So, I’m wrapping up my first week here in South Africa, and it’s been absolutely incredible.
My flights last Monday and Tuesday were smooth and easy. I had a layover in the Amsterdam airport, which is basically a giant IKEA, and then when I arrived in South Africa, where my entry was completely problem-free. There’s a lot of paperwork minors have to fill out beforehand to enter the country, and when I reached passport security, the officer didn’t even give those papers a look.
I’ve been really blessed by my host family, John and Myrtle, as they’ve taken great care of me and offered me a gracious amount of space to myself. They live in a safe, spacious home in Pretoria, and I’ll be here a few nights a week or so. They make me feel like I’m part of the family. I have my own car to use, and I’ve quickly adjusted to driving on the left side of the road while sittingon the right side. A ton of the drivers, especially the taxi drivers, are wild here, so I fit right in on the road.
On Friday I ventured out into the townships for the first time since I’ve been here. I went with a kind man named Julian who works for Abba’s Pride, and we delivered food to a few daycares out in the townships. These villages are so different than anything we’re used to in the States. Poverty takes grip of communities like a disease, and violence follows. It’s a vicious, tragic cycle. As we drove along, we passed people selling fish and fruits and vegetables on the side of the road, and we drove by houses made of thin scrap metal. We passed an internet cafe inside of a shipping crate, and a KFC in a tiny brick building in the center of a township. Julian and I talked about the state of the country and the effects of poverty.
The important thing to realize about poverty is that it’s much more than just a lack of material goods. Poverty is an emotional and psychological position of despair and lacking, and a feeling of helplessness and unworthiness. Short-term missions come to places like this often, and sometimes they give the locals clothes or money or food, or they paint a playground or build a well, and they don’t have the locals help any. When outsiders come in and help a community, especially if they weren’t asked for help, a lot of times they just hurt the locals more because the outsider confirms the idea that someone in poverty can’tdo it on their own after all. The feeling of helplessness is confirmed, no matter the good intentions. We spent time studying this dilemma and watching videos on the book When Helping Hurts that covers this topic.
With that in mind, Abba’s Pride works hard to equip pastors and teachers to lead their communities better themselves in the long run. Lonnie, with his wife Debbie, started Abba’s Pride, and they both work full time for the organization. Their daughter Becca and her husband Josiah are also full-time workers, along with a few others. The ministry takes great care to help townships alongside locals, making sure that the locals have skin in the game in big projects, and making sure that locals can take over projects and do it on their own after a while. I feel really blessed to be part of such an awesome ministry.
Lonnie and I drove out to visit Pastor George in a township called Winterveld. On the Pastor’s family land, we spent time with locals and helped work on a project: putting a high quality water well and tank in place for irrigation of the Pastor’s upcoming farm. Right now, the family land is just huge empty land, but Pastor George has 11 families involved in starting a community farm, with each family taking care of their own section. The land has been in the family since 1982 or so, and some of Pastor George’s aunts and uncles live there now. I spent a lot of time with one family member, named Sully, and we talked for awhile and then went on a walk with his goats.A few generations ago, George’s family had a witchdoctor come to their land, and he and the family built an altar to the devil there. There’s a lot of ancestral worship in South Africa, so at the altar they buried bones and teeth of their ancestors, and the witchdoctor planted a single rose atop the altar. He told the family that every week the rose would need to have a blood sacrifice to stay alive, a sacrifice from a goat, or else evil would come on the family. So they would make a sacrifice weekly, and George told me that the first week his family didn’t do this, one family member actually died. So the land had been cursed for a long time, but Pastor George was the first in his family to become a Christian, and other family members followed suit. Last week, Pastor George called his family together and they decided that the altar must come down. So they prayed and prayed and then dug up and destroyed the altar and all the bones with it. They prayed over the land more afterwards, and he told me that at first he and his family were scared something bad might happen. But nothing happened, and his confidence in the Lord grew. Pastor George told me, “Now, we believe that this family is free, and free forever, even the generations to come.”
It was really awesome to go out and see God working here in such tangible ways. I’m really thankful for Pastor George and his story, and he kindly let me film him telling the story. It’s really cool to be a part of something like this that we know will bring the Lord lots of praise, and I’m really excited to put that project together and share more of what the Lord is doing.
1 John 3:16-18 says;
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
This is a really incredible verse, and I’ve been praying that I would keep a selfless, serving attitude, knowing that Christ first laid down his life for me. Here I’m truly getting the opportunity to love with actions, and I’m able to speak truth into people’s lives and share stories through photography. I think all of us get a little too comfortable just loving with words and not actions.
Tomorrow, I’m headed to a village to stay with a pastor, Pastor Silas, for two weeks straight. I’m really stoked to just do life with him, and be totally immersed in a township like that. I’m sure I’ll have stories to tell and pictures to share when I get back to my host home!
So until then, live loved and love well my friends.