Hope in the Wilderness
2019 has started with a bang. School went back into session early this year, elections are coming up in May, and multiple state-capture and corruption commissions illustrate daily the multiplicity of ways in which we are struggling as a country to rid ourselves of our past, current and ongoing injustices. At times looking into 2019 feels like a dry wilderness and it is hard to have hope.
It was in a similar milieu that The Warehouse was established by the Parish of St John the Evangelist over 15 years ago. At the time we were seeing the visible fruits of the law of apartheid having been dealt with while its spirit remained well and truly alive, in the structures, neighbourhoods and daily lives of people across South Africa. This was made all the more intense by the HIV crisis that was decimating communities throughout the country. It was into this wilderness story that The Warehouse was established to serve the church in Cape Town and South Africa in response to these interwoven challenges.
This vision remains true in 2019. We work to see the church living out the peace and justice of God for the world, most specifically through local congregations in their neighbourhoods and cities. It is one of the privileges of our work that I get to experience these places of salt and light, where water- living water- is flowing out of surprising wells in the wilderness facing us, working to make things good again. Wells that look like churches and their members prophetically advocating for restitutive spatial justice policies and rebuilding homes in informal settlements alongside the residents after fires. Churches acting as hubs for homework and life skills clubs that build hope, connection and future for young people. Churches and their members providing welcome, care and friendship to people living on the margins, and creating community, healing and restoration.
If you pay attention it is always true that God is at work in the wilderness and that God’s people are responding to and collaborating with this work in remarkable ways.
This is our work; to come alongside churches and their leaders as they discern what God is doing, and equip them to respond to this tangibly and effectively. A few highlights of this work as we look forward to the coming 12 months include:
* Hosting the Leadership in Urban Transformation one year programme alongside Cornerstone and the University of Pretoria, in which we will be taking a group of leaders through a journey of exploring what it means to lead in Christ-centred urban transformation
* Launching the next phase of the Sustainability Programme focussed on churches and their leaders in the poorest communities of this city
* Expanding the Respond network which enables effective disaster response by the church into the Western Cape region and other urban areas of SA
* Working with a group of congregations to explore renewed ways in which church land can be used to promote spatial justice in Cape Town
* The local launch and implementation of our “Seeking Peace” resource which we developed with Tearfund UK last year.
Please do contact us if you’d like to find out more about any of the above or to hear how you can support these initiatives financially or otherwise. If you’re interested in reading more about our work over the past year you can download our most recent annual report here or visit our website for various other content.
In Isaiah 40 the prophet declares comfort for the people of Israel in the midst of hard service, and then adds that a voice is calling, saying “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” As we look forward into 2019 and the years and decades beyond, whether in South Africa or elsewhere in the world, there is much to be concerned and anxious about. Signs perhaps that we are still in the wilderness. In the words of God spoken through Isaiah, it is precisely in these wilderness places and times that we must prepare the way for the Lord in the anticipation that the Lord’s glory will be revealed. In the years to come, we will, with many others, continue to do this work and we look forward to walking alongside you in this task.
By Craig Stewart