Africa · testimony · the comfort couch

band aid [Africa under construction]

I feel a bit like Rob Bell in heading my post like this. Haha. Anyhow, here’s my blog on Band Aid.

The Brothers from Extension Two, Debrah Mathelwane (one of our team members) and I in Ikageng.

In June 2011 a team from Extension (His People Potchefstroom’s mission department) went to stay and minister in the local township — Ikageng. The neighbourhood we went to is called Extension Two. Ikageng is home to roughly 100,00 people, of which the majority live in shacks or RDP housing. (RPD = Rural Development Programmes) To see a map, click here. Potchefstroom, the city closest to Ikageng, is home to 26,723 people, of which 86.1% are white. For more information on Potchefstroom, click here.

I’m currently a third year student at the NorthWestUniversity in Potchefstroom, completing my studies in B.A. Communication.

One of the modules I study this semester is called “Development and Political Communication”.

The other day in class, we had a heated debate about Apartheid and the relevance thereof to a generation that was born in when it was abolished, and grew up in a Free South Africa.

Now, before I continue writing, I’d just like to state that this blog is by no means a political debate, but I’m attempting to explain a Kingdom principle, so please bear with me.

Anyhow, there’s this one guy in my class who is about 40 years old, and he served in the army while the Apartheid government were still in power. He argued that this (our) generation is much too eager to distance ourselves form the responsibility of Apartheid, and that, despite the fact that we had no “part” in it, we were still raised within a racially prejudiced ideology.

Apartheid was abolished in 1991. South Africa’s first democratic election was in 1994, and then Nelson Mandela became president.

There is no doubt about it that South Africa, 20 years down the line, have made a lot of progress. That lots of reconciliation has taken place, and that many people have “forgotten” the divide between races and cultures and languages. http://www.grafika24.com/what-divides-south-africans/

However, I find myself constantly asking whether this “reconciliation” is true and real, or whether it’s a forced truce.

Today I went to Ikageng with Werner Post, the leader of our church’s community development programme called Hope Again. Every Tuesday and Thursday, a couple of volunteers go to Extension 11 to run an after school tutoring programme for the kids from Extension 11. They are taught life skills, they are fed, and sometimes they go on field trips.

As Werner and I were driving to Ikageng, he shared these testimonies he had once heard about missionaries going to unreached parts of the Amazon.

The tribe that inhabited that part of the forest were renowned for their violence and savagery. But this guy, convinced that God called him to them, went there anyway. He was dropped (via helicopter) in the middle of the forest, and just as he started getting a look around, he heard whizzzzz and next thing he knew, his thigh was impaled by a spear. The tribe took him hostage. However, they discovered that he had gangrene, and was quite old, so they figured he would die soon enough, and released him into the forest. This missionary managed to make it to one of the towns, and was taken up in hospital. A few months later, after he had recovered and strengthened, he returned to the exact same spot, only to be captured by this tribe again! Now, you might think this guy is either real stupid, or he is real stupid. Well, he wasn’t stupid — he was determined. He went to live among these people, and learned their language, became familiar with their culture. Soon enough, he started giving medicine to their “magic man” to give to the people. He knew that the people would never accept the medicine if it came from him, but in their culture, if anyone were ill, they would visit the village witch doctor. He did what he had to do to become culturally relevant.

In another instance, there was a missionary that was taken captive by a Chief of one of these Amazonian tribes. The missionary kept telling this chief stories about Jesus — the mighty warrior who defeats death and gives life, who fights for us, who is victorious and wins the War — and after five years, the chief comes to faith. However, the rest of the tribe is still unbelieving, and rejects him as chief. During the next five years, the missionary and the ex-chief, who is one of the tribe’s best warriors, build a good friendship, and the missionary keeps on teaching and discipling this guy. This warrior also happens to be a real good singer, and is the tribe “worship leader” of sorts. Then, one night, he stands up and starts dancing and chanting and singing arround the fire. The missionary thinks, “oh, God! All has been lost!”  only to later discover that this warrior had sung about Jesus all night. The whole tribe became Christian afterward.

The thing that interests me most about both these stories is the fact that those missionaries were Culturally Relevant and were able to meet the people where they are at.

It’s so easy to become comfortable in your culture — your church or cell groups, and the manner in which things are done there. I’m not saying comfort is bad. But comfort does not bring growth. That is, no growth other than the layers of comfort-fat around your mid-section. If we never face challenges we never grow, or mature, in the things God calls us to. ( Refer back to my posts of Walking on Water: acts of faith, and Lazarus and the Fire)

Anyhow, I kept asking myself, you know, how we could be most relevant to our culture — to Africa.

Werner told me about the NPO Forum they’re starting in Potchefstroom where various Non Profit organisations from the surrounding North West region come together to discuss and find solutions to developmental issues in our province.

One of the current issues they’re facing, is a homeless shelter called Huis Hebron where mostly unemployed white people go to sleep for a night or two until they find a job. There is also a clothes depot, and many other organisations support this initiative. One of the people staying at Huis Hebron is a middle-aged man with two children who earns about R4000.00 per month. Therefore, he has a solid income, but you can hardly rent a bachelor flat in town for less than R3000.00, and therefore, he and his children are still staying with the shelter.

In South Africa, the government aims to supply families/people with RDP housing, and those that cannot afford the RDP houses build shacks. As Werner and I were discussing this, we mentioned the possibility of this family living in a shack. I’m certain that it’s not the best possible solution, but at least it would be a solution. Right? Or not?

Scripture says its our responsibility to take care of the orphans, the widows, and the poor. So, is it  OUR responsibility to feed EVERY hungry soul on the planet and to give EVERY homeless person a home?

I’m asking these questions, because for me, they present increasingly challenging answers.

Would it be possible to give RDP houses to the homeless Whites/Coloureds/Indians/Chinese/Nigerians/Germans etc in our country? And if yes, what would the impact of it be?

When I look at Africa and its history of this wild and beautiful continent, I notice certain undeniable patterns:

War.

Famine.

Disease.

Relief.

War.

Famine.

Disease.

Relief.

Etcetera.

Has Africa fallen into a mentality of dependency? Are we so used to someone always dropping by at the last minute, bringing momentary numbness to the pain, that we have stopped taking responsibility for ourselves, our own development, ourselves?

As I said — these are tough questions.

And I’m not even certain whether I have found satisfactory answers to them for myself.

Romans 12 tells us to renew our minds — this implies that we must think and see from Heaven’s perspective. Ultimately, we are created to have fellowship with God and commune and rule with Him as Royal Priests. (1 Peter 2) Therefore, it’s our job to find solutions for the problems in our communities. It’s our job to take responsibility for our lands. To rule over the economy as Godly Businessmen and women. To raise our children in righteousness and truth. To honour authority and leadership. We are called to represent God on earth.

I think I’ve finally reached a place where I’m done sticking Band Aids on issues that need serious attention. You won’t fix a heart attack with strawberry milkshake. And neither will you solve government with jumping castles.

Is it not our responsibility to rule and reign?

How do we do this?

So, far, here’s my thought on it — be culturally relevant. There is no uniform solution. Every society and it’s issues are unique and have unique solutions.

I find that I keep asking God for better ideas on solving problems, and more wisdom in practicing them. I keep asking Him to show His heart more and more so that I might understand His love for His people.

God is faithful. As I journey through this “First Aid Course” He reveals, inch by inch, the plans that He has for me, for His people, for Africa, for the World.

My prayer is that you might be infused with Godly wisdom to the issues you’re facing. May you have smart ideas and creative ways to tackle problems. May you become excellent in your field of expertise. May you understand God’s heart for the people you meet day-to-day, and above all, may you never forget how insurmountably much He loves you.

To read an article on change in Ikageng, click here.

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