The brief six months we have spent in Cape Town so far have changed for ever what we think of as ‘home’. Being in South Africa we would be forgiven for thinking of home as the familiarity of: Scotland, nearness of family, friends, the security of our own house, safety…comfort. A place that somehow will always exist for us and can be returned to at any time. However, we see all around us in parts of Cape Town people in a state of perpetual transience, desperately seeking home, or at least the security to call the meagre space they already occupy ‘home’, despite the intolerable conditions they live in every day.
For some this transience was born in pain many years ago and was forced on them by ‘relocation’ to the outlying areas of Cape Town in the cause of apartheid. For others, it was born out of a desire to migrate to find work and a betterment of their scant circumstances following the supposed end to that evil era. But today, hundreds of thousands of people still live with the persistent legacy of all of this. For them the trauma continues day after day, living in ramshackle huts of rusty zinc, sharing makeshift toilets and a water tap with tens of your neighbours. In the current Cape Town winter, they are fighting a constant battle to remain warm in settlements where central heating, thermal insulation, and even water-tight roofs simply don’t exist and the wind resonates incessantly through zinc sheet cladding. Everyone sleeps lightly whilst sub-consciously listening for the sounds of spreading fire- always a real and present danger amongst the densely spaced shacks.
In contrast we, for a brief while, find ourselves…’home’ in Scotland for the birth of our first Grandchild, Freya Alice Lorna Benson, to Ruth and Justin, our daughter and son-in-law. An urgent phone call alerted us to the fact that Freya was very likely to be born early and we hit the first flight…home. However, despite the joy of all of this, and just the relief of being back amongst family and our so-supportive friends, we were picked up by some at church, to our surprise, when we referred to returning to South Africa as ‘going back home’.
So, ‘home’ is an elusive concept it seems. For us it probably means where we exist anywhere, the two of us together, and it certainly means where we feel we are living in God’s purpose and plan for our lives. For now, that is most definitely Cape Town, and so there is no question that we are going to return there in a few short weeks.
We have been through the learning curve of understanding our insignificance relative to the issues there, and putting aside a perhaps arrogant belief that we have any of the answers, but we know that God will reveal his strength only through our weakness. There must be less of us, and more of Him!
We will continue to pursue a betterment of health and housing provision not for, but with the communities at Sweet Home Farm and Khanyisa, amongst others. Lorna feels that the priority for the area of health will rest in the short term in delivering basic health education and seeking to ‘normalise’ treatment for those who are HIV positive, among other prevalent conditions. She continues to work closely with the supportive team at NewDay United. Don, on the other hand, with the UBU team, is currently exploring potential funding sources that may eventually make possible the implementation of tried and tested sandbag technology homes throughout Sweet Home Farm, or at least in the medium term a smaller but significant section of the community. Individual ‘micro’ projects to meet specific needs will likely keep him busy in the short term.
And so inevitably we will leave our family, including our precious first grandchild, behind and continue to be challenged in our once comfortable preconceptions of the world around us, being re-shaped by our new setting…our new home.
‘God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”’
Genesis 12:1 (The Message)