Prophetic Image-nation

“God, the justice and mercy You speak to me about in your word, are so unfamiliar, I don’t see it anywhere around me. Yho! I’m so tired of trying to live my life as a voice for this thing that all these people don’t even acknowledge!”

These words are from a journal entry I wrote while I was attending a predominantly white Christian Conference which led me to once again confront the ongoing internal conflict of being a black woman, passionate about godly justice, while existing in church spaces where the topic seemed close to taboo. As most of my journal entries go, I had written it as a way to help me process what I was experiencing- not at all mindful of the possibility that the God I was writing to could actually read it and do something about it!

Well, He did just that. The very next day Valerie (a stranger up to this point) sent me a Facebook message inviting me to join the team behind the Conference. After meeting Val and the team of amazing people who spoke of godly justice as anything but taboo, I began to realise that this conference, these people were an answer to my unspoken prayer. I was stunned by their relentless quest to create a space for prophetic imagination around the event, disrupting the injustices we have come to accept as the ‘norm’.

One of the decisions reflecting prophetic imagination that had a significant impact on my life was around the conference clean-up. I volunteered to oversee the cleaning team for the event. I must confess I chose that mostly because I felt immensely under-qualified to handle anything else, so I figured cleaning would be my safest bet. That’s until we had a conversation about seeing cleaning as a justice issue. In South Africa, cleaning at an event like this is often a woman’s job, and all too often a black woman’s job. We wanted to create a space where this was disrupted, which meant having white people, white males in particular, volunteering to do the ‘dirty work’.

I could have never imagined how God would use this aspect of conference organising to lead me to confront an old grim race-gender-inferiority complex ghost. In the build up to the event, I was thoroughly freaked out by the prospect of having to instruct white men to clean up toilets and trash cans, and I found myself feeling under-qualified yet again. But after meeting the crew, my fears were eased by their incredible humility and gentleness. Words cannot fully explain how this seemingly simple act of cleaning up after hundreds of people left me with an unshakable feeling of acceptance, belonging and empowerment.

This feeling would be further entrenched by the powerful expressions of diversity throughout the event. As a black woman, painfully aware of the battle against inferiority complexes, I was most encouraged by the expressions of black voices. One of my closest friends got emotional as she remarked on how listening to Adam Thomason’s talk was the first time she had seen a black man, in a position of leadership, speaking on a Christian stage in front of white people. The same friend went on to express that she was struck by the fact that there were no ‘reserved’ seats at the event. We shared this moment, realising that we had both been to enough Christian events to be able to recognise that this too, was an intentional prophetic imagination decision.

One of my desires for the conference was for it to be a space where people who felt dejected and alone in their quest for justice in South Africa would meet like-minded people with whom they could share frustrations and encouragement. I wanted “justice orphans” who felt like I had when I wrote that journal entry to find a “tribe” of co-labourers, like I had found in Valerie and the team. I was encouraged by eavesdropping on people congregating around coffee stalls (as Capetonians do), sharing stories of what had brought them to the conference.

Prophetic image-nation

Imagine a day
where a voiceless woman
loses her muzzle
learning a new language of expression
empowered by others who were once muzzled
liberated by the One who created vocal chords

Imagine a nation
plagued by poverty and greed
nightmares of murder and rape
shadows of depression and dispossession
learning to imagine
gazing at the stars to see a brighter future
illuminated by the One who Created the stars.

By Lindiwe Mpofu

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