationship-based approach, engagement of diverse local stakeholders, and commitment to sustainable long-term impact are all marks of a highly thoughtful and effective organization.”
CPA -Raleigh NC
“In the two years my wife and I worked as volunteers at The Warehouse we had a front row seat in seeing God’s work through lives of the poor being transformed and communities being uplifted through The Warehouse’s community development initiatives.”
Professor of Social Work, Union University - TN
“I consider the Warehouse to be a bright light and sanctuary for those in Western Cape, and our world, who are most vulnerable. The Warehouse, a faith-based agency excellently serves individuals, groups and communities with with respect, dignity and the love of Christ. Please consider partnering with my friends at the warehouse with your time and/or resources!”
If you would like to give to the work we do in South Africa, especially as part of your Year-End Giving, please click here.
Make your dollars go a long way
On a trip through the USA earlier this year I was asked whether The Warehouse is able to receive donations that qualify for tax deductions within the USA. In partnership with the National Christian Foundation we are able to do so and we’d like to make sure that you know this is possible as you consider your year-end giving.
Twenty years prior to the end of apartheid we could scarcely conceive of a different South Africa, but in 1994 we experienced the miracle of apartheid falling away and the birth of the rainbow nation. The role of the church and God’s intervention in this is well documented, however, twenty years later we are living both with the disappointment of the failed potential of our nation and the apparent lack of capacity within the church to truly impact society over this time. The law of apartheid died in 1994 yet its spirit is still well and truly alive.
It doesn’t have to be this way! The Warehouse believes that the next twenty years could see a new, more sustainable miracle happen as the church lives up to its calling from Jesus to transform society as part of declaring the good news of His Kingdom.
Please would you consider investing in this for your year end giving. Your gift goes a long way in South Africa as the exchange rate is very favourable at the moment. Over 70% of our funding is locally sourced which ensures that we can use gifts from the USA for catalyse new programs and initiatives. Just to give you an idea of what it costs to do some of our work:
- $30 a month helps us accompany a church leader who is leading their church in being a transformative presence.
- $300 covers the cost of a customized workshop or training event for a church leadership team helping them discern and plan how to be a transforming presence in their community
- $3000 funds a 3 day retreat and capacity building conference for 20 church leaders
If you are from the United States and would like to donate as part of your Year-end Giving, please do so through our NCF partnership here:
Redeeming the Narrative
During mid November we facilitated a series of encounters on Sanitation Health Information and Theology (yes, we know what it spells:) with the tagline of Redeeming the Narrative. The times have ranged from the heartbreaking to the hilarious, from meals to deeply provoking talks and from the beauty of art and creativity to the awful reality of sanitation for our neighbours.
We’ve engaged with information, theology, scripture, art, music, humour, prophetic action and perhaps most importantly, with each other. I am very grateful to everyone who offered of their time and risked something in speaking regardless of the form.
There is lots of talk about economic inequality in CT, SA and around the world and this is absolutely correct. We need to remember though that this is not an academic or intellectual conversation for those impacted by it. Sanitation, and its related issues, is a visceral expression of this inequality.
We will be engaging around these issues more in the coming year and will keep you posted.
Train stoppers of Hope and Healing
Our latest newsletter ...
Hope as an Anchor for the Soul
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thank you all for being at the second Anglicans Ablaze conference, and more particularly thank you, Bishop Martin and Revd Trevor and your teams, for organizing this conference so well again and for bringing to it people from both within and outside our Province. This second conference is all the more special because we are also joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Welby and their team. We will welcome them officially tomorrow. But Lungi and I will send your greetings to them tonight and say that you are looking forward to welcome them with great excitement tomorrow.
Thank you for inviting me to speak once again, and this year I am joined not only by Lungi but by a number of bishops and their spouses, whom I wish to thank and acknowledge for attending. Many thanks too to my office staff and the Gauteng-based organising team who have prepared for the Archbishop’s visitation. I am so proud of you all and want to thank God for your hard work and generosity in organising all the details of his time with us.
It really brings joy to me to deliver, not a speech but as the program says, a Charge for you, on the theme, “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul”. In 2012, you will recall, I spoke on “Anchored in the Love of Christ”, Anglicans Ablaze having adopted the ACSA vision, Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.
In 2012, we established the obvious but the fundamental of our faith, that God loves us; that whatever we do, we do it because we are rooted and grounded in love; that we understand that God sent his Son into the world for the business of loving and judging but not condemning (John 3:17), and that we can be conduits of this love because God first loved us. “Whoever does not love, does not know God” (1 John 4:7-8). “We affirmed and committed that we will love not only in words or speech but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:16-17)
This year we are exploring, if you like, what commitment to God’s mission looks like in our Province, or put differently, how can we as ACSA live out the Communion-wide five marks of mission? These are:
• To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom,
• To teach, baptise and nurture new believers,
• To respond to human need by loving service,
• To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation, and
• To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
I feel like I have been given a “ blank cheque” on this theme, but looking at your overall program, I suspect , I am to look at missional theology through “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul” within the bigger theme of “Hope is Rising”. The biblical verse from which we get this theme is Hebrews 11:1, where we read that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Let’s read this against the background of another passage in Hebrews 6:19 wherein:
“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This is the task I have been given: to unpack this text wearing missional lenses. Let me attempt to paint the context of this passage and also to explain terms or words that will help us understand the theme better, and then to look at tangible things we can do as ACSA.
Hebrews is a faith statement or sermon to people who were suffering persecution (10:32) and needed to understand Christ’s centrality in their lives and have their hope rekindled (6:19) lest they became hopeless and denounced the faith. Hebrews is then a letter of exhortation for them and for us (13:23) at times when we need an anchor.
What is the Christian hope? Chapter 6, v19 says we have in this hope a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. What is the anchor? What is the soul? Let me start with the word, “Hope” and hopefully all the other questions will fall into place. We pray at confirmation, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth.” In Romans 5:5, we read that “hope does not disappoint us”; in our Anglican Prayer Book, on page 443, we read that Christian hope is “to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”
We recite this regularly in our Creed, that “for us and our salvation he came down”... that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”... and that “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Our Prayer Book on page 444 then asks what then is our assurance as Christians? “Our assurance as Christians,” it says, “is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As in this passage and in Romans 5:5, to hope is to expect with confidence; hope for us as Christians is a faith statement. It is an unconditional belief – dare I be brave enough to say that it is God’s recklessness which gives us the chance to participate in his mission in the world. Hope is the belief that we are so called or invited, and we are ready to respond to the love of God declared in Jesus Christ.
The opposite of hope is despair and hopelessness.
Our Archbishop Emeritus defines hope as being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness; Madiba says that “Hope is a powerful weapon, and [one that] no one power on earth can deprive you of.” Jurgen Moltman says that “to live without hope is to cease to live,” and Martin Luther King Junior says “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”
I asked Professor John Suggit to help me reflect more deeply and theologically on hope, and he explained to me that in English, and especially in Latin and Greek, the verb “hope” often means “trust”, “expect”, or even “think”. The Hebrew words associate it with the meaning of “confidence”, “trust”, “safety”, “rock”, and he cites examples from the Psalms and Job to illustrate the point: Ps 12.6: “I put my hope in you”; Ps 70.5: “The Lord is my hope from my youth”; Ps 90.9: ”You, Lord, are my hope (elpis); and Job 8.13: “The hope (elpis) of the godless man will perish”).
He says in some notes he prepared for me that the true meaning of “hope” is given poetically in Hebrew, Greek and English in Psalms 42.2 and 63.1, where the phrase “My soul thirsts for God” is a vivid expression of hope yearning to be realised.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we read, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Professor Suggit says that in the thought of Paul, these three “theological virtues” must be considered together. Because Paul was assured of the living presence of Christ, he was equally certain that as Christ had risen from the dead, so the future was filled with hope - a hope based on what God had done.
Professor Suggit also notes that of the three, hope has often, but wrongly, been called the Cinderella. He reflects that we are talking not simply about a personal hope, but also the hope that there is a purpose in the universe (Rom 8.21) which will be fully realised when “God shall be all in all” (1 Cor 15.28). He adds: “This is continually expressed throughout the New Testament, so that we have the paradoxical statement in Romans 8.24, “It was by hope that we were saved” (as the Good News Bible rightly renders it), where the following sentence makes it clear that though our being justified (being put right with God) was a past act (resulting from our response in faith to the grace of God), the hope which it engendered is so strong that it is seen as already realised while still in the future.”
Let me turn to another of our theologians that I often converse with, Professor Ackermann, and drink from her well.
Denise Ackermann says that hope is a lived reality in the life of faith, here and now; that hope is never to surrender our power to imagine a better world when faced with the present unjust arrangement. Hope is not a false sense of fulfillment that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Hope is not magic; it confronts wrong and the abuse of power. She continues that hope is risky and requires patience and endurance.
In sum, hope is the lifeblood of all there is, the air we breathe. It is the radical reorientation and conviction that ultimately a situation will change for the better. It’s not escapism but a facing of reality, and as Christians we live in hope, knowing that victory has already been attained through the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
It seems clear enough that hope is a human instinct which people strive to keep alive often in apparently hopeless situations. This instinct is an essential part of our human nature. Hope is the recognition that even in impossible situations one must strive to do what befits human beings.
Aristotle started his Nicomachean Ethics with: “Every action and purpose aims at some good, so that ‘the good’ is rightly described as the aim of everything”, and throughout the Ethics those who aim in hope for “the good” are considered to have found happiness.
For Christians hope is the assurance (so far as hope can ever be sure) that there is always a future to be realised for those who recognise that they are “in Christ”, resulting in their understanding that in spite of all the signs to the contrary there is a meaning and purpose in their life. The final object of hope is usually described as “life eternal” where the order of words suggests that “life” is more important than “eternal”.
As living members of the Body (person) of Christ each person finds hope only in unity with others, so that the Church as a whole is constantly called to express its hope in its liturgical worship.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we are not simply remembering a past occasion, but are rather re-entering the presence of the risen Lord “until he should come” (1 Cor 11.26).
As we re-present (make present) the death and resurrection of Christ, his anamnēsis, “the individual worshipper is caught up into the total reconciling activity of God and realizes sacramentally what he will one day realize fully in the eternal Kingdom of God”.2 In brief, we might say, every Eucharist is the occasion when past and future meet in the present, symbolized by the acclamation “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again”.
Let me end this exploration of hope with a poem cited in Ackermann by the American poet Emily Dickinson on “Living Hope”:
Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all
If we accept some these definitions of what hope is and what it is not, how are we who are anchored in His love to be? As I said previously when I explored at length our roots, our anchor is the love of Jesus. We need to keep asking ourselves as those baptised in his name: Who is God in Jesus Christ for us today? What does it mean to be the body of Christ in our time? What is his message of judgment and redemptive hope to us as we meet? What are we called to be in such a time as ours? Hebrews 6:19 locates Jesus as linked to the order of Melchizedek, king of Salem. These roots remind us of our vocation as people of righteousness, for this is what Melchizedek means. That Melchizedek is king of Salem reminds us of vocation to be peacemakers, for Salem is shalom and and Melchidezek is the king of peace.
We know of course that the vocation for righteousness and peace were at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry. We know, as Ackermann says in her book, “Surprised By The Man On The Borrowed Donkey,” that what occupied Jesus – or Jesus’ mission, which should be our mission – were the following: the poor, the hungry, the children, the miserable, the oppressed and the marginal, lepers, cripples, the blind, the sick and those possessed, social outcasts, tax collectors, disreputable people.
What are the mission challenges for us? Let me locate examples within the marks of mission:
1. We must witness to Christ’s saving, forgiving and reconciling love for all people. We cannot do this without being concerned at the yawning wealth gap in our society – one of the highest in the world – between rich and poor; between an increasingly non-racial – albeit white majority – elite and the masses of black poor. This is what is behind the crisis exemplified by Marikana – a point I shall return to in a moment. Nor can we witness to Christ’s love without being passionately concerned that people living in informal housing at Lwandle in the Western Cape can be callously thrown out of their homes during the cold and rain of a Cape winter – just as happened at the hands of the apartheid government at Crossroads in the 1970s.
2. We must build welcoming, transforming communities. In confirmation classes, in educating our people, we must – both clergy and lay people – nurture and prepare our parishioners to be witnesses who make a difference, who live out the radical values of peace and righteousness in more loving, outward-looking communities. At the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea last year, we were charged and challenged to utilise our God-given gifts in transforming actions that will bring healing and compassion to communities, planting seeds of justice so that God’s peace grows and abounds in creation.
3. We must stand in solidarity with the poor and needy. During a time in South Africa where some among our political leadership and civil service believe that it is acceptable to use your access to state resources and power to gather resources to yourself over and above your monthly salary – such as at Nkandla – we need to stand for a society in which the primary focus of those in public service is to meet everyone’s basic needs. We also need ourselves to live lives of service to those in need – such as the ecumenical community did recently in response to the evictions at Lwandle.
4. We must challenge violence, injustice and oppression, deploying prayer, theological tools and action to engage, not with ulterior ideological motives but because we are sent. And we must do this ecumenically. I have in recent months been involved with other church leaders in intensive and continuing discussions with the CEOs of the platinum industry, with leaders of AMCU, with academics and labour mediation experts, and the message that comes through is stark: at the heart of the Marikana crisis is not just a wage dispute in one industry, and killings by forces of the State: No, Marikana is just one of many potential flashpoints in our society, where people live in appalling conditions – still largely unchanged at Marikana, nearly two years on – with a huge gap between the wages of workers and the salaries of bosses. In a notable comment in a recent paper on the lessons of the Venezuelan experience for South Africa, the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg puts it this way: “As a nation we have to dedicate ourselves to the notion that inequality and grinding poverty for large segments of our society are not only a blight on our nation, they are unsustainable and unconscionable and have to be addressed as a matter of national priority.”
5. We must care for the planet, taking and supporting initiatives from parish to international level to protect our eco-systems. At parish level we can take action, from organising – again on an ecumenical basis – local clean-ups to lobbying local government. In what we are calling an “eco-bishops’ conference,” I have invited 20 bishops from around the Communion to join a process of discussion and discernment of the Communion’s witness and mission in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. And we need to support efforts to ensure that the next meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 2015, takes more effective steps than it has so far to protect what God has bequeathed us.
All of this must of course be rooted in prayer and worship. A worshipping community keeps up a daily rhythm of prayer, studying and wrestling with the Word, formal worship and pastoral care. The daily reading of the Bible and the Offices, the frequent celebration of the Mass and engaging the despairing and the dying are what nurture me; they help to create the space in which I can reflect on what hope might mean in the face of the abuse of power and the lack of accountability and transparency we experience in both church and society. And I find that I am always assured by the conviction that God is my hope and strength in everything, and want to take this assurance out and share it with others.
I have argued in a graduation address to the students at COTT, the College of the Transfiguration, and elsewhere that the theological education of all our parishioners is of key importance to our intervention in the challenges we face today. In the Brenthurst Foundation discussion paper I have referred to, the authors say the overriding lesson to be drawn from Venezuela for South Africa is the importance of education. They say that the impact of improved education in Latin America has, and I quote, “proved to be the single most powerful dynamic driving economic growth and the improvement of circumstances that cause inequality and poverty. It is the absolute priority ‘must do’ for South Africa.” This brings into sharper focus for me as archbishop my call at COTT, which I want to repeat: It is my firm belief that theological education equips us to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation. Through being equipped and discipled this way, not only through academic theological formation, which of course I love, but through programmes in the parishes and through conferences such as these, we are also able to feed and empower God’s people for faithful witness and service.
If we educate the nation, we give people the tools to hope realistically; the tools to enable them to unlock their God-given talents and skills, talents and skills that are too often going untapped. And by giving them this power, you are boosting their levels of trust in themselves. There is, as I said at the end of the Walk of Witness to Parliament in Cape Town, a withering, pervasive weight of distrust taking over in South Africa. In that instance, I was referring to the lack of transparency in Government – also a feature of the Nkandla scandal. Before asking a series of questions of President Zuma around that, I said that the cost of the lack of trust we are experiencing is incalculable.
When you disarm the people of our communities of their trust in our leaders,” I added, “you not only offend them, but more seriously, you show our communities that you distrust them…. You are afraid of their ability to make informed, values-based decisions, or you distrust our constitutional values. You are afraid of their opinion or do not trust them to exercise their choices responsibly.”
That was an appeal to Government, but we too as Church need to act to bring about what I have called a renaissance of trust and responsibility in South Africa. As faith and church communities, we are still rated as trusted institutions. But this trust cannot be taken for granted. It must be nurtured and we must be disciples, following Jesus in ways that show integrity, that we are acting out God’s love and nothing else. We can be trustworthy communities only through mediating God’s love for the world to the world. William of St Thierry writes that to experience God, we must become one with God and for that to happen we must learn to love. (Brian P. Gaybba, in “God is a Community”)
The modalities of how we go about putting all this into practice will inevitably vary because of our differing contexts, but we should all be formed and sent to proclaim the love of God, feeding on God’s love and sharing it with others. In our innermost being, each of us is longing in this pilgrimage to have a confirmation that what is hoped for us is true; with the Psalmist we cry, “why are you disquieted within me?” and our souls long for the love of Jesus in our lives, just “as a deer longs for flowing streams.” (Psalm 42)
As I end I want to reiterate that nothing is impossible with God. With just the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains, we hear in Matthew 17 (v. 20). We need each one of you to rekindle hope by testifying to what God is up to in each of your lives. To borrow a metaphor from Richard Stearns, in his book “The Hole in Our Gospel,” we each need to pick up our shovel and get to work, and together we can mobilise, as he puts it “the power of a mountain of mustard seeds” in working for a hope-filled world in which all flourish.
The world will ask: Where is this hope? Where is the evidence? Why is it held hostage by the powerful who pursue ideological ends, leaving the powerless to despair? My responding call is: Scatter seeds of hope without fear or favour in all the corners of the earth. God in Jesus Christ is the sure hope, and in the action you take in response to God’s love will be found the evidence.
Hope as an anchor for the soul can’t end with the big social ideas only. What it boils down to is actually very simple: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Don’t wait for the grand plan: Become the mustard seed in your parish and community, and combine with others to change your environment and the world.
May God set you ablaze to worship him, serve him and to be anchored in hope through faith in Jesus Christ, our living hope.
What do you think people need to think about before voting?
We asked what people think is important to think about before they cast their vote ...
Find friends who are supporting a different political party and spend some time praying for and praying about the elections. Make sure you actually read the manifestos and not just react to the perceptions. Craig Stewart
Ask yourself, who has the potential to take this country to the next level. Luleka Domo
Think big picture. Lisa Aspeling
By making my cross next to a political party I am endorsing the behaviour of its leadership. Is this the legacy I want to leave? Claudia Klaase
My vote, my voice! Carol Ng’ang’a
We need to know what we ourselves stand for, and believe in, and then look at the different party policies on those areas. Obviously one has to take the big picture into account, but when policies that are brought in that could possibly, depending on how they are enforced, contradict the constitution, I think one has to question whether other areas within that parties policies are also doing the same thing. Helen Baker
Do the values of this party align with mine, at least to SOME extent? Celia Fleming
Check who parties are putting forward as representatives and find out more about those individuals credentials, backgrounds etc.
Think about the individual sacrifices people have made over the years to allow you and others the privilege of having a vote. This should be evidence enough that every voice, however insignificant it may appear, matters, as does your vote, so cast it with thought and pride. Jason Stevenson
I am not giving power away; I am just putting someone in a position to do what is expected of him/her. I use my power to change the manager. Moussa Mulamba
Vote on party policies not loyalty and vote for a party that delivers the South Africa you would like to live in and have for your children. Isabella Meyer
Values - my values measured to a party’s, not only by what they say, but what they exhibit. Then vote for the one that most closely aligns with yours. Grant Stewart
I think about what type of future I love would to see in South Africa. Monwabisi Ngwadla
Be wise as well as strategic! Wendy Stead
Think about which party honours our nation and its complexities, and follows through on intended strategy to produce results that have lasting impact and uplift us as a country. Jill Sangerhaus
Be well informed about the different parties and what they stand for, and their track record over the last some years. Don’t vote regarding what you personally want and need, but vote what is truly best for the future of the nation of South Africa and vote from your heart. Marcus Stead
A country is not strong with many small parties; it is strong when there is a strong opposition party. Samantha Jones
Ask yourself, “Is the leader a person of integrity?” Ruth Ngbokota
Look at the past track record and apply that to the future. There are leaders I don’t particularly warm to who have really good records that speak for themselves. Margie Blake
“How will my vote best serve others?” not “How will my vote best serve me?” Wayne Noland
Where will my vote have most impact and be the most authentic representation of my values and worldview? Raymond de Villiers
Think right, vote left. Babusi Sibanda
Vote for people/party which demonstrates integrity, and which knows where ‘true North’ is on the moral compass. Chris Whelan
Which party will most uphold and advance the dignity and access (very broadly, in many aspects) of those living in extreme poverty, those generationally disadvantaged, and those most vulnerable in our country (e.g. little children, the sick, the elderly, the disabled)? It is how we treat these groups and how a political party treats them that reveals our/their soul. Deborah Hancox
Think. Les Rautenbach
Do it for Madiba- be true to your choice and political ideals- but what ever you do, make sure that you vote! Seth Naicker
Ask “Where is the integrity?” What they say doesn’t count if they don’t do it! Gail Cook
Who has integrity and a servant-hearted attitude towards the citizens and especially the poor? Brendon Reypert.
Which party will keep the promises they made? Patricia Bamford
I have voted already but I thought about good governance before I did. Dee Moskoff
Do I believe in this party? Sue Hollinshead
Let’s change the game, or in the language of Survivor, a national, strategic “blindside” is needed this time! Lungi Nyathi
Make sure you read the manifestos of the different parties - don’t do the online test. Pray alot. God has been telling me to listen beyond the stereotypes, to calm knee-jerk reactions to people’s politicking and really listen to the questions they are trying to answer, and hopefully I will hear something of God’s heart and direction for who I, as an individual, should be voting for. Wendy Lewin
Decide to vote regardless of the fact that you might think none of the parties are perfect. Have a look at the policies of the party you’re considering voting for (News24.com has done an analyses and has made a quiz available to match your beliefs to party policies). Pray. And enjoy the atmosphere and celebrate 20 years of freedom for all. Margie Jansen
We, at The Warehouse, represent different parties and political affiliations, however we all agree that there are genuine believers in every party, faithfully trying to follow Jesus in the political realm. There are also dodgy people in all parties! We believe the Kingdom of God is built on righteousness and justice, particularly for the vulnerable in society. As one reads the manifestos, we believe it is important to ask if they are primarily aimed at securing the powerful before the vulnerable or do they reflect God’s kingdom values?
We give thanks that we have a reasonably vigorous democratic system and commit to fighting for this to remain true.
We are praying for South Africa more intentionally at this time. Please join us.
Books that help us understand shalom
Here are some of the books we recommend that help people understand the justice component of the picture of Shalom.
Rich Christians in an age of Hunger, by Ron Sider
God of the empty handed, by Jayukumar Christian
Mission between the times, by Rene Padilla
Walking with the poor, by Bryant Myers
The Social Justice Handbook, by Mae Elise Cannon
The Hole in our gospel, by Richard Stearns
Celebrating Madiba’s legacy and its lasting impact around the globe
An excerpt from a homily delivered by the Most Revd. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, at Holy Cross Church, Nyanga, Cape Town on the Day of Prayer and Reflection for Nelson Mandela on Sunday the 8th December 2013.
On the international stage, the name Nelson Mandela is synonymous with the universal struggle for human rights, freedom and the fight for democracy, issues that resonate just as strongly today as they did when he himself walked free from prison 23 years ago. Today, this Nobel Peace laureate is revered around the world as an inspirational symbol of peace and forgiveness. He acts as a powerful and continuing reminder that individuals do have the power to make change happen in the world, no matter how mighty the obstacles might be. The vision of hope I am talking about from the Romans and Isaiah’s passage read today.
So, how do we celebrate Madiba’s lasting legacy to the world? To some, he is one of the world’s most revered statesmen, who has inspired generations of global citizens through his leadership in the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy. This legacy will undoubtedly be one of continuing inspiration. To many, Nelson Mandela is regarded as the greatest statesman in the world. His political leadership steered South Africa through the most difficult time in its history, all the while never succumbing to political pressure, never compromising his ideals or principles, and never pandering to the world’s media. He will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest leaders because of the impact he had, not just on the lives of South Africans, but on the lives of countless people around the world; he has made an irreversible difference to the global fight for democracy and human rights – or put differently the values of the Kingdom or radical hospitality that today’s bible lessons say we must usher in during our time, in the likeness of Christ for God’s glory and for the good of his people and creation.
Since leaving public office, Nelson Mandela has continued to be an inspirational advocate and champion for peace and social justice, both in South Africa and around the world, inspiring change where conflict and human rights abuses still exist. His establishment of highly respected and influential organizations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Elders, an independent group of public figures committed to addressing global problems and easing human suffering, continue to make a difference. Perhaps one of his greatest legacies to both South Africa and the world is his vocal advocacy of AIDS awareness. As far back as 2002, Mandela became a highly vocal campaigner for AIDS awareness and treatment programmes in the country, confronting a culture where the epidemic had for many years been fuelled by a combination of stigma and ignorance. On a personal level, the impact of HIV/Aids was deeply felt as the disease later claimed the life of his son Makgatho in 2005, just as it did the lives of thousands of South African citizens during that period. His inspirational and passionate voice on the subject of AIDS awareness, contributed to the change in attitudes and behaviours being experienced today in the country as South Africa sets its sights on working for an AIDS-free generation.
Over the years, Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the betterment of the world and humanity as a whole has been recognised through the highest accolades, awards and recognition being bestowed upon him, the legacy of which continues today. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of his country and his people, sharing the 1993 prize with F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid era who worked with Mandela to end the scourge of apartheid. He was the recipient of the prestigious U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of Canada, becoming the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen. Nelson Mandela is also the last person to have been awarded the rare Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, and the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John and the Order of Merit, awarded to him by Britain’s Elizabeth II. There are many more prestigious awards that would take too much to mention during this service – we are grateful to God that the human family saw it fit to these honours bestow upon this son of our soil, Madiba.
Perhaps his greatest legacy can be summed up as the continual inspiration he has provided – as the one leader who has worked tirelessly to make change happen by appealing to people’s common humanity, and by leading by example – to many other leaders around the world who are still trying to achieve such change in their own political and social environments. Past US President, Bill Clinton, has said of the impact Madiba has had on him personally over the years: “More than any human being, Madiba has been the great inspiration for the life I lead and the work I do, especially in the area of HIV/AIDS… In return for everything Madiba has taught us, we each owe it to him to support his work and legacy by doing and living our own as best we can… throughout our entire lives.”
The current US President, Barack Obama, recognises the impact that Nelson Mandela has had on the world, calling him as an inspiration who has given everything to his people. Speaking on Nelson Mandela International Day on 18 July last year, he said: “Madiba continues to be a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation. On behalf of the people of the United States, we congratulate Nelson Mandela, and honor his vision for a better world”.
Ultimately, Mandela’s legacy exemplifies wisdom, strength and grace in the face of adversity and great challenge, and demonstrates to all citizens of the world that there is a viable path to follow towards achieving justice, reconciliation and democracy, and that change can happen through individual and collective acts of service. Through his example, he has set the standard for service to country and mankind worldwide, whether we are individual citizens, cabinet ministers or presidents, and continues to call on us all to better serve our fellow human beings and contribute to the betterment of our communities.
Today, Madiba is thought of as Father or Tata to all South Africans but, to the rest of the world, he is undoubtedly thought of as one of the outstanding heroes of the last century, alongside other inspirational global leaders such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of these individuals was committed to the global struggle for human dignity, equality and democracy, and Madiba still remains a beacon of hope and an inspiration for those around the world who are still fighting for their freedom and for justice. As we look back and learn from Nelson Mandela’s own long walk to freedom and reflect on his life-long dedication to instilling the values of Ubuntu, integrity and learning, his legacy is an inspiring one. It will continue to inspire generations of people to come who themselves want to change the world and make it a better place in which all citizens can live and thrive.
May Madiba’s soul rest in peace. May his nearest and dearest be comforted and consoled and may we continue where he has left, the LORD being our helper.
And may this account of this fallible one man, not a saint but a hopeful and whole person, loving person and dare I say a holy man, inspire us to serve God in others and God’s creation till we too are called to God’s rest and are given a perfect end.
Disturbing the Present ...
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Paul
The last few week’s have been important ones for South Africa as we face the reality of life without Nelson Mandela’s presence in our nation. We rightly celebrate his life and that which he brought to us as a nation and also to the world. But in this process I think we risk having him dressed up and made comfortable for us, a nice grandfatherly figure who made us feel warm and fuzzy rather than a willing and courageous disturber of the present in the fight for an improved future.
On the morning after his death as I cycled to work I thought of the Nelson Mandela I grew up with in South Africa. The “terrorist”, the man who threatened the status quo of white privilege so profoundly that everything about him was banned - his image, his words and his family. He was a fighter who made those in power feel threatened because he profoundly threatened their present. And since we benefited from this power the vast majority of us did not question this perception.
We do no favour to ourselves, those of us born into wealth and power anywhere in the world, to forget that we fought against his legacy. We, in South Africa and in other parts of the western world, saw him as someone who threatened our hegemony and so we labelled him and isolated him. We were on the wrong side of the arc of history that Martin Luther King told us bends towards justice and we dare not forget or be imprisoned by that reality. We also do no favour to ourselves, those of us not born into power but now finding ourselves with access to that power, to imagine ourselves immune from the evils that previous generations have committed. We too can find ourselves on the wrong side of history.
In thinking about this I am grateful for Denise Ackerman’s wisdom:
“A painful history can cripple human memory in two ways: you can either forget the past or be imprisoned by it. I wish neither on you. Your understanding of your past will enable you to deal with your future. Understanding the past will also help you to recognise - both in yourselves and in those who will govern you - the inclination to harm and destroy…
If, on the one hand, you believe yourselves to be immune to the evils perpetrated by previous generations you will be more vulnerable to evil. If, on the other hand, you believe yourselves to to be the victims of history, you will forgo the opportunity to emerge from self exoneration into the more turbulent but rewarding waters of self-knowledge…So my prayer for you both is that you will not shirk the clamour of history, while at the same time you will not be burdened by it to the extent that you feel helpless to act.”
This month we’re also celebrating the birth of Christ, a moment in history that fundamentally disturbed the present in order to initiate a better future. Jesus, gives up his present comfort and his power as God, to incarnate himself in this world so that salvation could become possible.
We live in a country that once again stands on the brink, not because Madiba has died but because we have not been sufficiently willing or able to disturb our present lives in the fight for an improved future. We live with a state that is increasingly enjoying power for its own sake and seems more interested in preserving that power than it is in serving a nation. We live in a country and world increasingly dominated by an economic elite that is willing to destroy millions of lives to increase its wealth and power even whilst paying lip service to development or transformation.
So this month as I mourn a man who helped create a future I am able to participate in, and as I celebrate the birth of my saviour Jesus, I pray for the courage and determination to find myself willing to sufficiently disturb the present in the belief of an envisioned future.
In the Event of Fire: Recommended donation lists
December is one of the worst times for fires in informal settlements.
If your church group wants to run a donations drive in response to fires in informal settlements, here are some lists of recommended items that are helpful to families having to set up their homes again:
CRISIS RELIEF BOX - To Restart a Household
Cereal - Wheatbix
DRY FOOD KITS - To Provide Emergency Meals
Cereal – Wheatbix
Samp & Beans
KITCHEN/HOME KITS - To Replace Lost Household Items
Pots & Pans
SCHOOL KITS - Basic Necessities to Return to Studies
1 Large Eraser
1 Box 24 crayons
1 30cm ruler
1 Pair Blunt-point Scissors
1 Glue Stick
3 Notebooks (200 pages)
HYGIENE KITS - Basic Cleaning Products
1 Hand Towel
1 Wash Cloth
1 Bath Soap
1 Antiseptic Cream
10 Standard Band Aids
BABY CARE KITS - Basic Care Items for Infants
2 Wash Cloths
1 Baby Towel
1 Small tub Vaseline
1 Small Baby Powder
Out of a Pastor’s mouth
No more baas*, but brothers
I grew up in a very difficult and bad situation. I was born on a farm and did not get any privilege, and the farmer told my father I had to start working when I was in Standard 3. I often asked, “Why me?” Today I stand before you and say, “Bye bye to my past!” Thanks to God, I met Jesus Christ when I came to Cape Town. I was part of a very cultural and traditional church when I met some people from The Warehouse. When I first met Craig I said, “No, this church is from the Bible and we cannot change.” But then I grew and was challenged about how I ran the church, and changed. We used to sing songs on a Sunday but then wait till the next Sunday again - nothing going on in between! When Mzwabantu from The Warehouse came to my church I thought “Shame, he will learn from us and learn that he needs to put on a jacket before praying”, but we joined him instead and learned from him! I thank The Warehouse for ‘getting me’. I was feeding people in the clinic and my vision was to make sure nobody suffered like me, poor and uneducated. They helped me in my vision.
When this problem with HIV/Aids started I was one pastor going to the clinic to feed people, taking fruit on the taxi. I thought, “Even if it is just one person, I must save just one.” Today there are more than 100 churches in Khayelitsha doing the same as what I did then, and we are eager to serve our communities better. We are doing that well through the help of The Warehouse. And to come to white people in this way is amazing. I used to stand at the door of a white person only to say “Madam, here is your cup.” I did not think I would ever sleep next to a white man like Craig, or eat at his table or sit in his lounge, but I do now because of what God is doing. No more baas, now we are brothers. ~
* Afrikaans word for ‘boss’
Will the poor aways be amongst us? - Part II
In our first article, we referred to a potentially difficult-to-understand saying from Jesus: “you will always have the poor among you.” We referred to this as a “Bible sound byte” – a short saying that can be easily taken out of context and therefore misunderstood or misapplied. Therefore, we pointed to the necessity of looking at the actual Bible passage as a critical first step (In this case, the verse being quoted is found in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:1-8). In this article, we turn our attention to the immediate context of the scripture in question.
When you hear a quote or statement – perhaps from a friend, work colleague, or on the news, what questions do you ask? If you are like me, you will wonder:
Who said that?
Who were they talking to?
Where were they?
What was the occasion?
In other words, you want to know the immediate context in which the word was spoken in order to understand and interpret the meaning. What is the story? Before we dive into interpretation, we begin with observation. In this case, when we investigate the context of our Bible quote, we discover:
Jesus was in Bethany.
This story takes place six days before the Passover/last supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples in Jerusalem.
Jesus was in the home of Simon the Leper.
Jesus was reclining at the table. John’s Gospel adds that Martha was serving and her brother Lazarus was at the table with Jesus.
A woman came to Jesus with a jar of perfume (nard). John’s Gospel reports this woman as Mary.
The woman poured the jar of perfume over Jesus’ head. John’s gospel has her pouring it on his feet and wiping them with her hair.
The disciples or “some of those present” were upset
The disciples said this was waste – it could have been sold for a year’s worth of wages and the money could have been given to the poor.
They rebuked the woman.
John’s gospel attributes these words directly to Judas Iscariot and explains that he was not motivated by care for the poor but his own greed.
Jesus said the woman had done a beautiful thing.
Jesus said they would always have the poor among them, but they would not always have him. Mark also records Jesus saying they can help the poor anytime.
Jesus told them that when she had done this, she had prepared him for burial.
Jesus said whenever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she had just done would be told in memory of her.
This is the story in which “you will always have the poor among you” is said. As you look at this list, what do you find surprising? Which create in you a desire to learn more? Can you already see how some of the observations above will provide clues to the meaning of Jesus’ words? What do you see? This is the immediate context, the beginning of our journey into deeper understanding of God’s heart as spoken by Jesus. Looking at the story is absolutely essential and the words we are wondering about can be understood by this context.
We’ll say more about the meaning next time!
No easy walk to freedom
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere ...” Nelson Mandela—these words are even more profound now than when he first said them. South Africa does not need another ‘Mandela’ - we need individuals to rise up and be all who God has created us to be. How do we do this? For some ideas, thoughts and news, read our latest update.
Click here for the online version
Hearts captive to Egypt
Be transformed by the renewal of our minds. It was for freedom that we have been set free! What does this look like in South Africa today?
I believe that church leadership knows the freedom we have in Christ, but as the church we have forgotten the task of admonishing God’s people to help the weak and encourage the faint hearted.
Even though the letter of the law of apartheid is dead; even though the body is walking through the desert, the minds remain untransformed, and our hearts remain captive to Egypt. Even though God’s Spirit convicts us of what remains lurking in our hearts and minds, we give in to that, especially when those around us don’t change. It is much easier to conform to the patterns we see around us.
What are the conversations that you have with your close friends. especially those who are in Christ? Will you be free to share them with people from the other side of the spectrum. Are we still enslaved and forget the incredible task we have been given of the ministry of reconciliation to God and to each other as we journey together towards the promised land?
Gods people need to stand together side-by-side in unity against the enemy. Our mindset of apartheid needs to change. The enemy is not each other, but the spirit of apartheid that still remains entrenched and lurking in our hearts and minds.
Leaders, let’s wake up from our slumber and admonish God’s people. Lead God’s people towards the promised land.
The Church responds to Kenya’s year of Jubilee
Jubilee in Kenya!
In May, Bronwyn Damon and Caroline Powell travelled to Kenya to attend the Urban Conference focusing on Jubilee for the church of Kenya in Nairobi, hosted by the Centre for Urban Mission. They spoke in a plenary session about the theological and practical principles of Urban Gleaning and had plenty of opportunities to reflect with church leaders and practitioners of transformational development from Nairobi.
This story shares a special moment from the conference: “After we had given our address, it was great to talk with delegates over the tea break and hear the stories of Urban Gleaning from their contexts. One pastor who leads a church in the community of Kibera, Africa’s largest informal settlement, shared this with us: ” I run a gathering of widows in my community. They come to the church for support, prayer and assistance. Members of my church, from the same community bring clothing and other items for them on my request, but I have been getting upset because they have been bringing clothing that is not good. I tell them, go home, wash and mend this clothing, it is for widows. I have been feeling that I have been a bit harsh and wondered if I should stop telling them this, but now I realise that according to the bible, giving and receiving must be done with dignity and so I have courage to continue holding us all to this standard.”
Sharing with the churches of Nairobi as they wrestled with what Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favour, looks like for their urban 21st Century context was a privilege. Caroline and Bronwyn joined with the annual Amahoro Gathering in Uganda with Christian leaders from many different parts of the continent and world. Reflecting on “Politics and the Kingdom of God”, this years theme, was very challenging and they have returned to life at The Warehouse freshly inspired.
As we entered the spacious well-built property at the heart of Onrus, conversation was ripe as pastors admired the neighbouring houses of the economically well off. It was evident each of them dreamt of a world where they could point at one of the houses and say this is my home as many of them minister amongst the very poor of communities and are not so well off themselves. The excitement of spending four days in this kind of place quickly showed as everyone showed enthusiasm and exchanged warm embraces.
Our first, session unintentionally unpacked the need for pastors to take a day of rest during their busy schedules. This idea brought about a lengthy conversation and reflection where many of the pastors voiced out that that is something they hardly considered as part of their own well-being because of the magnitude of the work they face each day. This was exactly the kind of conversation needed to kick-start the retreat. The content of the sessions was designed specifically to focus on the pastors themselves and allow them to be ministered to instead of them doing the opposite.
Conversations went late into the night after every day’s session as pastors got to know each other and creating bonds. The most powerful moments came when pastors began to share their own personal journeys that have had a traumatic impact upon their lives. Such depth of insight left us all appreciative of the resilience of these men whom God has entrusted with his kingdom. For many of them it has not been an easy journey and even more so considering that the effects are still being lived through.
As we entered the spacious well-built property at the heart of Onrus, conversation was ripe as pastors admired the neighbouring houses of the economically well off. It was evident each of them dreamt of a world where they could point at one of the houses and say “This is my home” as many of them minister amongst the very poorest of communities and are not so well off themselves. The excitement of spending four days in this kind of place quickly showed as everyone showed enthusiasm and exchanged warm embraces.
Our first session unintentionally unpacked the need for pastors to take a day of rest during their busy schedules. This idea brought about a lengthy conversation and reflection where many of the pastors voiced out that that is something they hardly considered as part of their own well-being because of the magnitude of the work they face each day. This was exactly the kind of conversation needed to kick-start the retreat. The content of the sessions was designed specifically to focus on the pastors themselves and allow them to be ministered to instead of them doing the opposite.
Conversations went late into the night after every day’s session as pastors got to know each other and forged bonds. The most powerful moments came when pastors began to share their own personal journeys that have had a traumatic impact upon their lives. Such depth of insight left us all appreciative of the resilience of these men whom God has entrusted with his kingdom. For many of them it has not been an easy journey, and even more so considering that the effects are still being lived through.
Will the poor always be amongst us?
The poor will always be among us—is that an excuse for not seeing people thrive on this earth? When Jesus said: “you will always have the poor among you,” what do you think he meant?
a) there will always be work to do (including helping the poor) for God’s people
b) do what you can, but don’t expect to make any significant difference with the poor
c) it is part of God’s plan for some people to be poor
d) whoops, you got it wrong Jesus! God said there should be NO poor among you…’
Would you believe that sincere godly Christian people interpret this saying in all of the ways above? How can that be? Are we reading the same Bible? My observation is that more often than not, we’re actually not reading the Bible at all when we get into debates about issues like this. Instead, we rely on and use “Bible sound bytes.”
We’re all familiar with sound bytes in media – bits and pieces of interviews to give us the basic idea of what was said or took place. These were originally intended as “hooks” – short pieces to catch our attention and draw us in to hear or read more. Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to so many of these every day, through various forms of traditional and social media, that we don’t take the time to get the full story.
A major drawback of sound bytes is that they lack context – the background and bigger picture needed to understand the full story. You can’t read the Bible this way. Every saying, story, teaching, commandment, and person in the Bible lives within an important and necessary context.
So what do we do with our “you will always have the poor among you” sound byte? We are going to dive into interpreting this text over the next several Warehouse updates, but there is an obvious place to start: the actual story! It is important to read and understand the text, rather than our best recollections of scripture. In this case, the verse being quoted is found in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:1-8.
By reading the Bible, we are already one step beyond the sound byte. Let God speak to you through these words of Jesus and we’ll go further together next time…
Do we still believe the Church is called to care for children?
So, don’t you want to see the Church caring for orphaned children any more? A likely response to the news that The Warehouse is wrapping up the Care for Kids programme that has been running for nearly ten years now. During this time Care for Kids impacted twenty church communities caring for 2070 children in 1055 households across the Cape Town metropole. We developed and ran a holistic response to the orphan crisis facing our city, working with churches who were finding orphaned and vulnerable children slipping through the City’s Social Development cracks.
Over time and after a thorough review process the Care for Kids and Warehouse team discovered that there were some flaws to how this was working its way out in church communities. “We felt that we were asking the Church to roll out ‘our’ project, as opposed to serving them in their response to the issues they were facing,” says Erica Greathead, Care for Kids project leader, “And realised it was time to close the ‘project’ aspect of it, hand over the work entirely, and help those churches with the transition into a new way of working together.”
This has not meant that masses of children will be left in the lurch. The Care for Kids programme was specifically designed to help the church serve children who were slipping through the cracks, for a limited period of time, until they were on the welfare system. The good news is that the landscape has changed dramatically during the past ten years, so things that were addressed as part of the programme are no longer as pressing, whilst the need to care for children remains the same.
“Ten years ago we had no ARVs, and the impact that the roll-out of this medication has had, has been nothing short of dramatic,” says Erica, “And there has been stigma reduction and better treatment so the number of orphans has gone down.” She explains that this, and the improvement of the welfare system in the Western Cape, has meant that children are getting onto the system quicker and births are being registered more effectively – all making the process of caring for vulnerable children more accessible and likely to happen well. “The churches we partnered with have been trained in helping families access the welfare system, which has helped in the changing of the landscape,” says Erica.
Some of the churches who The Warehouse team have worked with during the past ten years are continuing with the programme, serving children with psycho-social support as well as practical relief whilst they get onto the grant system. “Most churches will carry on serving children,” says Craig Stewart, “but just not under the ‘branding’ of Care for Kids” and The Warehouse, as part of its mission, will still be accompanying these churches as they care for orphaned and vulnerable children in their communities. We believe our revised strategy will make this more effective and more sustainable in the long run.
Going the Distance - from partnership to inter-dependence May 2013
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together ... this powerful reminder quoted in our latest newsletter.
Going the Distance - from partnership to inter-dependence
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together ... this powerful reminder quoted in our latest newsletter.
Understanding Urban Gleaning
Discipling the local church as it transforms the realm of giving and receiving
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” - Leviticus 19: 9-10
What is Urban Gleaning?
Urban Gleaning is a biblical model of giving and receiving with dignity. Based on God’s generosity laws in the Old Testament, Urban Gleaning is a modern-day model for ensuring that when Christians are involved in giving and receiving of time, things, skills or money, dignity is upheld to the highest standard. God has given each of us, no matter our situation or where we live and worship, a unique and precious harvest from which to live. Hence, we should embrace God’s laws not just to “do charity” but to enter into a lifestyle of generosity and pursuing equality so that society reflects God’s will for how we live.
On a practical level, The Warehouse provides a space where people and churches can engage in Urban Gleaning through the donation of material goods, sorting of the donations and redistribution to established church networks. This is done so that churches are able to meet the needs of the community in which they reside. However, the heart of Urban Gleaning is not just about giving and distributing material goods. It’s about intentionally walking alongside the church and the people of the church as they engage in giving their time, things, skills and money in order to make God and his love for people known through how we relate with one another. With this in mind, we make every effort to be a space where people and churches encounter God’s heart for giving through intentional relational engagement.
Being a Boaz: Following Gods generosity laws with God heart
“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men: “ Even if she gathers amongst the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
In the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, we are provided with a “gleaning tutorial” – an example of someone who went beyond following Gods’ laws to applying the heart of God to the situation with Ruth-the gleaner. As the church, we are called to see the world as our neighbor, to welcome everyone in as family, and to extend ourselves beyond simple charitable giving. We are also called to be like Boaz - someone who makes sure that vulnerable people are not shamed, embarrassed or harmed when the Church seeks to support and help them.
For information on general principles of how to give with dignity click here: “Giving your time, treasures and talents”
Questions to ask myself, family and friends
As we enter into a lifestyle of generosity, and dignified giving and receiving, some of these questions may help you:
• What is the harvest of our lives- the skills, time, relationships, money, stuff that we have to leave aside for the poor, the vulnerable, the widow and orphan?
• What do we have other than “material wealth” to share?
• What is happening in my city, or even church, that may be causing vulnerable people harm or shame while trying to help them? How can I do things differently and speak up for change?
• How can we as the church help each other to see God’s laws being followed with Gods heart? How can we move beyond charity to relational giving and receiving?
Pursuing obedience to Gods’ laws led by Gods’ heart in a 21st century, urban Cape Town
A journey of discovery
As a young, white South African, I became an adult in the exhilarating days of the birth of our famous democracy. In the year that I turned 18, I voted alongside men and women who were free to vote for the first time in their lives. I celebrated the miracle of a relatively peaceful transition and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president, and watched with awe as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission attempted to heal some of the deep wounds apartheid had left on countless families. I wondered about the enormous task of physical and emotional rebuilding that our nation faced. And then I promptly put my head down and focused on the job of completing my degree and becoming a contributing member of society. Like many graduating professionals of that time, I headed off to the UK to earn some pounds and see the world. The strangeness of having been a child of apartheid felt like a lifetime away. Yet, over a five-year period away from my homeland, things started to change in my heart. While it had previously felt like all that was needed for the world to be right was for apartheid to end, now as a Jesus-following adult, injustice and inequality seemed to be everywhere, and the churches I had attended throughout my life, seemed to be strangely quiet about it.
This growing awareness led to my discovery of an extraordinary organisation in South West London called The Besom, led by a man named James Odgers. They existed to help Christians and churches live out God’s generosity laws by helping them give away their time, things, skills and money, in a well thought-out way, with a strong emphasis on best practice and high quality. Through this time with the Besom team, the questions I had been asking were answered in significant ways through Biblical narrative that I could see being applied in a 21st Century urban context. I saw hundreds of Londoners from churches across the city caring for the most vulnerable of their neighbours in a way that upheld dignity in ways I had never before encountered. They called it Urban Gleaning, instead of charity; a model of charitable giving based on Biblical laws, principles and stories that turned the usual way of doing things upside down. I was hooked, and eventually returned to South Africa to try and serve churches in such a way.
Urban Gleaning: God’s idea
Far from the busy streets of London or Cape Town, we venture into the world of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is in this world that we meet characters whose stories hold the potential to disciple us into new and upside-down (or right-way-up) ways of approaching the ancient activity of charitable giving for a new generation.
1. A Biblical imperative: God’s laws
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or gather the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10
Leviticus and Deuteronomy hold several references to the laws regarding generosity and justice. Some, like this passage, speak to managing one’s economic life and resources so that the most vulnerable people, often referred to as the poor, the alien, or the widow, are taken care of. Deuteronomy 24:20 puts it like this: “When you shake your olive tree, do not give it a second shaking: that shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.” Leave the next crop of olives on the tree to ripen and be taken by people who do not own land, who have lost loved ones, and have not basic rights. Do not calculate or wait for a time that feels wiser. That second lot? It’s not yours. These passages can seem jarring - grapes that have fallen to the ground? Is that the best we can do? Absolutely not, but it seems that God is addressing a first level of deconstructing greed and entitlement, especially an entitlement to economic status and land. There are many other ways to take justice to a deeper level, but as a start, don’t do that second shake.
If we are underwhelmed by this, perhaps we should be. These are just the basics, not the stuff of great Christian testimonies. But perhaps as modern-day givers examine their clothing or food cupboards, they could allow these words to come to life in their context. God’s generosity laws speak into a context that is not exactly heaven. Whilst Isaiah’s picture of a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 64) says that “One day there will be no more weeping,” we don’t need anyone to tell us that we are not there yet. There are extremely vulnerable people amongst us, and there are basic, ‘entry-level’ ways of evaluating our lives and choices accordingly that address greed and entitlement, and ensure that everyone can live, and do this in a way that ensures basic dignity
2. A Biblical model: God’s heart
So Boaz said to Ruth: “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and fetch a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” Ruth 2:8
As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men: “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her,” (Ruth 2:15). Naomi tells Ruth that she must stick to Boaz’s girls to remain unharmed (Ruth 2:22). This is high drama! Ruth arrives in the land of her late husband along with her mother-in-law. She is a foreigner and a widow - the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. It is almost as if this story was written with exactly the specifications needed for a ‘gleaning tutorial’ to God’s people of the time. The original audience to this tale would most certainly have made the connection between this story and God’s gleaning and generosity laws. All Naomi knows to do is to presume upon the laws that God has given the people of Israel to preserve life for the ‘widow and the alien’ and so she sends her daughter-in-law to go and glean.
A careful reading of the above excerpts from the story of Ruth could bring us to surmise that while Naomi was right to instruct Ruth to lean on the law, as it was still a contemporary practice to allow gleaners into private fields, it may not have been be safe. Something else had started to occur that caused Boaz to issue a protective warning to the men who worked in his fields. It seems as if people were obeying the law, but that obedience was not leading to dignity - gleaning had actually become a degrading, even dangerous activity for a woman to take part in. Following God’s laws had not ensured implementation with God’s heart. Ruth had to find a kinsman-redeemer; someone who would look after her and advocate for her safety, someone who would follow God’s laws according to God’s heart to ensure that she could live and live well as an alien in the land.
Boaz’ actions speak to a generosity of spirit rather than a law-abiding guilt. Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks of the African understanding of the word ‘Ubuntu’ as a belief that we are who we are because of the support, generosity and love of others. And that ultimately comes from experiencing the generosity of God, rather than a guilt-fuelled condemnation when faced with the suffering of others. Generosity that flows from understanding God’s heart will always produce a response that is deeper and richer than just leaving the grapes on the ground for the gleaners. It is this generosity that we discover in the area of Christian charity and giving. There are five principles of generosity that we can glean from this gleaning story of Ruth and Boaz:
1) Find out the gleaners’ story: In whatever church setting we find ourselves, whether materially wealthy or poor, we are part of a family whose Godly purpose on this earth is to be ‘kinsman redeemers’ to those who are on the margins of society. We are called to ‘seek out’ the vulnerable, know them and serve them.
2) Do not embarrass the gleaner: She may not ‘know the rules’ of our culture or our particular way of working in ministry. Ruth 2:15 instructs that “even if she gathers amongst the sheaves do not embarrass her.” In her hunger and desperation she may break some of the rules that are set up, ostensibly to protect her, but that often alienate her further.
3) Do not hurt the gleaner: We do not have to be church leaders or publicly influential members of society to stand up for the dignity and safety of the vulnerable. Once we have taken the time to hear someone’s story, we may be the person best positioned to sound the alert when they are being shamed or harmed.
4) Go a step further than required: Reach out and show her what safe harbour and comfort looks like. Point her in the direction of the places where the water is stored so that she can rest and be revived as she goes about work that is tiring and mostly, inherently lacking in pride and dignity, especially if others have followed God’s laws without God’s heart.
5) Reach out in friendship: Consider it carefully, count the cost, and when God invites us into this next level of living, we need to step lightly, in community with others, and with great love.
When reading the narrative of this passage it is impossible not to see the ‘dance’ between someone who follows God’s law with God’s heart by doing all that Boaz has done and the gleaner who works a full day to gain access to the gleanings that have been left aside for her. I have encountered many teachings that extrapolate from this a heartfelt belief that generosity and sharing of wealth should only happen in the context of the recipient working for it. While working for a living is integral to each human being’s dignity, in the context of following God’s call to each of us to examine what we have and be willing to share this, we are to be very careful how we work this out.
Firstly, a focus on the equality of all people, whether a giver or recipient in any given circumstance, is essential and will go a long way to combat a top-down approach to giving and receiving. Secondly, when this equality is championed, your givers should represent all sectors of society, and side by side, Boaz’ will emerge who had previously been from opposite ends of the slide. Very beautiful God-moments can happen when this starts to take place. Thirdly, sharing what we have with others who are without and whose very survival depends upon the gifts, should always happen in the context of a wider, church-based approach to addressing the dignity of work and employment.
If I have learnt anything in this past decade, it is that we are desperate for a revival of Gods generosity laws with God’s heart in our South African context. ‘Doing charity’ as an automated response to reading these laws has dropped us into a mess of paternalistic dependency-creating cycles. Churches reading Isaiah 58 like a shopping list, rather than a call to worship, tend to cause hurt and havoc at every level of society. As Walter Brueggemann reminds us about Isaiah 58, “The new worship concerns the construction of neighbourliness of the most elemental kind. The new worship looks advantage and disadvantage square in the face, and urges economic gestures that bind haves and have-nots together.” (2010:110).
Urban Gleaning in Cape Town: The story of The Warehouse
Returning to South Africa after five years and with a heart full of conviction I started by trying to help wealthy white Christians in my hometown be generous with the wealth they had accumulated through the injustices of our past. I held an underlying conviction that reconciliation and relationship-building was needed as deeply as redistribution of wealth, and that the whole picture of how to go about doing this lay with radical obedience to God’s laws, flowing from God’s heart. It took some time, but I was eventually able to see that I was working in an isolated fashion, trying to help my own people do something I had not really done myself. In time I met many others from diverse cultural heritages and spheres of South African society who had discerned the same calling, and with God’s guidance I found myself in a church that pursues reconciliation and togetherness.
During the same period, I discovered a small not-for-profit organisation called The Warehouse, birthed out of the parish churches of St Johns, Wynberg, in Cape Town. This ministry had grown out of the collective concerns and hopes of a group of six Anglican churches who were trying to work out how to be transformational, one decade on from our birth as a democratic nation. And this while facing the daily realities of a nation facing an HIV pandemic, an ever-widening of the gap between the materially wealthy and poor, an enormous mountain of national unemployment and a long road ahead of post-Apartheid reconciliation that in many ways was yet to be embarked upon.
I joined the team in 2007 with the specific role of marrying the Kingdom principles of Urban Gleaning with the local context of the wide variety of churches with which The Warehouse partners in South Africa. I was to help Christians and churches give of their time, things, skills or money in a manner that upholds the dignity of both the recipient and the giver; to inspire all Christians (regardless of their socio-economic circumstances) to understand the ministry of giving in this light and to aim towards building relationships across the socio-economic chasms of our city.
The ministry of The Warehouse had its earliest origins in disaster relief and acts of generosity from the churches of St Johns Parish. Generosity, especially during times of crisis, was in the DNA and hearts’ desire of these churches. A hub soon developed where people from churches all over the city could come to give their time in sorting through the donations to ensure excellent quality and to pack for specific needs. Others would visit us for prayer and consultation regarding how to share a specific skill they had or how to steward their money in effective transformational ways. Over the course of a decade, The Warehouse has seen incalculable amounts of food, clothing, toys, furniture and household goods come in and out of the doors to reach the Cape Town’s most vulnerable people. Countless hours have been clocked up by faithful time-givers from all corners of the globe. Hours of prayers have accompanied the comings and goings of this ministry and the years have been marked by the fingerprints of a God who is faithful in providing in the most creative and timely of ways.
In a context where dependency-creation has become a swear-word for a host of complex reasons, it has been a constant struggle to run a storehouse overflowing with stuff, while holding the balance of upliftment rather than endless, un-thoughtful hand-outs. As a team we have gotten it terribly wrong at times and had to, with repentance, face our own prejudices of each other, our city and the churches and communities we work with. We have also had moments where we wanted to take off our shoes, “for we stand on holy ground” as we have watched miracles unfold before our eyes. In the following section, I will offer some of our specific reflections from the valleys, plains and mountains on the road thus far in the hopes that you will be encouraged should you be involved, or are praying about becoming involved, in facilitating coordinated Urban Gleaning in your own city.
Sharing your time, talents and treasures: Three ways we have observed in our context
A little while ago The Warehouse was asked to give a sermon series to a church located in a very affluent part of the city. The subject was generosity and the church’s response to poverty. The series was started off by a colleague of mine with a simple, yet highly effective demonstration of the reality of global inequalities in food security. Ten people were asked to volunteer to join us on stage. On the floor we had ten packs containing ten basic food items. The first person was given five full bags of food, the second three, and the third, one bag. The remaining bag was divided between the next three people, bar one 500g bag of beans. The next three people had to share the bag of beans and the final person got one bean. The next week’s sermon spoke to the issues arising in the story of the Good Samaritan and left the congregation with the question: “Who is my neighbour?”
On the third week I started by looking at the concept of ‘entry-level’ giving, the role of the “kinsman-redeemer” and the concept of Urban Gleaning in the story of Ruth. I asked the same three volunteers to return to the stage. The one who had been given the most food the first week was asked to stand with me on the stage, while the other two were asked to stand at the bottom of the steps where I had placed a plastic slide. The person with the bags was asked to redistribute their wealth by using the slide. I had torn the bag so that when he sent it down the ramp, it broke apart at the bottom, causing the two recipients to have to scramble for their scattered food. I then called them onto the stage and asked the person with all the food to try again. He handed a few items over with an awkward smile and the recipients were able to say thank you. Finally, I pointed them to the corner of the stage where a table and three chairs stood. They moved across to the table and sat down. Still with some awkwardness, the food was laid out on the table, but some conversation started and for the first time in the exercise there was laughter. Watching this simple illustration unfold was profound.
1. Detached “top-down” giving:
“Generosity toward the poor goes hand in hand with contentment or inner freedom. One can give only to the extent to which one recognises that all things belong to God and can be possessed only when they are put in relation to the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Rene Padilla, Mission between the times: p198).
In a city that was recently labelled with the unenviable title of highest Gini-coefficient in the world, redistribution of wealth from those who have too much, to those who have too little to survive, simply must happen. Often-times the need to redistribute goods efficiently and with urgency means that the detached kind of giving is a functional and reasonable enough way of going about it. But as South African Christians, we have to address the wealth disparity and there is a need for a best-practice response to this. There are the moments when we must take Isaiah 58 absolutely literally and feed the hungry, clothe the naked and “spend ourselves” on behalf of the poor. There must be sharing and generosity, not least of all when people’s homes get flooded in our long, stormy winters and burned down to the ground in our hot, dry, windy summer months. All this must happen, but never at the cost of the gleaner’s dignity. Within this detached, less-relational system where the giver will never meet the recipient for a multitude of reasons, there are however, always choices to make for Kingdom values and dignity. At our centre for Urban Gleaning we see the good, the bad and the ugly of the potential of God’s people to either dignify or to strip dignity - to either follow God’s laws, but without God’s heart or to follow God’s laws with God’s heart echoed in their actions.
In order to help time-givers pack for families and communities in need, we get specific requests via churches and ministries. I remember a day when a mother and her daughter spent a whole morning lovingly packing a household starter pack for a family that had lost everything in a fire. As they sorted through the many donations, they cleaned off and packed kitchenware, aired and folded linen and carefully chose colour-coded clothing of the right size according to the request. There was also a request for a single bed on the note they were working off, but there was no bed for donation in The Warehouse at the time. They finished the day off with a simple prayer that God would supply every need of this family that they would never meet. The next day we received a phone call from the mother – their family had decided to purchase a new bed for this family and she wanted to know the details of how best to have it delivered.
I have seen tears in a time-giver’s eyes as she sorted through a bag of donated clothing that was not fit for anyone to receive as a gift of love. As she grappled with what it means for those who have nothing to be recipients of the best rather than just be grateful for whatever is sent their way, she threw some of the clothing away, took other items for washing and ensured that some items were mended by other time-givers. She was left with these kinds of questions: “What do people have in mind when they donate such things?” “Do they not believe that everyone is made in the image of God?” “Would they give these things to a loved one?” That particular time-giver has since galvanised members of her church and friends to purchase new underwear for donation, a practical response to an obvious, but often unaddressed need.
During a particularly overwhelming fire disaster earlier this year, we were inundated with generous amounts of donations from church networks across the city, many that were great quality and just what was needed. However, a percentage of the donations were unsuitable quality or inappropriate for the season or level of crisis and there was therefore a need for many hands to sort. It was hard for us that while many people were willing to give their things, very few were arriving to help sort through the mountains of donations. We put out communications about the opportunity to give time and stayed open during the weekend. Late on the Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang and there was a group of seven young people coming straight from church, from a community close to where the fire had been, themselves often victims of the harsh effects of poverty. They kicked off their high heels, removed their jackets, and they went about the most energetic and effective sorting and packing session I have witnessed to date.
We hold to some very practical steps at this level of giving to ensure that when the distribution happens, dignity is upheld:
• We value detailed requests, even including colour preferences and interests of recipients.
• We ensure that all items are of excellent quality: clean, and ready to use.
• We ensure that all items are folded and packed in good quality transparent bags or sturdy cardboard boxes, and never in black refuse bags.
• We ensure that giving is done through a set of established relationships, through churches and groups who we know care holistically for the needs of the people they serve.
We continue to believe with all our hearts that this method of giving is entry-level generosity and just one link in the chain of restoring the kind of economic justice God established in the laws to God’s people.
2. “Eye-to-eye” basic contact giving
“The way we do development can be a source of witness. The way we treat the poor can be a way of announcing that a different spirit is at work in you and in the community. When we treat the poor as equals, as having wisdom that we wish to hear, they have a chance to begin the recovery of their true identity and the discovery of their true vocation.” (Bryant Myers, Walking with the poor: p 322)
Myers reflects on feedback given by one community to a development project: “You are sitting on the same mat, looking me in the eye and talking to us as equals.” With the kind of history we as South Africans share, not a lot of eye contact or listening has happened between people groups. As a result of the design and ‘success’ of apartheid, the people who were not listened to and whose needs were ignored for centuries, are still the people who suffer under the weight of extreme poverty. The need to start meeting, listening and looking one another in the eye is urgent. Over time, many people who started off by wanting to give their time and things to help those in need, have asked for an opportunity to “see where their stuff goes” or “follow their money” as a first step out of their blinkered lifestyles. For those who ask to take the first steps towards this kind of contact, from both sides of our city’s divides, there have been some precious and awkward moments over the years.
I will never forget my first winter with The Warehouse. A group of young people in one of our partner churches raised money for plastic sheeting to help cover the roofs of the homes in an informal settlement where we have a church partnership. Once the sheeting was bought a few of them were keen to be part of delivering it to our friends in the community. It was a freezing cold, wet and windy day when we arrived and met the ladies of the local church, who also ran an HIV-support group. They were delighted to greet us and one lady exclaimed: “It is such cold weather! You could have decided to stay warm in your comfortable home and yet you choose to be here with us in our circumstances today.” It was a humbling statement to those of us who felt like we were offering such a small gesture in the face of the terrible floods. We would not have understood the ministry of presence, as uncomfortable as it felt, had we not been part of the delivery. We also learnt so much as we watched the women decide how best to distribute the donations: homes with the sick, disabled and elderly first, others with special needs next.
From that same group of ladies a woman called Christina runs a catering business. She loves to welcome people from outside the community to eat in her restaurant and experience a side of Cape Town life that many from the affluent parts of the city do not normally experience. She has a specific desire for reconciliation and being part of how the church helps people find one another across these divides. One has to step over a deep gutter that is sometimes filled with standing waste, duck through rows of laundry and precarious informal electric wiring systems, to get to the shack where she hosts visitors. As she serves a generous lunch of local dishes, she engages the visitor who is interested with the story of her community and her own tale within it. Having accompanied dozens of groups of visitors to Christina’s restaurant, I am aware of the transformative potential of these lunches and also the many questions they inspire. Questions like: “How can I live like I do when she lives as she does?” and “What can we do to fix this?”
3. Giving with laughter
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then we can work together.” An unknown Australian aboriginal woman.
Facing the effects of extreme poverty and extreme wealth within one city can lead to a sense of urgency and a desire to help in ways that can at times be helpful, but sometimes not. The third scenario of generosity and sharing is one that grows out of relationship and togetherness, working equally towards the same desired outcome. This often feels too far out of reach. The power dynamics created by inequality are never far from the door, even with those who have a desire to understand them and counteract their effects. This is an area where we long to see churches leading the way and providing safe spaces for people from different sides of the divide to worship and bring transformation together.
Sometimes, however, the most genuine moments of relationship emerge from the unplanned. At the hub of activity at The Warehouse gleaning floor the scene is set for encounters that only God can plan. We have seen the intangible and immeasurable start to happen between time-givers who would ordinarily never find themselves in the same room, let alone sharing the same heart. It is a privilege to overhear conversations between a person who lives behind the bars and burglar alarms of their home and a person recently released from behind the bars of prison and trying to stay out of gang-life, as they sort clothing or wrap Christmas presents together. Watching two such unlikely partners conspire to find just the right outfit to pack for someone else in need feels to me like watching the activity of heaven itself. Whether they are aware of it or not, they are working out their liberation and specific Kingdom calling together - usually, they are having too much fun to notice!
Striking the balance between waiting for those moments to emerge, and pursuing a way of helping churches be more intentional in relationship-building is the challenge. A few years ago, the youth leader of a local church asked us to help his young people, who are mostly from highly privileged homes, find a way of reaching out of their comfort zones to impact society meaningfully. We suggested taking a relational partnership approach rather than a short-term mission and charity approach. Over the years, through a series of camps and transformational encounters, this group and another group of teenagers from a very different community are building tentative, but courageous connections in a city where there are very few footsteps to walk in. In this case, working together on upliftment activities such as running a kids club or creating a soccer field, and then reflecting on the different faces of injustice, have been the places where the deepest connections have begun.
The road ahead: Realigning our footsteps with the one we follow
In a recent review of the past ten years of Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse, we consulted approximately 70 people with whom we hold a variety of key relationships. We were excited to hear their reflections on the strength of the highly relational nature of Urban Gleaning and the Kingdom values that we model and teach through the day-to-day running of the ministry. We also heard something we had suspected for a while: our biggest weakness lay with a failure in the communication of these values permeating throughout all our church networks, resulting in The Warehouse sometimes being seen as a junk-yard or recycling service and in some cases, doing the job of giving for the Church rather than with the Church. We have come to be known as the place that has the physical storage space and the knowledge, skill and passion for Urban Gleaning, so why would others try to do the same thing? If this does not change, we will remain a small group of people trying to follow God’s laws with God’s heart, most likely getting a little frustrated with the wider body of Christ in the process.
We do not have the answers yet, but we are excited about the new set of questions we are starting to ask. One of the most encouraging reminders that came out of our review is that people really want to do things the best possible way. People who love God really want to reflect God’s heart in the ways they love others. Everybody finds law-keeping a dry, tiresome, burdensome task when lacking God’s heart. We do believe that there is a hunger growing across the churches in our city for a revival of the fullness of God’s justice in this generation.
Suggested questions for reflection
What is the harvest of our lives - the skills, time, relationships, money, stuff that we have to leave aside for the poor, the vulnerable and the alien?
Who has something other than material wealth to share that may be overlooked?
What happens in my heart when I am challenged not to “shake the olive tree a second time”?
What is happening in my city, or even church, that could be similar to the damaging ways things had gone for the gleaners in Ruth and Boaz’ time?
How can we as the church in our cities or neighbourhoods help each other move through the various stages of sharing as appropriate so that we can start to see God’s laws being followed with Gods heart?
Read the book of Ruth with those whom you share a faith and worship life. Generate your own set of questions that emerge from this story.
By Caroline Powell
Some resources you may find interesting:
Warehouse Annual Review 2010-2011 (large file - 250MB)
Warehouse Annual Report
Micah Challenge Declaration on Integral Mission
Micah Challenge Integral Mission (PDF)
Tearfund’s Definition of Integral Mission
Tearfund talk on Integral Mission
Lausanne Conference Declaration on Evangelism and Social Responsibility
Lausanne Commitment to Evangelism and Social Responsibility
Stirred up and shaken: We cannot remain the same - March Newsletter
Some of what The Warehouse has been up to and thinking about during the past few months ....
Explaining Corporate Listening and Discernment (CLAD)
Four times a year, the whole staff of The Warehouse gather for a week, putting aside all other work, to listen and discern together. We listen to God, the world and each other through Bible study, prayer, story-telling from the various places we have been working, friends who come to share what they are hearing, reflections on the news and many other ways. We find that we have to fight for these times as it always seems that there is other, more important work to do. We fight for these times because we believe with all our hearts that, as the psalmist says: “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders build in vain” Psalm 127:1. We believe that unless we are hearing the voice of the Lord in the many ways he speaks, we might as well not try to do the work we spend the other 48 weeks of the year doing. We also believe that there are critical things that we must hear from the rest of the world and the churches who are in that world in order to best follow our mission to inspire, equip and connect the church to bring transformation to the world.
Lessons in Listening
We find ourselves in an interesting space. In the second half of last year the Sweet Home Farm team changed considerably from that which was known in the previous 7 years of ministry. Historically the Sweet Home Farm team facilitated a number of groups in the community - Siphxolo HIV Support Group, Seniors Club, Masimanyane and The Superstars - but it was clear at this time of personnel changes that we had to re-evaluate our activities and enter into a program change process.
Our main focus in this time was to highlight anything we were involved in that wasn’t actually releasing the people we were working with. Thus any activity that resembled dependency was immediately called into question. This process (which included visiting many different projects around the Western Cape, together with having many discussions with specialists in the field) led us to the conclusion that we needed to focus our efforts entirely on the youth in the community; and specifically youth development.
As this process continued the other aspect that we felt compelled to pursue was to actively seek to hand back to the community the ‘locus of power’ associated with running a program in the community from the outside. If our involvement stopped for whatever reason or something happened to our peace man then would anything that we have been investing in actually continue? We realised that a program which functions from outside of the community – as opposed from being energised and directed from within – would not constitute good development.
Thus towards the end of 2012 we started the process of listening to the community. We had a parent’s forum at The Warehouse where we took time to listen to the hearts and minds of the parents of the children that we have been serving. We followed this up with a children’s forum and then subsequently a parent’s one-on-one process. All this with a view to starting a journey where we hope the end point will be a governing body run by the parents themselves. We don’t want to be a part of anything anymore where we decide what happens to the children - without the community first telling us what they want us to do with their own children.
The process of shifting this locus of power with the parents and leadership of the community will sit alongside an interim program for the children that encompasses The Superstars and Masimanyane Girls group, as well as Intsiko Development Project (which is a creative dance group based in the community that we have been running alongside in this process). This interim program requires activity specific personnel as well as resource, and it’s likely that such investment will be required beyond the point where a parental group has been established. When the process with the community reaches its functioning fulfilment, then there may well be changes to the interim program, but funding and resource will undoubtedly remain a constant requirement.
We can foresee a ‘program’ emerging out of this process that will be a life giver to those in the community, and not something which encourages the spirit of dependency. We can see a time where the guys coming through the under 19 soccer team will be coaching the younger guys (for instance), where girls are playing football and netball, all wrapped around discipleship, mentoring, and homework spaces…and all sitting under an umbrella designed and owned by the community themselves.
By Barry Lewis
Shalom in South Africa in 2013
In Jeremiah 6 the prophet Jeremiah warns against prophets who say “peace, peace” when there is no peace. As you know peace, or Shalom, in the biblical sense is not simply an absence of conflict, but is deeper more resonant word incorporating wholeness in all our relationships - with God, our neighbours and the environment around us.
In the 1980s I lived in the peaceful suburb of Pinelands. During my last year or so of high school and my early university years I discovered the community of Langa, which is just across the railway line from Pinelands. It was here that I began discovering that many of the preachers and prophets I’d grown up with had not heeded Jeremiah’s words, proclaiming a peace to me that did not actually exist. It was here that I discovered the whitewashing and wound dressing that much of the ‘white’ church was guilty of during apartheid. This discovery was very nearly the cause of me walking away from a faith in Christ, but God also brought me into contact with the Rev George Ngamlana who discipled me through that time, and for that I am very grateful.
In 1994 we breathed a sigh of relief at the legal end of Apartheid and we declared peace. But we’ve known in our hearts that this was not the whole story. During the course of last year we’ve seen our country’s lack of peace emerge once again as actual violence. Perhaps again many of us in the church have been in the business of whitewashing walls and have not lived up to our calling. We’ve kept quiet, except when our own religious freedom was threatened or when addressing a few select pieces of morality, rather than prophetically living for something different.
As evangelicals in particular, our understanding and theology of God’s mission in South Africa hasn’t been up to the task. We often display an outdated missionary mind-set of the word which falls short of what I believe is the fullness of God’s mission. Rene Padilla of Argentina, who has been one of the elders of the Lausanne Movement since the very beginning, identifies a number of dichotomies caused by this mind-set that negatively affected how we have expressed our mission in the world and our nation.
- The difference between those Christian communities who are sent and those who receive creating a reality where mission is done by one group of people to another group of people.
- The geographic distinction between “home” and the “mission field” creating the sense that mission doesn’t happen at home.
- The difference in status between missionaries who are called to “mission” and “normal” Christians who at best support those who do mission, but aren’t directly involved in any way; the separation of the normal life of a church from mission.
This failed or incomplete understanding of mission we have embraced is one of the key factors contributing to the crisis of discipleship faced by the global church and highlighted in the Lausanne Cape Town commitment. I would argue that direct consequence of this lack of discipleship has been the failure to incorporate striving for justice as part of the mission of the church. This failure is demonstrated tragically in the histories of South Africa and Rwanda - both of which were considered “Christian” nations and yet perpetuated two of the great evils of the last century, evils enacted by Christians.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Ever since the late 1960s and the first Lausanne gathering, theologians like Rene Padilla and others around the world have argued for a more integrated or holistic understanding of the gospel. This understanding of the gospel has become known as Integral Mission, which describes a proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. I appreciate the description of Integral Mission that the Micah Network has put together.
“Integral Mission isn’t simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside of each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life, and our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world we betray the word of God which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the word we have nothing to bring to the world.”
Using the term Integral Mission isn’t a parallel justice arm to the traditional evangelical mission of the church, it is a fundamental reworking of our understanding and practice of Gods mission and our role in South Africa. God does not pursue justice as an addendum to His mission on earth; justice is an aspect of His character and His throne is established on justice and righteousness, and so it should be with God’s people. The Church in South Africa needs to sort out our theology as it relates to this mission. The division of a “social” gospel and an “evangelical” gospel was a heresy that we’ve allowed to muddy the waters of our mission for too long. If our proclamation doesn’t have social consequences and our social action doesn’t have evangelistic consequences then we are watering it down.
We also need to sort out our practise when it comes to engaging with poverty and justice issues. This work should not be a PR exercise to make people feel better about the church, nor should it be a fundraising exercise to raise funds for the church. And it cannot be work that is done paternalistically, creating dependency and perpetuating the power dynamics reflected in the broader society. There are many fantastic Christian development practitioners in this country who can help churches in building effective responses to poverty – let us learn and grow and change. Let’s make 2013 a year that is marked by active engagement, servant leadership and an awakening to the significant role of integral mission of the Church in the next phase of our beautiful, rich, diverse nation’s story. (http://bit.ly/139YXka)
*Excerpts from a talk given at The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa’s 2012 Bi-annual General Meeting
Training in Transformational Development
Don’t miss this!
Christians doing Transformational Development
The Warehouse offers training that works towards this picture of the church: “A church full of life and love, working for the good of the community in which God has placed it, is the proper end of mission. Transformational development that does not work towards such a church is neither sustainable nor Christian… It is impossible to imagine a transforming community without a transforming church in its midst.”
Our basic outline of training ....
DAY 1. JULY 15: The Transformed Community
On Day 1 we explore a Biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God, giving us a vision of what transformed communities look like
• How this shapes our worldview
• How this awakens hope
• How this helps us understand the mission of God in the world
DAY 2. JULY 16: The Transforming Church
Day 2 considers the role of the church as the means by which God establishes His Kingdom on earth and brings about transformed communities
• God’s call on the church
• Integral Mission and Transformational Development
• Worship and Spiritual Warfare
DAY 3. JULY 17: The Transformative Leader
On Day 3 we explore leadership qualities that equip the church to be a transformative presence in the world
• Being a servant leader
• Understanding discipleship
DAY 4. JULY 18: Practical: Half-day ending with lunch
On Day 4 participants will be able to choose from the following three practical electives:
1. Practical prayer exercise in a local community
2. Theological application of learning
3. Opportunity for personal retreat or further engagement around dealing with trauma
TO REGISTER …
Stories from the Frontline - December 2012
Greetings from The Warehouse in Cape Town and thanks for your interest! We hosted a Pastor’s forum recently and put a few of the stories that were told into this news update to give you an idea of some of what church leaders in the city are facing. Forgive us for the length of the email - next year we will be sending shorter updates out more often. But for this one—grab a cup of coffee or tea and take a break to hear some of what God is doing in the Church in Cape Town.
Letters from the Frontline—Our latest newsletter
We hosted a Pastor’s forum recently and put a few of the stories that were told into this news update to give you an idea of some of what church leaders in the city are facing.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
The Warehouse staff spent a day together at the end of November—we had a hilarious day of mini-olympics, lots of shouting, water fights and good food. Just what the doctor ordered after a long year of working together. Thanks to all who put it together.
When we come face-to-face with injustice, it’s often hard to know what the appropriate response is. Should we lift our eyes in prayer or get our hands dirty helping? Linda Martindale writes that it’s in a balance between the two that God can really use us to bring his Kingdom to earth.
It was one of those defining moments in my faith journey and life. I was fairly new to Cape Town and excited to be a part of a Christian prayer march through the streets of the city. It was the mid-nineties. Thousands of Christians gathered and we worshipped as we walked down Adderley Street towards the Parade where a service of sorts was to be held. I was at the back of the crowd, and came across a homeless man lying in the street who had clearly just had a fit or seizure of some kind. Thousands of people had literally passed him with their eyes on the sky, singing a worship song about ‘lifting our eyes’ or something of the sort. It was not that nobody had done anything that shocked me the most, but that it seemed as if nobody had seen him. I was shaken up, moved and upset – it became a turning point for me.
I had spent two years of my early young adult life on a music and drama team that had gone around South Africa in ‘90 and ‘91, singing about Jesus and the freedom he brought to all, and doing drama in churches and malls six days out of seven. And praying … a lot! Whilst around me my country was burning. Yes, it was a racially mixed team which was unusual and life changing at the time, and yes, it was not a wasted experience, but it was so removed from the realities of what was going on in South Africa. Children were in prison. Extremists were being … extreme. Violence threatened peaceful negotiations. Believers were segregated. The last throes of apartheid were in full force. And I … was praying and singing, completely unaware of what was going on around me. I look back on those years with some shame and sadness.
On that day of the march, I recognised an uncomfortable truth about my faith journey. I had spent my Christian years to date praying, but with my head in the sand; without being salt and light, or getting my proverbial ‘hands dirty’. I had spent hours interceding, but with no real understanding of what the real issues were in our nation at the time. As I left the march that day and tended to this suffering, vulnerable man on the side of the road, I vowed never to get caught up with my eyes in the clouds again. And as so often happens, I swung too far to the other side – a pendulum wanting to get as far away from its opposite extreme as possible. I threw myself into action with a frenzy that, I suspect, was fuelled by an attempt at compensation for the years I had had my ‘eyes on the clouds.’
I served and fought and acted and started projects and ministries and … burned out, but that is a story for another day. The point is – so averse to the ‘spiritual pie-in-the-sky-ness’ of the Christian marchers that I saw that day, I threw off the awareness of the spiritual dimensions of suffering, injustice, poverty, greed, materialism, power and the status quo. And started battling these ‘kingdom issues’, in a one-dimensional way – hence the burn out, disappointment, anger and despair that followed. In more recent years, I was more deeply exposed to a community who believe that one cannot do one without the other, and who have discipled me in excellent development practice and intentional spiritual engagement, under-girded by a deeper understanding of the Kingdom that Jesus spoke so much about. I am grateful for the awakening to the transforming power of the whole Gospel, and how God invites us to be integral in what he is doing in the world.
Craig Stewart, my friend and colleague at The Warehouse, often reminds us that if poverty were not multi-dimensional, all the effort, money, time and brains that focus on it around the globe would have solved it long ago. Poverty, injustice and the division that we see in our world cannot be tackled in any one-dimensional way – it is way too big for us. The values of the Kingdom of God are in direct opposition to the way the world’s system works. That is why it has been called by some the ‘upside-down kingdom’ – the values are opposite. Greed versus generosity. Superiority verses humility. Status and image versus inner security. Hoarding versus stewardship. Power versus equality. But intercession has a bad rap in some circles for some of the reasons I have mentioned. I have heard some strong responses to people committing to pray about something – “Don’t just pray, do something!” When we come up against the spiritual forces of darkness that perpetuate poverty, injustice, division and all the nasties that go with these things, we dare not do it without intentional, committed, communal intercession. It’s not a ‘nice to have’ extra.
I have learned that for my heart to change, for me to see light coming to the dark places around me, and for me to join God in what he is doing in bringing his Kingdom to earth in the now, I need to humble myself and admit that I cannot ‘fix’ things. I need to be in on-going commune with God, allowing those times and spaces to be the source for action that he leads me into. I need to remember that a spiritual battle wages on and that is the source of the things that break my heart in this world and cause so much suffering. Greg Boyd, an influential teacher in my life, says, ‘If it’s got skin and bones, it ain’t your enemy,” reminding us that our battle really is not against people or even their ideologies, but against the powers and principalities of this world.
How do we hold this in balance with being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good? It’s a start to keep in mind the truth of the whole of Scripture that shapes us; here we learn that we do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) and that faith without action is dead (James 2:17). I have learned that these are not two truths in opposition to each other, but that they work together – like breathing in and out, keeping us alive. I believe that intercession is part of ‘loving my neighbour,’ whether they are in the DRC, in parliament, at the robot, or in the office next door to mine. I have also seen that out of intercession and prayer flows compassion and action, and … usually, a call to obedience that draws me into closer relationship to God and others.
- As a freelance journalist, Linda has spent years writing about justice and social transformation. Currently, she is the coordinator of communications and advocacy at The Warehouse. This was written for Common Good Foundation’s Living Social Justice blog —http://livingsocialjustice.com/2012/10/10/a-balancing-act-prayer-and-action/#more-1103
Read our latest newsletter - Learning to Lament
We must once again discover the art of lament ... to cry out to God in the belief that he will hear our cry and heal our land. I believe that we are facing another Kairos moment in South Africa. The harvest fields are still there and if we hear his call and get to work in prayer and in obedient prophetic action that works towards justice in our land, we will yet see the healing of our land.” So says Craig Stewart in his editorial in our latest newsletter .... For the rest of the newsletter .. click here:
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba on Lament ....
‘Cry aloud to the Lord!’ writes Jeremiah in his Lamentations, ‘Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night … Arise, cry in the night, at the beginning of the watches. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!’ (Lam 2:18,19).
South Africa has been rocked by the tragedy at Marikana mine – the death of 34 miners at the hands of the police, after a further 10 deaths, including of police, in the preceding week. But this is only part of a greater tragedy: the tragedy that the situation could be allowed to deteriorate so far; the tragedy of appalling working and living conditions; the tragedy of such a breakdown in relations between employers and unions and employees and government; and the tragedy that across our country similarly dreadful situations are festering. They are like smouldering logs that, if left unattended, are ready to ignite. What should be the church’s response to this?
First, we should know how to lament – how to cry out to God, in our pain, our frustration, our anger, our distress, our deep, deep hurt. We should not hold back in speaking the truth of what we see, what we feel, what we fear. We bring before the throne of grace all that is broken, all that is awry, all that ought to be better but is not. And in opening our hearts to God, we call on God to step in, to act, to respond to the great need in which we find ourselves. ‘Weep with those who weep’ wrote St Paul to the Romans (Rom 12:15), and so we must. Now is a time to weep. We mourn for all who have died; and we mourn for all else that grieves us. We bring it all before God with a purpose – we come to ask him to take it all, and redeem it, to change it, and to change us, and give us a fresh start, so we may make a good and godly difference.
And so we are not left helpless in our weeping, and we must not despair. St Paul also writes ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Rom 12:21). Though I have been twice to Marikana since those terrible shootings, and found conditions that shocked me, nonetheless I am optimistic, for ours is a God who shines light in every darkness. Though I felt the very ground crying out to my soul that ‘All is not well’, and though it felt that the whole area is on a knife edge, still I am hopeful. For this can be to us not a prophecy of doom, but a wake-up call.
All South Africans must rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just, South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy, and we must work and pray to bring it about. It is a task that we must all shoulder together – government, politicians and the public sector; with business; with civil society; with media and academia and all other networks and organisations; and, of course, faith communities. This is the vision encapsulated in 1994 and in our Constitution. Its achievement lies in our hands, if we recommit ourselves positively, and work hard, rejecting complacency and hopelessness in the face of the country’s challenges. God wants what is best for all his children, and will help us, if we strive for all that is good and right.
We should not be afraid to hold fast to his promises of hope. For when his vision for good is at the centre of our lives, it will shape us and our society. This – this ideal of human dignity and flourishing, at the heart of our Constitution – defines who we are, who we truly aspire to be, rather than any of the difficulties, challenges, setbacks that we experience. So, even as we mourn, let us ask God to bring his light into our darkness, and guide our feet into his life-giving pathways. May he bring comfort and blessing to all who mourn, and fresh courage and hope for tomorrow.
The Nation Bleeds - a letter to the Church, by Luthando Tofu
The nation is bleeds; it’s soul is in torment as it searches for its identity and relief from the chains of its past.
The revolution that is in such demand is actually a cry for “Thy kingdom come.”
A cry for a different reality from the pain, sorrow and despair that dilutes our hope, freedom and justice.
The rain has returned as the rainbow disappears in the horizon.
The rainbow that was a hope that defined a new identity but at the same time it was a symbol of promises and the hope they gave.
From the outskirts whispers cry, “Differences have become greater then our hope, and have laid bear our blindness to what could be. By no means are we ignorant nor fake but the bleeding overwhelms us and the unsealed wounds pain us.”
To those who are called the church; Can we afford to remain cuddled in the elegance of our robes and the resonance of our opinions while the nation bleeds itself to death without amends?
Are we not they that are called to breathe life and call forth the dead from the grave of the eternal foolishness?
Are we not those whose hands carry the healing of broken reeds and displaced minds?
While the nation bleeds do we take the opposite roads hoping our cloaks remain spotless from the blood of many who so cry upon our deaf ears.
The rainbow has disappeared and the rain has returned.
Can not our voice command the sun to break forth in unrestrained victory over the darkness that so embraces the children of our soil?
Are we not they whose march trembles the foundations of all that is designed to lay siege of the balance of life that hold this nation together?
Are we not they who bear resemblance to him who shifts human history and rearranges the order?
It is his story and he has invited us to write it with our obedience, to punctuate it with our intercession and to declare full stop after all has been said and done.
So as the nation bleeds let us shepherd,
As the nation bleeds let us heal,
As the nation bleeds let us declare, as God spoke of Israel in Isaiah, Live!
Read our latest newsletter: Walking far, walking together ...
There is an African proverb that says ‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, then walk together.” Thank you for walking this road with us, and allowing us to walk with you.
Bad history, but a promising future
The year was 1994. Mass killings and genocide taint the personal memories of then 25-year-old Maurice Kwizera. Seven months after he saw his friend die by the machete-filled hands of angry so-called Christians, Maurice gave his life to Christ. The transformation that happened 18 years ago has shaped his current worldview in development work: “The only institution that can bring holistic transformation to the world is the church.”
Ethnic killings targeting the Tutsi tribe happened in 1959, 1963 and in 1973. But Maurice was four in 1973 and remembers little. What Maurice does remember is that many of his parents’ best friends growing up were Tutsi. “The first cow we had was from a Tutsi. In Rwandan culture, if someone gives you a cow, they are a real friend.” Maurice also remembers his teachers in school randomly asking the students who were Tutsi to stand up in class. Then they would ask the Hutus to stand. Then they would count how many of each. If a Hutu stood when the Tutsis were called, the teacher would correct the child. “For young people, that was meaningless,” Maurice said, “Young people didn’t understand there was manipulation behind the targeted killings.”
Maurice and Juvenal were roommates. They were both teachers in different schools in a town seven kilometers from Maurice’s rural home village. But Juvenal was Tutsi. Maurice was not. “But this was not a matter for me and him at all … we were friends. He and I were ignoring many details of the genocide. We could hear on the radio that the killings started in Kigali, but we always thought such a situation wouldn’t happen in our region,” he said.
Maurice spent two nights outside sleeping with Juvenal in the bush when the killings started coming closer to where they lived. They decided to leave the town they taught in. Maurice convinced Juvenal to go back to his village. “I thought even if the killings are spreading, they won’t make it to the rural villages. ... Ignorant we went,” he said. The two teachers stopped when they were thirsty, traveled by day, and often greeted people they were passing.
Juvenal hid in the attic of Maurice’s parents’ home. Meanwhile there were five other neighborhood children who came to hide in his house. “We were trying to hide them in different places, one in the bush, others in different rooms,” he said.
On April 13, five days after the two arrived in Maurice’s village, a mob of about 100 people came to the village looking for Juvenal. “In that crowd of people, there were young people and even women,” Maurice said. “Some of them I knew. Others I didn’t know because they came from other villages.” One of them he recognized as a church leader.
Maurice was about 600 meters from the front door of his house. “The [mob] said, ‘We were informed that there is a teacher who was brought to hide in your home. Is it true or false? Tell us yes or no.’” Maurice tried to lie. “I said he was [here] but he continued to another district.”
Part of the mob then went to Maurice’s house without him and “almost destroyed all of the house.” They found Juvenal and the children. They asked Juvenal how much he paid Maurice to hide him. “In my imagination I didn’t think that they would kill him,” Maurice said. Maurice started negotiating with the killers. They asked Maurice for the money they assumed Juvenal paid him. “I didn’t get any money,” Maurice pleaded with the mob. “How much can I pay you not to kill my friend?”
While Maurice was negotiating, the group that went to his house returned. “They said, ‘Ah, we found him, and we killed him.’” Maurice then ran to his house and saw his friend and the children dead. “I was told by those killers that they asked Juvenal how much he paid me. He told them, ‘If you come to kill me, at least spare [Maurice’s] life. I didn’t give him any money. He was a friend, he took me here. If you are killing people, don’t kill him. Kill me alone,’” Maurice recounted. “That was shocking for me.”
The mob then left Maurice’s village.
“That was a terrible moment for me,” he said. “First of all I started blaming myself. ‘Why did we travel by day? Because we came during the day, I caused his death.” Maurice asked himself, “How do people come about killing people like this — machete-ing them, cutting them in pieces? How am I going to live in this world? How am I going to live in this country where the killers are in power? I couldn’t imagine a country where the killers are leaders.”
Maurice said he is not sure if he was traumatized. “But even today the image is in my head. That was my first time seeing a person die, but not just one person — six people dead. Not from an accident, not from an illness, but macheted into pieces.”
Thirteen years after the incident, Maurice found out that the director at his school told the killers that he and Juvenal left for Maurice’s hometown. He heard the director left Rwanda and has not returned. “I would forgive him, definitely,” Maurice said. “Especially when I got saved, I realized that behind all of that, it was the devil lurking. So it was with all the other people who committed unbelievable actions. … And I think if they all ask for forgiveness and repent of their sins, the blood of Jesus is so strong — it covers all of those.”
Maurice later found Juvenal’s cousin James, who was a soldier in the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a majority-Tutsi rebel group that took power in July 1994. He recounted how Juvenal died, and was glad he could give James some information, as many of James’ family members had died without any knowledge of how or where.
Maurice, who grew up in a Christian home and attended church, had never given his life to Christ. This event, he said, shook his faith. “I was questioning Christianity for sometime. I had the same question the people on the outside asked us, ‘How in a country 90 percent Christian could a genocide happen?’ I didn’t have an answer to that.”
In November of 1994, Maurice gave his life to Christ at a prayer meeting. “When you are saved you have other dimensions — spiritual dimensions — that can explain things in a different way. At that time, I was just a Christian by name. But after I accepted Jesus, I saw another dimension of Christianity,” he said. “Maybe those who killed were members of denominations, but they weren’t Christians. I can’t call them Christians really.”
The answers were not numerical. “I found that the number of Christians doesn’t matter,” he said. “Up to the point of seeing bodies, I didn’t think people would kill,” he said. “Because of this, I am very passionate about talking with people and with church leaders about restarting the concept of Christianity in Rwanda.”
Maurice is the director of programs for World Relief Rwanda, a Christian development agency that focuses on holistic development through teaching church leaders, savings and loans associations, HIV/AIDS programs for youth and adults, child development programs, maternal health programs and safe water programs. “I joined them especially because it was a Christian organization and I like the mission of empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable,” said Maurice, who has been with the organization for 11 years.
“Working with the church becomes important,” he said. “I don’t do it only as a job, but I do it as something I see as fundamental. Even though the church has had faults in the past, it is the only institution that can bring transformation in the community,” he said. “In the aftermath, we saw the church contributing to the reconciliation.”
Maurice said, “It is only from God’s power that people can come together again. For that I see the church as very important in bringing transformation, in reuniting communities, and preventing such a horrible thing from happening again.”
The personal memories Maurice has of the genocide, he said, has made him braver. “This gives me courage to talk to people — to talk about peace, to talk about reconciliation and to talk about loving your neighbor,” he said. “It is something strong in me.”
Also strong in Maurice is his gauge on Christianity. “If you say you are a Christian, unless I stay with you for some time and observe you and hear your testimony and see how the Holy Spirit is leading you … I’ll never know. You may be a Christian or not,” he said. “It has become a relative concept,” he said. “Probably I’m wrong because a Christian should be someone you should not question, but for me it is very relative.”
Maurice said that many people have a hard time visiting the genocide museums. “I go to the museums because I know what it means to visit such places. I cannot be afraid to go visit the bones in these memorials, because today when I go there, I don’t merely just see bones, mass tombs and videos, but I see those six bodies,” he said. “We have a bad history, but a promising future. All of us learned a lesson from what happened.”
Though the events of April 13 are still vivid in Maurice’s mind, his faith is more intense. “I know what Christ did is more powerful than all that I saw,” he said.
When asked what ethnic group he is, Maurice leans back and smiles. “I am Rwandan. I am Christian.”
By Gena Thomas—http://www.notquiteripe.com
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Don’t give up
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.2 Corinthians 4:1-8
Martin Scorsese’s film entitled Hugo is about an orphan who lived in a Paris railway station in the 1930’s looking after the clocks. All that connected him to his dead father was a mechanical man, but the key had been lost and Hugo could not discover its secrets. The plot of the movie is magical, and central to it is a toy shopkeeper, George Melies and his god-daughter. She and Hugo become friends, and fortuitously she provides Hugo the key which not only unlocks the automaton’s secrets but also the memories of the old man. It transpires that before the Great War he was a celebrated magician and the pioneer of silent movies, and that the mechanical man was one of his inventions. But after the war George’s movies went out of fashion, his mechanical man dumped, and he was forgotten. In despair he had consigned all his movies to the flames. In recounting that sad episode later when all had been restored, he remarks: “when you despair you give up all hope.” Isn’t that so true!
Despair is not the same as depression though their symptoms are similar. You begin to lose interest in life; you know longer care. But depression is a mental state that can become a chronic illness; despair is a temptation. It is the temptation to give up on hope; it is losing purpose in life and succumbing to fate. Hugo in the movie summed it up for me: “A broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you’re broken.” Most of the time despair may be a fleeting mood, a passing sense of things just getting us down, but sometimes it can become a serious and more permanent condition of heart and mind as it did for George Melies, destroying the will to live, driving us into our shells, breaking us and preventing us from doing what we are meant to do.
I recently read Willie Esterhuyse’ book Endgame in which he documents the many secret meetings between Afrikaners and the ANC that helped prepare the ground for the ending of apartheid. It was a process that swung from despair to hope and back again as progress was regularly dashed by events on the ground. In the last chapter Esterhuyse, reflecting back on that experience, describes the ongoing cycle of despair and hope we all feel today about the way things are currently going in South Africa.
There is more than enough reason to despair as we hear the news or receive word of friends who have cancer or family members going through tough times. It is human to despair. Read the Psalms and you will encounter many expressions of exasperated despair. The prophet Jeremiah went through terrible times of despair when he even felt let down by God. Jesus himself despaired over Jerusalem, a city renowned for killing its prophets and refusing to learn God’s way of peace; he must also have despaired over his disciples! We today despair over the situation in Israel-Palestine and Syria, as well as over some developments in our own country and are tempted to wash our hands of the whole affair.
But imagine if everyone did that! I am sure that Kofi Annan would love to just turn his back on the whole Syrian catastrophe and enjoy his retirement. Imagine if every time you despaired of your friends or children you simply gave up on them. Imagine if the waiting father in the parable gave up all hope that his younger prodigal son would return from feeding the pigs in a distant land. Despair is such a dangerous temptation because it prevents us from doing what we should do. It prevents us from seeing signs of hope that motivate us to action, to love, to joy, to healing relationships, to working for a better future. If you give in to despair you lose the capacity to forgive others or even to accept God’s forgiveness yourself because you no longer believe that people can change for the better; you stop praying because it makes no difference. In short you give up on life, on God. To overcome despair, we need to recognise its true nature. It is the temptation to surrender hope and doing what we can to change things for the better.
St. Paul had every reason to despair. You have only to read about the way in which he was persecuted, slandered, tortured, and driven away from preaching the good news to his own people, to discover reasons why he should have despaired and given up. But his testimony is different. He was “afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.” To be afflicted and perplexed was only human; to give in to despair would mean surrendering all that was important to him. Those who truly live by hope are often afflicted, often perplexed, and sometimes brought to the edge of the abyss, but somehow never crushed or driven to despair. And the reason is that like Paul or a recovering alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous, they acknowledge dependence on a power greater than themselves in which they find their strength.
Breaking this bread and drinking this cup together today is a protest action against despair. It is saying that while we acknowledge despair, we refuse to allow ourselves to collapse into a heap. We refuse to accept that our lives have no purpose or meaning. We refuse to give up on people and situations that drive us to despair. Above all, we hang on to the hope that God has not despaired of either us or the world. And in doing so we express the greatest antidote to despair – thanksgiving and gratitude for life, for family and friends, for this place and every place we call home, for the good that happens despite the bad, and for the gift of Jesus Christ who shared our despair but overcame the temptation to give up on us but continually seeks us out to bring us home.
John de Gruchy
Volmoed 7 June 2012
One for the road—- Tale of two wells
I recently had the privilege of visiting the Mwanza region of Tanzania to learn about a church mobilisation and transformation programme called Umoja which is being implemented in various parts of Tanzania and is proving very successful. It was an inspiring trip and one story I was told by Justin Nyamonga, the Tearfund Director for Tanzania, has stuck with me as a picture of transformation rather than simply charity.
It is the story of water wells being built in two communities. In one community a coalition of large multinational NGOs had partnered with a local Diocese to build wells in villages that clearly needed them. They had a sound strategic plan, strong staff and sufficient funds and could build the wells very effectively. The other community had been mobilised through their church with minimal external funding and had identified the need for a well themselves. They’d found the resources to build a simple well, it had taken time and hadn’t involved a bunch of well-educated outsiders.
A year after the wells were built both communities happened to be visited by the local Bishop. In the donor-funded village the well wasn’t working anymore as it had broken and been shutdown by the local representative. When asked why they hadn’t done anything to fix it, the answer amounted to “your well, your problem”. In the other village a local committee had been established to oversee the well and each person paid a small fee to draw water, which was then placed into a maintenance fund. “Our well, our problem.” Enough said. Craig Stewart
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Walking Together With Dr Mamphela Ramphele
I went to a breakfast talk by Dr Mamphela Ramphele on Friday morning. I had heard her before at a function in Polokwane. She made the same call for civil society and businesses to stand up and be counted when it comes to shaping South Africa’s future. We don’t dare leave it up to government to drive the agenda as they would want us to. We need to Walk Together, not Walk Behind.
She also said the conversation about peace and reconciliation and healing needs to continue (it didn’t stop with the TRC) or else we just continue to speak and work from a place of woundedness. We need to walk together. We need to come together.
People were given a a chance to respond at the end of her talk. One young woman shared how the youth need to be heard and their hurt acknowledged – of dreams disappointed, of lost opportunities. It struck me that she is right, yet this isn’t the same story about Apartheid, and struggle that the older generation of leaders are referring to and living in light of. This is post 1994. Her hurt can’t be so easily defined in terms of race and racism. It’s another emerging narrative. But it is a story that will need to be heard in its own right or we risk diminishing the voice of her generation, while our elders still struggle to speak openly about the past.
The other thing thing that struck me was how few social spaces seem to exist to bring people together. Schools can do this, but depending on their location can be quite uniform racially. Universities can do this, but the crunch comes when you look at residences. Church can do this, but most often groups around language preferences (eg. An isiZulu-speaking church or an English-speaking church or an Afrikaans-speaking church.) Clergy could do this when they gather at functions, but again tend to group in the comfort of language/culture. (A comment was made after the talk about feeling ok eating with hands vs implements.) It’s a natural thing.
So the option Ramphele promotes of “Walking Together” is not an easy road. It takes a conscious and concerted effort. But if anyone can do it, it can be the Church who proclaims that we are all one in Christ. We’re diverse peoples, but one. United in our worship of the same Lord. All nations bending the knee to one God. Such was the radical nature and gospel of the early church as it crossed over well established divides. Every tongue confessing… We’re talking more than tolerance. We’re talking relationship. Biblically we’re talking about a love that draws us together for the sake of Christ and because of Christ.
Who am I going to have coffee with this week? Ramphele has challenged me to build the future one cup of coffee at a time. One conversation at a time!
* Peter Houston is a friend of The Warehouse. To read his blog visit http://petersprogress.com
Response to Langa Fire devastation
The Warehouse will be open for packing and sorting and general help for the relief effort during the whole of next week.
You are welcome to come between 9h30 and 16h00 Monday- Friday.
We regret we will not be able to collect donations from you or your church- please ask people in your networks to volunteer to drive the donations to our premises, at 12 Plantation Road, Wetton.
We would also like to be able to contact people to help with deliveries to the Anglican Church in Langa from Tuesday.
Please contact Dot on 021 761 1168 if you are able to help pack or deliver next week.
Dot and Caroline at The Warehouse
List of useful things for collection
Remember to stipulate smaller sizes in items e.g. 500gr omo - not 1kg
Liquid purity foods & Dry purity foods
Bottles / dummies
Ladies feminine items
Plastic basins / 5 liter buckets
Cutlery (even if its plastic)
Soya meat packets
Tea / Coffee
Packets of brown onion soup (makes gravey with maize)
Please contact us if you have any queries. And THANK YOU for serving the Church and the people of Cape Town in this way.
Chicken Curry for the Soul
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Dowayne grew up in Manenberg, raised by his grandmother who provided for her family by selling drugs. But when she died Dowayne felt as if he had lost the one person in his life he could talk to, and his life became even less stable than it had been before. Dowayne soon dropped out of school and began to experiment with drugs with his new friends, many of whom were involved in gangs.
He tried several times to stop using and to change his life, but he had nobody to support him, and surrounded by friends who were stuck in the same destructive patterns of behaviour, he couldn’t get himself out.
By an odd coincidence, Dowayne got roped into taking part in a mock substance abuse workshop that was being filmed to make the Warehouse video. During the break, he approached Jonathan, one of the Fusion fieldworkers and asked him for help. For the next two weeks, for one hour every day, Jonathan and Dowayne met together to talk and pray, and to keep Dowayne accountable as he attempted to come off drugs. After two weeks, Dowayne was clean, and he began a journey of healing and getting to know God that has led him to a place where he now has a heart for his friends who are still stuck in the life he used to live. He continues to be part of the Fusion refuge community, growing in his own faith and overflowing with the desire to share his story so that he can be a spark that brings light and life to his community.
If you want to see Dowayne telling his own story, click here to see this fantastic short documentary made about his life.