Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Micah Challenge 2012

Have you heard about the Micah Challenge? It’s a great initiative calling for churches from across the country to pledge their support to helping government reach the Millennium Development Goals set to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by 2015.

For those of us who need a little recap, the Millenium Development Goals were established in, you guessed it, 2000. Leaders from 189 nations signed to a set of eight poverty-combatting goals, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals were designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. Success has been made over the last 12 years but with 2015 just around the corner we still have a long way to go.

And sadly, South Africa’s report card for two of the goals in particular, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, is currently looking less than impressive. If our government is to meet these two very important MDGs some drastic measures are going to need to take place and soon.

That’s where Micah Challenge South Africa steps in! Micah Challenge SA is a movement of Christians who are standing together to hold the world’s leaders accountable to these promises, and to pledge support in helping them achieve these goals.

So here’s how you can add your voice to this great campaign:

1. Watch the Micah Challenge video here:

2. Download your Micah Challenge action guide here

3. Print out this A4 “I promise to…” poster, write down how you promise to help, take a photo and post it on the Micah Challenge Facebook page here

Are You A Prayer Warrior?

Andre Ntambwe reflects on the power of prayer.

Why is prayer so important when it comes to responding to poverty and injustice? The answer is simple. In prayer, we align our hearts with God’s heart and we freshly rely on his ability to bring about change, and not our own.

When you think of poverty, what do you see? The images that come to mind are probably mainly physical, the lack of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, right? These all form part of poverty but what we often fail to see is the spiritual dimension which is also at play; the hopelessness, despair and powerlessness that exist.

Chapter 6 of Ephesians makes me believe that prayer is an important weapon we can use when addressing the root of poverty. We need to pray continuously that God will open the spiritual eyes of men and women to see pockets of pain in our city. We also need to pray for those living in poverty that they would begin to see themselves as image-bearers of a loving God.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, but we should never use it as an excuse to not do anything to help those made vulnerable by poverty and injustice. We need to pray for those who see physical suffering and who do nothing about it that they may become true ambassadors of Christ by proclaiming the gospel through practical and loving action.

It is in this balance of seeking God and acting in faith that the true power of prayer is revealed!

– Andre serves on the eldership team of the Common Ground Church Wynberg congregation with his wife Sabrina. He is also the founder of NETwork

(Photography by Sneekk, via Flickr.com)

A Balancing Act: Prayer and Action

When we come face-to-face with injustice, it’s often hard to know what the appropriate response is. Should we lift our eyes in prayer or get our hands dirty helping? Linda Martindale writes that it’s in a balance between the two that God can really use us to bring his Kingdom to earth. 

It was one of those defining moments in my faith journey and life. I was fairly new to Cape Town and excited to be a part of a Christian prayer march through the streets of the city. It was the mid-nineties. Thousands of Christians gathered and we worshipped as we walked down Adderley Street towards the Parade where a service of sorts was to be held. I was at the back of the crowd, and came across a homeless man lying in the street who had clearly just had a fit or seizure of some kind. Thousands of people had literally passed him with their eyes on the sky, singing a worship song about ‘lifting our eyes’ or something of the sort. It was not that nobody had done anything that shocked me the most, but that it seemed as if nobody had seen him. I was shaken up, moved and upset – it became a turning point for me.

I had spent two years of my early young adult life on a music and drama team that had gone around South Africa in ‘90 and ‘91, singing about Jesus and the freedom he brought to all, and doing drama in churches and malls six days out of seven. And praying … a lot! Whilst around me my country was burning. Yes, it was a racially mixed team which was unusual and life changing at the time, and yes, it was not a wasted experience, but it was so removed from the realities of what was going on in South Africa. Children were in prison. Extremists were being … extreme. Violence threatened peaceful negotiations. Believers were segregated. The last throes of apartheid were in full force. And I … was praying and singing, completely unaware of what was going on around me. I look back on those years with some shame and sadness.

On that day of the march, I recognised an uncomfortable truth about my faith journey. I had spent my Christian years to date praying, but with my head in the sand; without being salt and light, or getting my proverbial ‘hands dirty’. I had spent hours interceding, but with no real understanding of what the real issues were in our nation at the time. As I left the march that day and tended to this suffering, vulnerable man on the side of the road, I vowed never to get caught up with my eyes in the clouds again. And as so often happens, I swung too far to the other side – a pendulum wanting to get as far away from its opposite extreme as possible. I threw myself into action with a frenzy that, I suspect, was fuelled by an attempt at compensation for the years I had had my ‘eyes on the clouds.’

I served and fought and acted and started projects and ministries and … burned out, but that is a story for another day. The point is – so averse to the ‘spiritual pie-in-the-sky-ness’ of the Christian marchers that I saw that day, I threw off the awareness of the spiritual dimensions of suffering, injustice, poverty, greed, materialism, power and the status quo. And started battling these ‘kingdom issues’, in a one-dimensional way – hence the burn out, disappointment, anger and despair that followed. In more recent years, I was more deeply exposed to a community who believe that one cannot do one without the other, and who have discipled me in excellent development practice and intentional spiritual engagement, under-girded by a deeper understanding of the Kingdom that Jesus spoke so much about. I am grateful for the awakening to the transforming power of the whole Gospel, and how God invites us to be integral in what he is doing in the world.

Read more…

Photo of the Month: Child-like Prayer

“On a recent assignment out in the rural areas of St. Lucia, KZN, I stopped in at a local school to photograph their awareness of indigenous trees. On arrival at the school it was assembly time and I came across a very heart-warming experience. Around 400 school children were saying their daily prayer, but there was something different about this everyday morning prayer. Each child was praying from their heart and with all their might.

“Recently, I have been reading how we should come to God in prayer as a child and this picture really spoke to me about what that really means. It was not only the words of the prayer but the emotions on the children’s faces: complete faith, belief, trust and focus on who they were praying to. Looking back at this photo, I felt so humbled to pray to God like a child, with all my heart and with all my might!” – Em Gatland

– Em Gatland is a photographer based in Kwa-Zulu Natal. To view more photos from her trip to St. Lucia, click here.

Think you’ve got nothing to give?

You’re wrong! Roger Warr tells us about an encounter that taught him that we’ve always got something to give, even when our pockets are empty.

When I was 16 years old, while preparing to preach at my school, I asked my mom to drop me off at the promenade so I could pray and prepare. I wanted to go and sit down at the rocks but my mother warned me not to as there was a group of street kids smoking dagga. They looked a bit scary so instead I sat on a bench near the road where there were lots of people walking by.

I shut my eyes and made myself comfortable by lying down on the bench to pray. A couple of minutes later I heard a voice above me say, “Hey, bru, do you have a cigarette?” I looked up and saw that it was one of the street kids. He was about my age, wearing scruffy, dirty clothes with messy hair and broken shoes on his feet. I started to freak out. I thought he was going to rob me. I sat up quickly and told him that I didn’t smoke. That I’d changed my ways. He stared at me with a confused look on his face.

With my heart still pounding, I started telling him of how I’d come to believe in Jesus when I was 15. I told him how my life had changed over the last year and why for that reason I didn’t smoke or drink. After I’d finished telling him my story, I came to a point in the conversation when I thought, “OK, now what?”

So I took the next step and asked him if he wanted to know Jesus and, to my surprise, he said yes. So he sat down on the bench next to me and we bowed our heads. I prayed that he would see Jesus, that his sins would be forgiven and that God would come into his life. After I said, “Amen”, he continued praying with his head in his hands. When he finally lifted his head, he looked me in the eyes and said, “I’ve got to stop this. My life has got to change.” We sat there in silence for a few moments and then without another word he got up, smiled at me and left.

I never saw him again but this incident gave me a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. How he can use a young guy sitting on a bench to reach out to someone. I didn’t know what to say or how to respond but by stepping out in faith God was able to use the moment.

I realised that after all the talking there came a time when I needed to pray with him because maybe he’d never spoken to Jesus before. And it was in that moment of prayer that he had an encounter with God and felt convicted to change the way he was living his life. I didn’t have any money or cigarettes or anything material to give him, but I gave him what I did have which was Jesus. And it turned out to be exactly what he needed.

– Roger is a member of Common Ground Church’s Rondebosch PM congregation.

(Photograph by Meghimeg, via Flickr.com)

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