God’s faithful strong and loving presence will never leave you. No matter where you go, He is always there.
It has taken me a while to write an account of my first six weeks in South Africa. This morning I decided to look at all the photos I’ve taken since being here. In the past six weeks I’ve experienced culture shock, instability, anxieties and not yet through all my experiences I can now see that God has been carving out a picture. I guess for someone who has travelled previously to Africa I did not anticipate the level of culture shock. What made it even more difficult were the changes and uncertainties regarding my accommodation BUT God has been faithful throughout.
In the first two weeks I was blessed with a great host who introduced me to all her friends and neighbours and tried to create a community spirit. I spent some time with friends I met when I moved to Ealing in 2011. They showed me around Cape Town, introduced me to their family and a real South African braai. My vicar was here on holiday so it was good to meet up and share with him my anxieties and concerns as well as with my spiritual director who I was fortunate to arrange before departure from the UK. He has been a tower of support and has agreed to see me once per week until things are a bit more stable.
I must say that all my expectations of South Africa were dashed in the first two days and I must also confess that I have thought many times of using my open return ticket (kindly offered by Virgin Airways) back to the UK. Then I was reminded that the first reaction to culture shock is one of flight and so that was not an option. Ironically out of all this I have come to value the UK more.
In the midst of all the mess and in a desperate attempt to find space and peace I had to delve into my inner world and as a result I am discovering and reconstructing my true self as well developing a deeper trust and faith in God. I am thanking God for the great spiritual direction and support I’ve received since being here, without this I would have probably fallen to pieces by now.
Recently, during one of my dark night of the soul I wrote to my vicar Fr. David Cherry of my disappointments. He reminded that we cannot treat God as if He is a genie who will come to what we want and provide opportunities that suit us. It’s too grand-scale and one is then operating as if one is at the centre of things which can’t be true. There is no grand solution which will present itself or make it alright, to expect that is to always be disappointed. However in the everyday mess around us, we can discern God’s will for us – ‘for Me, for Now, for Good’ in his unknown grand picture.
This really encouraged me and has helped in me taking the focus off my experiences and allowing God to work everything out for the good. With my hopes being dashed in the first few weeks there has also been the issue of trust and I am reminded that ultimate trust is in God and not man. God hurts when we hurt and he is even disappointed when we are disappointed.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old (Isaiah 63:9 – NIV)
“In all their troubles, he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
for a long, long time. “(Isaiah 63: 9 MSG)
Thanks to my friend Tom Riley for reminding me that God is good and He has great plans and purposes for my time in South Africa. He also encouraged me that my time so far has not been wasted and God has been using my experiences as a catalyst for change……and I must stress that this includes change in me.
South Africa amidst its entire socio-economic and still racial divide is beautiful. I recently read an article in the Cape Times reflecting on South Africa itself, 20 years into a non-racial democracy. It states:
“It seems that today’s South Africa is going down the lines of the story in the book ‘Animal Farm’ In fact this book is as relevant today as when it was published in 1945. When the farm animals first revolt against man, their oppressor; their ideal was to create a fair and just society. “remember in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him…” Indeed history is repeating itself for it seems to be the story of South Africa where the ruling party seem to more and more resemble the oppressors they fought against. “
What still amaze me is that even though people socialise outside they still live in their segregated neighbourhoods. There are some mixed neighbourhoods but these are few. I had a brief visit to a nearby black township Lwandle, and I was appalled at the quality of life of most black South Africans which seem alien to me.
Another article in the Cape Times entitled “Breaking from the mould of history to transform South Africa into an inclusive society” states
‘People seem to be unable to break from the identities which apartheid so cleverly created. They still haunt us today and are played out in all their conversations no matter how “progressive” they claim to be.’
My British/Jamaican accent has saved me on many occasions from being treated as a Xhosa woman from a black township and assisted me in so many ways when I needed to assert myself.
The article went on to state;
‘How to break free from the moulds of the past is unclear and maybe the next generation’s task is to see more clearly and employ as greater “reason” as Barak Obama reminded us in his speech at Mandela’s memorial service when he said, “Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you are with but those you don’t…”
I was encouraged by a children’s worker Sharon Vincent who has a vision to bring revival through the children – the next generation. She has encouraged all her children’s worker to read one of the books my friend Stan Thompson recommended for my mission trip which is “Like a Mighty Wind” by Mel Tari
Like a Mighty Wind remains a beloved classic recounting the incredible story of revival on the island of Timor during 1965 in the midst of political turmoil, the book is an amazing testament to the power of faith and the reality of God’s power to work miracles in modern times.
When we believe the Bible as it is, we will see the power of God move in our lives and in our community as it did centuries ago in Bible times. – Mel Tari
I too believe that the changes in South African society will come through the next generation and perhaps the one after that. This will then be reflected in the church reaching out to people from all walks of life – from different cultures, backgrounds, ages and socio-economic groups, creating an even more distinctive church that seeks to be truly biblical in its expression and hopefully a journey that all South African churches will be embarking on.
My most memorable experience of the Rainbow Nation was at a cricket match at Newlands, where everyone, whatever their status, colour or background came to enjoy the game – a picture of heaven. South Africa has come a long way and there is still a long way to go. I realise that if my six weeks here have been smooth sailing then I would not have met the many people I’ve been blessed to meet and would not have had the opportunity to visit the many places that my friends have taken me to in an attempt to quell the pain of the transition that I’ve been going through.
It has become clear that mission is not only about giving and achieving. The past six weeks felt as if I haven’t achieved anything. Yes I’ve met Archbishop Desmond Tutu and that was a great privilege but I can’t help thinking that I haven’t really impacted the nation of South Africa in anyway.
On leaving England I felt South Africa was a spiritual journey on a different road with no holes in the pavement but I was being rather overly optimistic and so I am coming across familiar challenges and areas I need to face and deal with in a more positive way. This I am doing through spiritual direction.
Have I lived out my passion, my vision, my reason for coming to South African?
At the heart of mission is having a heart for the people. I’ve spent many days criticising the system here, the level of customer service and attitudes of the people. So I am going to do as my vicar suggested and that is ‘to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness’ – which is still a daily struggle especially when you come across rude and abrupt people and I constantly have to remind myself to Love Them Anyway.
God has been so gracious in blessing me with people offering me great support, encouragement and hospitality – My friends Morgan and Melanie Adams, Ojalae Jenkins, Lorraine Bluau (my host for the first few weeks), my spiritual director Breda Ludik, Joel Edwards (Micah Challenge), members of the Restitution Foundation, Sharon Vincent, Melissa Moses, Len & Jenny Bennell from Urban Voice, my vicar Fr. David Cherry, Stan Thompson, Tom Riley, Marvin Morrings (ex LST’s) Jurie and Goosen (Stellenbosch International Fellowship). Without these people I would not have made six weeks in South Africa.
During my visit to Cape Town, St Georges Cathedral has become a haven – my place of refuge.
The journey of mission to SA continues……………
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matt. 15:14-16)
I am still fundraising so please consider supporting me if you are able. My income is limited and I am currently exploring other opportunities to serve. You can donate via my website http://missiontosa.yolasite.com or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
And so I pray….
Grant me, O most sweet and loving Jesus, to rest in thee above every creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honour, above all power and dignity, above all joy and exultation, above all fame and praise, above all sweetness and consolation, above all hope and promise, above all desert and desire, above all gifts and presents which thou art able to bestow or infuse, above all joy and gladness which the mind is capable of receiving and feeling; finally, above angels and archangels, and above all the host of heaven, above all things visible and invisible, and above all that falls short of myself, O thou, my God. (Thomas Kempis c.1380 – 1471)