“I thought I would never see you again!” were the words of the girl who came rushing across the parish hall to greet Wayne and me. She asked if we remembered her, and we did. She was one of the students who took our first Alpha course at Heathfield High that we led a couple of years ago. Her name was Kelly.
The three of us were visiting a local church for a youth service, and it was so great to run into Kelly again. Our young friend told us that she switched schools last year and was now attending a school that emphasised sports and athletics. She was a volleyball player. Kelly described to us how the Alpha course had touched her life and how she was inspired to lead a course at her new school. Her news pleased but astounded us. We had no idea.
Sometimes being a missionary is hard. I’m a product of my home culture, and we put a lot of emphasis on measurable outcomes. But in a ministry setting, it is often difficult to see measurable outcomes of one’s work. The bulk of our work in South Africa focuses on teaching and training, especially in the area of discipleship. We work on the provincial level and in local churches; sometimes we work in local schools. Some of the people we serve and train we never see again. How do we know that our work has been “successful,” for a lack of a better word? We don’t and that can be challenging.
So it is very encouraging when we meet a Kelly, who shares with us about how God has been working in her life and how she is now ministering to her peers. We can only pray and hope that there are many more Kelly’s out there that God has given us the privilege to serve who are now leading transformed lives and who are helping others to grow in their faith as well.
Many of you may be aware of my Facebook post from last Friday in which I asked for prayers for South Africa. The country is going through a crisis, which came to head nearly two weeks ago when the president, Jacob Zuma, fired his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas. People were up in arms over the now infamous midnight “cabinet reshuffle,” and the Rand dived, ultimately leading South Africa into a “junk status” credit rating with the S&P and Fitch. Last week saw numerous protests and marches around the country; more are slated for today and the rest of the week and next week.
But the crisis is more than a financial one. Zuma (younger people often call him “JZ”) has been the subject of numerous scandals, starting before he even became president. Among his most flagrant scandals are:
Being accused of rape while he served as a party leader of the ANC
Stating that people could be cured of HIV if they took a shower and/or ate beetroot
Spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private compound, Nkandla
Practicing unabashed nepotism and cronyism with his connection to the Gupta family being the most notorious. (This family has been accused of wielding so much power in the presidency that Zuma and their name have been merged into “Zupta.”)
Entering into an infamous nuclear deal with Russia
Firing the two finance ministers
The current crisis is very political and complex, and it may be difficult for those who do not live here to understand. South Africa has a parliamentary government, and the ANC is the party in power. This was the main party of the “Struggle,” the anti-apartheid movement. It was the party of Mandela and most of the freedom fighters, but most South Africans would agree that the ANC no longer reflects the dream and vision of Mandela, that it has become unashamedly corrupt and self-serving. Yet many people still support the ANC and Zuma.
Next Tuesday, 18 April, Parliament will hold a no-confidence debate into the President’s fitness to hold office. With the ANC being in power, it is unlikely that they will vote Zuma as being unfit; but miracles do happen.
Once again, I call for prayers for this country that has so much potential. It is a country of natural wealth and beauty, but its greatest asset is its people, who are warm, loving, innovative, creative and industrious. South Africa can be a global leader of good change. Let’s pray for good governance and justice, for the country’s leaders to have a heart for the people, especially for the poorest of the poor and the marginalised.
I made it a policy not to talk about politics—South African or American—on this blog, but I cannot keep silent by the recent events in the USA, concerning immigration.
Yesterday in chapel, we had a Thanksgiving Eucharist for the 10th-anniversary of Growing the Church (GtC), the organisation with whom my husband and I serve on the field. In lieu of a homily, staff members shared some of their favourite stories about GtC, especially those that displayed God’s provision. When it was my turn to share, I broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe how emotional I became. I talked about my first encounters with the GtC staff and my earliest days at GtC, about how everyone had welcomed me with opened arms.
You see; I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to leave one’s beloved family, country, and culture and move half away across the world. I know what it feels like to quit a good job and head into the unknown of financial security. I know what it’s like to completely uproot, to sell one’s possessions and to arrive in a new country, carrying only three suitcases and two carry-on bags.
I am a foreigner. I know what it’s like to learn how to grocery shop again, learning new foods, how to read labels, new terminology, a new system of weight and volume. I know what’s like to learn to drive on the left side of the road and to learn different rules of the road. I know what it’s like to struggle to communicate, to understand people and for them to understand me. I know what it’s like to feel so homesick at times that the feeling feels almost like physical pain.
I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to be welcomed with opened arms and with love, for people to be happy that I am here, for people to have me over for dinners and braais and to take me for walks on the beach. I know what it feels like to receive needful help and advise and guidance from opening a bank account, to cooking, to where to get the best bargains for clothes, to which neighbourhoods to be cautious of, to which doctors to go to for medical help. I know what it’s like for people to be patient with me, as I struggle to communicate in their language. I know what it’s like for people to live out Leviticus 19:34a, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” This has been my experience in South Africa, and I can never thank my friends, family, colleagues, parish family, and all the countless churches, parishioners, priests, bishops, students and other individuals who have welcomed and loved me as one of their own.
I’m not one for rain. I prefer sunshine and warmth. But when it started to rain this morning, joy filled my heart and in my head, I broke out in song: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him ye creatures here below. Praise him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
You see, we are having a very bad drought in South Africa. Our farmlands are dry; food prices are constantly going up. In Johannesburg, some schools have had to close due to the lack of water. The Eastern Cape is dry as a bone. In Cape Town, we have less than 100 days of water supply, and forest fires have been raging through our mountains.
Water is precious, so our hearts are full of joy for today’s rain. We give thanks to God.
Over Christmas break, I read the book The Circle Maker and found in it a refreshing look at prayer. The book starts by telling the story of an ancient prophet named Honi. When the Israelites were suffering from severe drought, he drew a circle around himself as he stood in the stand. Honi prayed for rain and refused to move from the circle until God sent rain. Honi was a bit audacious. When it started to sprinkle, he told Gold that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain hard, he told God that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain steadily and gently, he thanked the Lord for the rain, for providing for his people. Check out the story of Honi at http://www.thecirclemaker.com/watch
Water is precious. Experts say that the next world war (let’s pray that it will never happen) will not be about oil, land, or ideology. It will be about water.
Please continue to pray for us in South Africa, as we need many more days of gentle, steady rain.
One of the best things about living in South Africa is that the country virtually shuts down during the Christmas season. Not only is it the holidays, but it is also our big summer vacation. Many people are off for the three-four weeks, including us at Growing the Church. For Americans, who struggle to get off for two weeks during the year, a month-long holiday is a treasure.
I thoroughly enjoyed my leave. I spent most of the time reading and sleeping, two of my favourite things. We had such a hectic year; the rest did me wonders.
I love to read, and I read these books over the break:
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. A new friend recommended this book to me, and it was a godsend, giving me a fresh new look on prayer. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs new energy breathed into his/ her prayer life.
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. It was the second time I read this book, and I loved it, depressing as it was. Yes, I still love my classics. The nerd is still in me.
Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev. I love the Russians, but I have never before read Turgenev. I will definitely be reading him again.
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. I had to get in at least one Dickens’ novel. This was such a good book, and I did shed some tears while reading it. If you don’t feel like reading the tome (although I would recommend it), the BBC produced a wonderful version of the book a few years ago. It stars Claire Foy, who is getting a lot of recognition for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown. Check out the book and the movie at Amazon. And if you haven’t watched The Crown, start that series today.
So, we’re back at work. It’s a new year and a new start. Come on 2017!