Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cape Town Contrasts

In his book The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., cites a speech by Jimmy Carter in which the former president labeled the growing gap between the rich and the poor as the greatest problem of our time. Stearns then recalls a visit to Cape Town (which included a visit to Living Hope’s ministries) that gave him new perspective on Carter’s statement. He writes:

We also built in a couple of days to do some sightseeing – but found it difficult to enjoy it. Cape Town is one of the few places in the world where the worst imagined poverty and the most opulent wealth live together, sometimes just fifty yards apart. In the shadows of the luxury homes, high-rise hotels, wineries and upscale shopping malls lie acre upon acre of rundown shantytowns reeling with hunger, poverty, crime, disease, and despair, and populated by hundreds of thousands of broken-down human beings. … For me it was a microcosm of the “chasm” President Carter had described. How can the rich and the middle class live like this, I wondered, forced to see the stark contrast between themselves and the desperately poor every single day?
They do exactly what you and I do. They ignore them. The only difference is that it is easier for us to ignore the world’s poor because they are “over there.”

Stearns’ take on the rich-poor gap in Cape Town is spot-on, as are numerous other observations he makes as he wrestles with the question, “What does God expect of us?” when it comes to dealing with the poor. Stearns’ organization, World Vision, is doing heroic humanitarian work around the globe. For further insight, I highly recommend his book, royalties from which are benefitting World Vision’s work with children in need. To get involved with World Vision, check out And for a further look at some of Cape Town's contrasts, see the images below.

Haves vs. Have-Nots, Part 1


Haves vs. Have-Nots, Part 2

Haves vs. Have-Nots, Part 3

Haves vs. Have-Nots, Part 4

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life-Changing Message

Following up on my most recent post, I’m here to report the Spirit continues to move in Red Hill. Last week, six boys gave their hearts to the Lord; on Monday, three more followed. Not that this is a scorekeeping exercise, but it’s exciting to realize that in the past month 12 kids have come to know Christ as their Savior.

Some who read this might wonder, “What’s the big deal? Jesus died for our sins, so we’re all going to heaven, right?” But following Christ requires a personal commitment. The Bible says until a person takes that step and receives Him into their heart by faith, they are an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21).

Some skeptics accuse believers of pushing their faith on others, claiming they aren’t being respectful to those who believe differently. But as recorded in John’s eyewitness account, Jesus said He’s the only way to God: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John14:6).

It's possible to respect others while not agreeing with their beliefs. For Christians to say a contrary system is equally valid would not only defy what their leader taught (and thus be hypocritical), it would be cruel if what Jesus said is really true. His followers should be compelled to share God’s message of salvation, in both word and deed. To remain silent and let friends, neighbors and relatives die and spend eternity separated from God is tragic.

That's why the first point in Living Hope's mission statement is “to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a life-changing way and to encourage people to follow Him.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hearts on Fire

My friend Mzo keeps saying 2010 is the year for spiritual revival in Red Hill. I’m thinking he’s right, and I’m thinking it’s starting in the hearts of the community’s children and teenagers. First we saw three young girls commit their lives to Jesus last month. Then, this past Thursday, we had six boys in the 11-12 age group pray to ask Christ into their lives.

These boys all stepped forward and said they wanted “to stop swearing and fighting” and were ready to live the life that God desires for each of them. Several girls also came forward and asked for prayer with various issues in their lives. The fact that these kids recognize their failures and struggles is evidence God’s Spirit is at work in their hearts.

Living Hope believes communities are transformed when individual hearts are transformed. It appears that this process is well underway in Red Hill.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Words of Encouragement

The Living Hope afternoon children’s clubs were asked to decorate papers that would be made into placemats and given to donors as a thank-you for their support. Pictured here are few from Red Hill that touched my heart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Proactive Performance

Red Hill’s fundraising concert on Friday night generated nearly R3,500 (about $450 USD), enough for transport to keep 30-plus kids in school for another week (see “Screeching Halt” post below).

Twenty-nine children and teenagers sang and danced at the Living Hope Community Centre Chapel. The performance was warmly received and the kids clearly thrived on having an audience. The coolest thing was that it gave these young people the opportunity to display their talents and help fix a problem that affects their community.

As my friend and colleague Mzo Bayeni told the audience, these children have shown that they don’t need to raise their fists in protest (as is too often the case in this country), but instead get on their knees, pray, and get involved when God shows them what to do.

The school district hopes to have a permanent solution to the transportation shortage this week.

Fundraising Fun

Monday, February 8, 2010

Manic Monday

The excitement of Super Bowl XLIV was a fitting start to my Monday this week. It started at the home of Mike and Pam Talley, Living Hope’s volunteer coordinators, who had invited our group of Americans to watch the big game at their flat. The only catch: To see it live, we had to wait til 1:30 a.m., seven hours ahead of the East Coast start time in Miami.

Since it was a close contest until late in the fourth quarter, most of us stayed til the end. By the time I got home, it was 5:30 and I had time for a quick one-hour nap, then I was on the go again. Due to the lack of schoolbus transportation at Red Hill (see below), I had volunteered to help drive kids to school this week. My plan was to be there at 7:00, drop the kids off at 7:45 and be back in bed by 8:00 to grab another few hours of sleep.

As often happens here, there were some delays, and it wasn’t until 7:30 that I left Red Hill for the 20-minute drive back to town, with girls packed into my tiny car. About a mile from the school, we hit rush-hour traffic and were soon sitting in a bumper-to-bumper standstill. Still, it was no big deal, or as a South African would say, not a train smash, At least not yet.

But then, as we were inching along, I heard a commotion in the back seat and two high school girls crying out, “Roll the windows down, roll the windows down.” Pointing at the 4th-grader sitting with them, they said, “The baby has vomited.” Indeed, the youngest of the group had gotten sick and thrown up all over her school uniform. In my exhausted state, my only thought was, “Be patient and this will soon be over.”

But when we arrived at the school, they all got out except the sick one. I had assumed that her teacher would help her clean up, then send her to lie down in a lounge somewhere. But the girl simply sat and stared back at me with a blank expression while one of her mates said flatly, “Take this girl home.”

You can’t imagine how my spirits fell when I heard those words. But I knew there was no other option. The poor girl was really sick and all I could do was turn around, drive back to the rural surrounds of Red Hill, and delay my much-needed sleep by another hour.

Never did I imagine, when toe met leather in Miami almost eight hours earlier, what was in store for me on this Super Bowl Monday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Screeching Halt

A big problem has arisen this year with regard to bus transport for Red Hill schoolchildren. Apparently a lot of pre-K kids moved up to kindergarten (or Grade R, as they call it here) and now the bus is overcrowded, leaving more than 30 students with no way to school. Many parents don’t have cars, and even if they do, gas is too expensive for them to make the 20-mile round trip on a regular basis.

The simple, obvious solution would seem to be: Hire another bus. But it’s not that easy. The education department says they have no budget money. They even said these 30-something kids aren’t a priority because they have so many other issues to deal with. Apparently they’re willing to let kids stay home, grow up uneducated, and continue the cycle of helplessness and hopelessness that plagues so many communities in this country.

Living Hope is working with Red Hill parents and community volunteers to keep these kids in school while a permanent solution is sought. Volunteer transport has been used for three weeks and will continue as long as funds and willing drivers are available. Living Hope is also planning a fundraising concert for this Friday evening that will involve the Red Hill children themselves. The event may or may not raise much money, but whatever the outcome, it will get the kids involved in helping their own classmates and their community. I’ll share a report and photos from the concert next weekend.

The Wal-Mart of South Africa

As Wal-Mart is to Southern-Americans, Pick-n-Pay is to South Africans. The stores are everywhere and they offer everything, from groceries to baked goods to clothing to hardware to gardening supplies.

My local Pick-n-Pay is conveniently located five minutes from my home. It’s a familiar and comfortable place. I would estimate I'm there 8 to 10 times a week, just as I am at Wal-Mart back home. Really, the only thing missing is the redneck clientele. (Although, South Africans do have a curious habit of frequenting public places in their bare feet ...)

Pick-n-Pay has become another key component in my cross-cultural experience of life in South Africa.