Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

The Served Becomes The Servant

As part of the TWD campaign, Grant Edmond decided to trade places for a day with his gardener, Hamilton, by serving him at his home in Langa. Here, he shares his experience of the day. 

Grant and Hamilton

Grant and Hamilton

I was planning on doing my TWD challenge on Human Rights Day but had to re-schedule as Hamilton was working on that day. So on Sunday, 7 April 2013, I went to Hamilton’s place in Langa to complete my TWD challenge. It was incredible. I had no idea what to expect. Would his ‘place’ be a shack, a flat, a house? Would there be electricity, running water, or a stove? Would it be safe!? It turns out he lives in the garden of a woman’s sub-divided property, where she allows people to build a place on her land for rent.

Hamilton’s place has wooden flooring and his walls and roof are made from corrugated iron. He was given this place by its previous owner. There is a cable carrying electricity that goes from the property owner’s house to his. He pays R100pm for the electricity (which powers a single light bulb and one plug point) but is not allowed to plug in a two-plate stove or other specified appliances, as they use too much power. He also pays R250pm as rent for the space of land where his home was built. This is quite a hefty fixed expense for a gardener to bear.

Grant at work in Hamilton's garden

Grant at work in Hamilton’s garden

The actual challenge was a mind-blowing experience. I cooked, cleaned and gardened for Hamilton, and he instructed me as to what he wanted done. Unsurprisingly, tasks that would take Hamilton 15 minutes seemed to take me hours – frustrating for me but providing immense entertainment for him! One of the major things that I noticed was the amount of convenience items we have that are actually higher on the list of ‘wealth items’ than one would expect. We may realise that we are blessed because we have electronic goods, such as cell phones and radios, but we forget other basic essential items like storage containers.

Grant at work in Hamilton's house

Grant at work in Hamilton’s house

Hamilton’s place, consisting in essence of only one room, meant that there was no real space to sit or stand as everything had to be placed on the floor. I bought some containers from the nearby Pick n Pay which allowed him to store his food, clothes, tools and toiletries in a space-effective way.  Although Hamilton was grateful for the actual work I was doing, he seemed much more content with the simple fact that I had come to visit him at his home in Langa. He loves speaking English and we chatted for hours while I worked. Hamilton’s favourite topic, which took up most of the conversation, was the different types of economic systems – an interesting choice of conversation that lead me to question which one of us should be at UCT!

This experience was definitely one of the most enriching things I have done. My preconceptions were challenged, my tentativeness was overcome and I was able to bond with a legend. A legend that understands God’s sovereignty and His grace far deeper than I, and who so freely demonstrates Godly wisdom in His speech. I also feel that God has freshly challenged me as to what I really need and as to what is a mere collection of ‘stuff’. If we were to be blessed materially according to our character, I know for certain that Hamilton and my position in life would be completely reversed.

The street view of the community of Langa, where Hamilton lives

The street view of the community of Langa, where Hamilton lives

“Since I was blessed with this house, it has been a conduit for continued blessing. But that is how life works – we are blessed so that we may go out and bless others and that is what God wants me to do,” Hamilton said at the end of day. I hope that going forward I can cement this experience in my heart and live a life that is truly driven by God’s Word. A life where I not only believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but actually practice this truth daily. A life where I am always concerned for those who God is concerned for – the ‘least of us’ who actually in His Kingdom will be put first.

Jesus thank you for this blood-bought opportunity for me to learn more of your amazing Gospel and thank you Hamilton for playing a huge role in teaching me this.

Grant Edmond

– Grant’s challenge is still open for donations! Click here if you’d like to support him with a financial donation. All funds will go towards Common Good’s education and employment initiatives. 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

What happens when God nudges us to break our own rules? Journalist Angelique Arde shares what happened when she did just this.

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Photo Credit: Ghostly Photography via Compfight cc

In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett say that poverty is “rooted in broken relationships”. The solution, then, to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things in right relationship again.

This sounds to me like beautiful truth, but what does a solution with the death and resurrection of Jesus at the centre look like? Considering the context and uniqueness of every individual, and that no two people’s brokenness is the same, can there be a one-size-fits-all Christian response to poverty?

I think not.

Many Christians are emphatically against giving money to people in material need, as it can be disempowering and entrench a culture of dependency. Others discourage giving food or clothing for similar reasons.  “Teach them how to fish,” say some, sounding sage, but the practical application – the when and how – is complex. For each and every person God sends our way, we need to discern how He wants us to love them. And to love is to honour.

It was late afternoon. I was ensconced in my home office when the doorbell rang. I considered ignoring it, but my visitor was persistent and rang again. And again. Annoyed, I got up from my desk, strode down the passage and flung open the front door. Standing on the pavement at the gate was a thin young man with a pronounced, apologetic stoop.

“Here we go,” I thought, and in that moment made a snap decision that no matter what his question, my answer would a firm “no”.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, madam, but I need R7…”

Cutting him off, I interjected: “NO SORRY,” I said, not a bit sorry, “I’m not giving you money.”

And before I could turn on my heels, he said, ever so gently: “It’s my birthday and I want to buy a Coke.”

Boom!

My heart just about cracked.

I was speechless for I don’t know how long – long enough for me to hear the still small voice. “Speak to him,” God said.

I unlocked the gate at the front door, and walked down to the pedestrian gate. “What’s your name?” I asked him, noticing the rosary around his neck. A conversation ensued and I learnt that he was a refugee from Zimbabwe. He had been in Cape Town for almost a year and hadn’t been able to find work. A woman in the neighbourhood had been helping him but life here was just too tough. With the help of this woman, he was heading home in the morning. Since it was his birthday, he decided to beg for money to buy a Coke, he said.

I have a rule not to give money, yet I had peace about breaking it. “I don’t think I have any money,” I said, humbled, “but I’ll have a look.” As I walked back inside, I remember asking God to give me wisdom. At the time I was living on the whiff of an oil rag, but I had been working through a teaching on the Abrahamic promise and God was challenging me to believe. I found a R20 note in my purse and felt happy about giving it to him.

I handed him the money, and suddenly felt prompted to pray for him. “Would you mind if I prayed for you?” I asked. “You can pray for me,” he said bowing his head and closing his eyes.

Reaching out to him through the bars of the gate, I thanked God for this precious man; for the beautiful image of God I saw in him, for the life God had given him, for the plans God has to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a hope and a future. I asked God to shower him in blessing on his birthday and forever more, to go before him and to deliver him safely home. I can’t remember exactly everything I prayed, because the prayer welled up from inside of me. Christ in me. And I felt the Holy Spirit so tangibly, his love so thick and pure and sweet. Hot tears streamed from my eyes and my friend’s. It was a beautiful moment, like heaven had for a moment embraced earth.

After a while, it was time to say goodbye, but my friend didn’t seem to want to leave and was struggling to look me in the eye. Then he blurted it out: “I lied to you. The money is to buy beer. My friends are waiting for me in the park.”

“Oh?” I said, with even more peace than before. “That’s okay!” I laughed. “I like beer, too. Enjoy it! It’s your birthday.”

Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the whole story was a lie. And maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that he heard the truth and felt the gracious embrace of a loving father. I felt it.  And it was wonderful.

How profoundly marvellous it is to be loved by God, our Father, who draws us with loving kindness; whose kindness brings us to repentance.

I think to have discernment is to discern the heart of God in a situation. It’s not to judge or discriminate whether a person deserves help or mercy or love. As if any of us deserves it! Yet he pours it out on us every day so that we may share it.

So who is TWD going to bless?

Human Rights Day may have come and gone but that doesn’t mean the TWD journey is over.

Having raised over R250 000  for Common Good’s education and employment initiatives, the truly exciting part starts now where we get to bless our city by empowering people with job readiness training, literacy tutoring, small business mentorship, early childhood development, maths coaching and high school tutoring – to name just a few.

The Paradigm Shift graduates strike a pose with their certificates.

The Paradigm Shift graduates strike a pose with their certificates.

Over the next few months, we’re going to be posting stories of how the funds raised from TWD are being used to improve the education and employment situation in Cape Town. To find out more about some of these initiatives now, read and click on the links below:

1. NETwork is a Common Good-birthed initiative that connects the unemployed with employment opportunities and offers job readiness training to prepare people for the working world. NETwork is a hub of opportunity providing people with a resource centre from which they can search for jobs, employment placement services that benefit both employees and employers, as well as offering English courses, computer training, and hospitality/waitering classes. We think it’s a rather special place.

– Read NETwork’s latest newsletter here

Graduates of NETwork's most recent Job Readiness programme

Graduates of NETwork’s most recent Job Readiness programme

2. Through our Literacy Initiatives children at under-resourced schools are given additional support to help them improve their reading and writing. These initiatives include:

  • The Letter Club, in partnership with Kewtown Primary in Athlone
  • Reading support, in partnership with Constantia Primary
  • Bedtime reading, in partnership with Christine Revell Children’s Home

– Click here to read a volunteer’s experience of tutoring at Kewtown Primary

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3. Paradigm Shift is a programme where small business owners are given the opportunity to obtain formal business training, mentorship and discipleship. This programme specifically targets individuals who turn to entrepreneurship as a way out of poverty.

– Click here to read an article about our Paradigm Shift programme

This is just a taste of where some of the TWD funding will be going to support education and employment. Keep visiting for more stories in the coming weeks!

How Can We Discern God’s Will?

A letter from Paul Maughan, leader of the Common Ground Bosch PM leadership team, to introduce our April newsletter.

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I am sitting in my office at UCT.  It is the last day of lectures for the students but as a lecturer I have test papers to set before they return from the Easter break.  An email arrives.  I am asked to introduce the April newsletter for Common Good and my first instinct is to reply with a brief, “I would be very keen to be involved in this but do not have the time at the moment to meet the deadline.”  Thankfully, before pressing “send” on the email, the irony dawns on me.  The April newsletter is asking this simple question: “How can we discern the will of God in the midst of the busyness of daily life?”

My first reaction when that email arrived was not to hear from God; my diary was really what was driving my decision-making.  Rather than ask for discernment, I was prepared to be defeated by the urgent rather than the important. The first step in discernment is making the time to listen to God speak.

Just this last weekend, at the BoschPM weekend away, I had watched Gary Haugen from the International Justice Mission on video.  He spoke from Matthew 14, about Jesus feeding the 5000. The disciples had seen the practicalities of the situation and wanted Jesus to tell everyone to go home.  Jesus on the other hand asked them to trust Him and give Him what they had.

The call is the same to me today.  I am not called to be so overwhelmed by the need around me that I ignore what is going on and neither am I called to respond to every situation.  I am called to trust Jesus to speak and guide me.

Trusting Jesus doesn’t mean that we can get away with a lazy one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to responding to those around us.  The situations we come into contact with are not all going to be the same and so we need to discern what God is asking us to do in that particular situation to help that person best. It may mean giving them something to eat, or it may mean not giving them anything but rather spending a few moments learning more about their life.

One helpful way to discern how to respond to a situation is to ask the advice of people you trust and respect, who are able to offer a sound biblical perspective and an understanding of the social implications of the situation. But this isn’t always possible and there will be times when we will have to trust something God has revealed to us through our past experience or the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit in that moment. As you will see from the stories in this newsletter, God guides us in many different ways, and as long as we are open to listening to him he can use us to respond.

May God use this newsletter to also cause you to pause and reflect on the discernment we all need to act in a way that is in line with God’s will, even when life gets busy.

– Paul is married to Leanne and has a small son, Patrick. He is a full-time lecturer at the University of Cape Town in the Accounting department. 

How God Guides…

Every day we’re called upon to love our neighbour but how do we do this best when every person and situation is so different? Thankfully, God hasn’t left us to figure this out on our own. Here are some examples of how we can discern his will. 

… Through Relationship

“My friendship with Lawrence started when he came into my office one day to ask me why I never got irritated or angry at people. He’d worked for me for 13 years but it took this simple question to open up a door through which I could talk to him about my faith and find out more about his life. I learnt that he lived with eight members of his family in a small shack in Khayelitsha and that he was the only breadwinner. Through getting to know him, I’ve been able to help him in a number of small ways. When he was having financial difficulties I helped him put together a budget. And, recently, when his younger brother was kicked out of school for violence I offered to help him find a rehabilitation centre. I feel comfortable helping Lawrence in this way because I have a relationship with him. There are times where I feel God nudging me to do something for someone that is a once-off act, like buying them a meal, but these are the exceptions as they don’t often lead to long-term fruitfulness. I feel God uses relationship to help me discern wisely.” – Roger Warr is a business owner and a member of the Common Ground Bosch PM congregation.

Read more…

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