Up until now, much of the ramblings here have been concerned with the transition of our move to South Africa. The uncomfortable truth that we were yet to understand fully why God brought us here was kept slightly to one side, even as we struggled to begin the process of building contacts and reinforcing those already made. We tried to tell ourselves that we were aware of the issues here, and the painful history behind them: that through the filter of our sophisticated Western eyes, we understood.
Then… the Justice Conference!
A gathering of about 1,000 Christians: black, white & coloured; affluent beyond measure at one extreme; and poverty stricken and without a place to call home at the other. The worship together was awesome and heart-felt but the workshops and breakout sessions were an edgy, uncomfortable coming together of Jesus-followers trying to find the common ground of grace, mercy…and justice in the middle of a city where hundreds of thousands of people are still, in 2017, looking for any kind of security and dignity to live their lives and where charity simply isn’t enough.
Perhaps too many were unable to face the question, ‘What is the cost to us of restitution?’.
Emotive language, we know. But for us it was an overpowering experience which left us pondering the acts perpetrated, even in our past, which contributed to what we see now, all around. ‘Not us’, we hear you say, ‘we weren’t there and have done nothing’. However, you see, South African affluent white Christians were being asked, not to confess, but certainly to acknowledge that injustice has been served out in bucket-loads by their colonial forefathers. Surely, as children of the British Empire, which wreaked such havoc in its march round the globe, we also should acknowledge the huge cost to others of our privilege.
This shift in our thinking has brought a new and bright focus to what we are doing here. It has turned this adventure from a simple, if inconvenient step of obedience to God’s call, to a realisation that we are all called to stand with those in poverty and, with God’s help, to lift them up. Zacchaeus’ response when confronted by Jesus was not just to repent, but to actively make restitution for the harm he had been responsible for causing to others.
So, we will settle in for the long haul and trust completely that God knows why he wanted a 50-something couple from an affluent suburb of Glasgow, Scotland to come here, and to struggle and find their feet in a new and challenging life. Lorna is continuing to make contacts and research what it will take to plant new health clinics in informal settlements. Don will continue to work alongside others who have already invested years of their lives to arrive at the point where building on Sweet Home Farm is only now commencing.
We will continue to be humbled by the faith, resilience, hope and inward joy of people who live every single day in circumstances that would crush us!
We are a long way from changing South Africa, but South Africa is certainly changing us!
‘But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.”
Luke 19: 8-9a (NIV)