From a distance I saw them. Two young women…hardly women…girls, more like it…walking down the street, the one wrapped in a cheap, dirty blanket, the other scarcely covered, her bare legs bruised and scarred with cigarette burn marks. Who are these girls? Where do they come from? They are just two of many who stand at street corners day and night in the area where we live. What made them turn to a life of prostitution, subjecting themselves to being violated night after night by vile men who live duplicitous lives? Is there a parent watching through a window, waiting for the return of the prodigal…or is the parent already overburdened with life, trying to maintain a house filled with too many mouths to feed with little or no income…or is there no parent at all? My heart bled…
There are way too many homeless people all around us. Beggars fight each other at traffic lights as they defend their territory. Men, women, and children unashamedly scratch around in trash bins looking for something to stave off the hunger pains. Many sleep among the graves in the graveyards…some on the sidewalks…others under bridges or bushes. Those who are fortunate enough to find a small job here or there, live in shacks made out of iron and plastic sheeting…shacks that leak when it rains or are flattened when the wind blows. And this, twenty years after apartheid was dismantled! It is not as if there is no money…it is not uncommon to see the latest models of expensive motor vehicles whizzing by. Pricey restaurants are filled to capacity every night. The malls are filled with shoppers…there is money…somewhere.
And it is not that there is no Christian presence here either…many churches are involved in some or other philanthropic endeavour. But usually that is a side line item in the otherwise attraction centred model of church growth. Dirty, unwashed, and unkempt souls are not generally the kind of people the more fortunate enjoy hanging out with. But wait…this sounds all too familiar…just read the four Gospels.
In his book, The Christ of the Indian Road, Stanley Jones relates how he once asked Mahatma Gandhi how to naturalize Christianity into India. Gandhi apparently replied in part: “I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.” Which makes me wonder what he would have said about the Church of Jesus Christ in southern Africa…or, more pointedly, what Jesus might have said were He to address us today. In our behaviour, do we mirror the ecclesiastical elite of 1st Century Palestine…or do we mirror the one who came to serve, not to be served…the one who came to give His life a ransom for many…the one who was accused of being a friend of tax-collectors and sinners? Do I even need to answer that question?
It is true that we simply cannot help everyone…but everyone can help someone. If every person attending a church could be trained to take just one person under their wing…just one…surely we could make quite a dent in the problems we encounter in this society. General Jan Smuts, one time leader of South Africa and friend of Winston Churchill, apparently used to say that if a problem is solvable, it is no longer a problem. The problem of vagrancy, prostitution, and poverty is solvable…if only all our parishioners were trained to make disciples like Jesus made disciples…if only our Christians lived more like Christ.
Growing the Church has a wonderful tool that is simple and yet life-changing…if only we can get it out there. Some Dioceses (especially in the Gauteng area where we have done two trainings and will do another at the end of August – as well as Mpumalanga in September) have responded positively and we have trained a number of folk there. Some of these trainees have embraced the material and have used it to teach many more. But there are still many who have not responded at all. Our introductory trip to the Eastern Cape has yet to show any fruit…
Please pray with us for the removal of all obstacles…this disciple-making material can change the spiritual landscape of southern Africa! I believe that with all my heart…because it is the very same model Jesus used.
Pray for our three day training in the Western Cape this weekend and for a possible training in Arniston next weekend!
On a more personal note, please continue to pray for our support raising efforts. We are still not up to snuff on our SAMS-USA budget. Please pray with us to the Lord of the Harvest, as this is quite troubling.
Please pray for our children and grandchildren.
Hanno and Lauren – Jeremiah (soon to be 6), Beatrix (2), and Constance (just over one month old). Jeremiah has broad-spectrum autism, but is doing well, even at school. Beatrix and Constance were born with a genetic disorder that causes severe hearing impairment. Beatrix has cochlear implants now and seems to be doing very well. Constance must still jump through all the medical hoops to get hers. Please pray for them as a family as they deal with these challenges. But, from what we can see, they are a happy family with ready smiles.
Heyns and Hanna – Amelia (18 months) is the sunshine of their lives and is quite a character, and Baby E (yes!). They will be flying over to visit us mid-August. Pray for a wonderful time of love and fellowship and bonding. We do miss them all so!
Please pray for the ministry of Growing the Church. Our budget was cut in half this year…there is still so much work to be done out there!
Please pray for Louise’s 92-year-old mum…affectionately known as the Queen. She is still struggling with wounds on her shins. We are able to pop over the mountain every now and again to see her for which we are truly grateful.
And lastly, please pray for rain. While we are thankful for the rain and snow we have had, we are all too aware of the alarmingly low water levels in the major dams. We need much more rain and a lot more snow in the catchment areas especially.
Thank you for being there for us…you are all appreciated. May the Lord bless you way beyond your wildest thoughts.