Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Warm Up Winter: What You Had To Say

Earlier this month, we asked you to help us Warm Up Winter by giving your good quality clothing to bless thousands of vulnerable people in Cape Town. Here’s what some of you had to say about the experience:

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The Common Ground Church youth from Frequency visited Christine Revell Children’s Home to drop off their Warm Up Winter bags

“We had a good conversation in our small group about where the clothing should go and discussed how we could give in a way that would promote relationship, be responsible and advance the Gospel. We were deciding whether to give to a partner organization or to a lady that one of our group is friendly with who lives in an informal settlement in Diep River (with the intention that she distribute items among the community). In the end, we gave to The Warehouse and the leaders and I made the suggestion that we  go as a group and visit the lady in Diep River at a later date just to build relationship with her.” – Theresa

One small group posed for a quick photo during their Warm Up Winter clothing sort

One small group poses for a quick photo during their Warm Up Winter clothing sort

“We dropped off our bags at U-turn and have decided to help a children’s home I volunteer at by providing each child with a pair of PJ’s to warm them up.  I had to take the bags to U-turn on my own as I was the only one available during work hours, but we’ve arranged to go to the children’s home on a Saturday morning with the whole group.” – Robyn

“One member of our small group went through her wardrobe and put aside many things to give away, and then a couple of days later decided that she had not been rigorous enough and went through her wardrobe again to find even more items to give away!” – Theresa

Manuela from the Constantiaberg AM congregation delivers clothes to Living Grace in Muizenberg

Manuela, from the Constantiaberg AM congregation, delivers clothes to Living Grace in Muizenberg

“We really tried to consider the dignity of the people we were giving to by sorting, folding and ironing the clothes nicely. We also prayed that these clothes would impact the lives of those who wore them and make them feel special.” – Shelley

Maegan and Emily ,from the Rondebosch PM congregation. diligently ironing the clothes before delivery

Maegan and Emily, from the Rondebosch PM congregation. diligently ironing clothes before delivery

“Last year’s campaign started to challenge me to not just give clothes that I didn’t want but also clothes which I was attached to. This year, I was even more challenged to give away some of my new stuff. After letting some of my precious ‘garments’ go, I started to experience a peace and a sense that this was obviously the right thing to do. This was a surprise as I thought that I would experience a sense of loss, or doubt as to whether it was really necessary to give away that suit. I guessed God showed me that if you are prepared to give up that which is close to you for His sake He will respond by working His Spirit in and through you.” – Nico

Getting in some play time during the Frequency clothing drop at Christine Revell Children's Home

Getting in some play time during the Frequency clothing drop at Christine Revell Children’s Home

Do you have any stories from Warm Up Winter?

P.S. How you helped Warm Up Winter (video) and How a traffic light encounter changed my idea of giving

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How a traffic light encounter changed my idea of giving

Just another church clothing drive. That’s what Fuel Team member Caroline Maile thought of Warm Up Winter before one experience changed her mind.

Photo Credit: jenny downing via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jenny downing via Compfight cc

I honestly never really thought much about Warm Up Winter other than that it was a great opportunity to clean out my cupboards. I knew it would help someone somewhere along the line but I didn’t expect to feel the real weight of what we were doing or ever find out whose lives we might be impacting. But my whole perception of the campaign changed drastically this year on the way to drop off my small group’s clothing collection.

It all started with a mix up. My small group had decided to give the clothes we’d gathered and sorted to one organisation, but we got the drop off details confused and so had to change our plan to give to Westlake United Church Trust instead. Initially, I was a bit upset as we’d prayed about it and I’d felt that our original organisation was the one that really needed the clothes. Little did I know that this was all part of God’s plan.

On our way to Westlake to drop off the clothes, we stopped at traffic lights in Claremont and I noticed a guy standing next to our car with the warmest smile. I smiled back at him and then I noticed that he was holding a crutch in his right arm and a sign board in his left.

I never usually read these signs because they usually say the same thing: “dear madam/sir in need of a job and money pls, have 5 kids to feed God bless.” But this guy seemed different so I took a moment to read his sign. It said, “All im asking for is clothes to keep warm and anything else you have to give please, thank you and God bless.”

I laughed out loud at the thought of God’s sense of humour. People don’t usually carry around spare clothes in their car, so this guy was really taking a chance out of pure desperation, but we happened to have a boot full of warm clothes. This was all he was asking for and we had it. We pulled off to the side of the road and I chose a bag for him filled with some smart shirts, jackets, pants, new shoes and warm scarves. As I walked closer to him I noticed he had tears streaming down his cheeks. He was so incredibly grateful for this single bag of clothing.

I took the opportunity to ask him his name and to get to know a little bit more about him. I told him a bit about myself and that these clothes were a blessing from God. I told him that God loved him and was looking after him even though his life might be really tough right now. I encouraged him to not give up hope and to pray to Jesus. The more I spoke, the more he cried.

When I asked him about his limp and his life on the streets, he told me that he’d been using drugs as an escape and that he’d had a stroke as a result which had damaged the whole left-side of his body. He had no use of his left hand and could barely use his left leg. I asked him if he was still using drugs and he told me that he wasn’t because God had warned him that the next time it would be his life. I asked if I could pray for him as I felt a word for him from God on my heart. I prayed for healing, restoration and a real revelation of Christ in his life. Afterwards, he threw his arms around me as best he could and thanked me. I was filled with such joy and my heart overflowed with love and a deep desire to change the world.

It’s crazy how God used us to bless this guy and to give him a sense of hope and dignity. We were also able to remind him that God cares deeply for us and loves us even in the midst of our suffering. This encounter also really changed my perception on giving. I’m now more aware of the opportunities we are given to give and the greater plans that God has for us to bless and be blessed.

So not only was someone’s life warmed by the clothes we were able to give them but my heart was also warmed and changed by this simple act of giving.

Do you have a Warm Up Winter story? We’d love to hear it!

P.S. Other great articles on generosity: How I’ve Learnt To Give and Minding The Gap

Video: How You Helped Warm Up Winter

Earlier this month, we asked you to help us spread the warmth during the cold and rainy Cape Town winter by giving of your good quality clothes and blankets to bless those in need. We called it Warm Up Winter.

Here’s a short video clip to highlight just some of the impact your generosity has had:

Thank you to everyone who supported by dropping off clothes with our WUW partner organisations! Do you have a story from Warm Up Winter? Please email to let us know!

World Refugee Day: Why Should We Care?

Photo Credit: ChadCooperPhotos via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ChadCooperPhotos via Compfight cc

Every year on June 20th, millions around the world celebrate World Refugee Day. Let’s take a moment to consider what this day really means. By Sam Rawson

It seems that every day is an international day for something or other, but when I saw that today was World Refugee Day I just couldn’t carry on with my regular work. If I’m honest, usually when I see that it’s “World Water Day” or “World Health Day” I take all of three seconds to think about it before moving on to the next thing. The reason is that it’s often hard to comprehend the magnitude of what some of these days are calling our attention to. The world water or food crises are difficult to wrap your mind around when you’re not seeing the effects of it in your daily life. So what made today so different?

Well, for starters, I could put names and faces to this “international UN-observed event”. It made me remember the men and women I’ve met over the years whose stories of fleeing war-torn countries have left me feeling shocked and deeply moved.

The courage of the friend who shared how he’d hitchhiked as a teenager on trucks all the way from the DRC only to have all his money stolen from him by a taxi driver in Joburg. The heartbreaking story of a mother who having grown up in a refugee camp was now unable to provide for her children in SA as she waited months for paperwork from the Department of Home Affairs.

These stories and the thousand others like them make me realise that this is a day celebrating many of the people we live and work with. The woman in front of you in the bank queue, for example, or the man who makes your morning cappuccino. We are surrounded by stories of extraordinary courage and bravery.

The statistics tell us that there are over 45 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world, and that in South Africa alone there are over 295 000 refugees and asylum seekers (UNHCR). These numbers can seem overwhelming but behind them are the stories of women, men and children forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

So in honour of World Refugee Day today, let’s take the time to hear some of these stories and let our hearts be moved by compassion to reach out in love to those who’ve had to leave their homes and families due to violence and war.

Here are two stories that have really moved us:

No Place Like Home – Mary’s Story

What Is It Really Like To Be A Foreigner In SA? – Billy’s Story

If you’d like to get involved in helping foreign nationals and refugees in SA, visit NETwork or the Scalabrini Centre.

A Guide to Clearing Life’s Clutter

If your life is so full of “to do” lists and stuff that you’re battling to find God in among it all then maybe it’s time for an early spring clean, writes Richard Lundie.

First up, a confession. If you were hoping for a step-by-step guide on how to live simpler, this isn’t it. But it will hopefully point you to the ultimate life coach: Jesus. Jesus said some radical things about how we should live in the Bible. Often so radical that we tend to skip these sections so we don’t have to feel too uncomfortable. I have this experience when I read Jesus’ teachings on material possessions.  In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

A little uncomfortable.  A little hard to contemplate.  A little awkward when I consider how much stuff I have.  And even more awkward when I consider how much more stuff I want.

We run, chase and pursue things that we believe will bring satisfaction, but rarely do.  We then cling to these things, these inanimate objects that have no ultimate significance in our lives. How much of our joy is consumed by worry over these things?  How much of our fears are based on the loss of these items?

These ‘things’ are not bad, just as wealth and physical comfort are not bad, but when we want something out of them – some meaning, fulfillment or identity – that it is impossible for them to give, that’s when they can become bad for us.

As a family, we’ve had to make some tough decisions around how we’re going to live simpler and steward our finances for God’s glory. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was struggling to finish his studies.  He was in his final year of Bible college but having grown up in an under-resourced community didn’t have money to pay the final semester. By cutting back on other things and creating margin financially, my wife and I were able to invest in his education so that he didn’t have to leave college.  It wasn’t easy but by choosing to live more simply we were able to bless not only him but the future of his family as well.

A few years ago, we also decided to unplug our TV so that we would have more time for each other and more money to spend on things that really mattered.  I think back to how I would drop everything to make sure I watched the next episode of my favourite programme.  I don’t miss that.  Our evenings are simpler now.  I read to my kids every night. I enjoy conversation with my wife, and there is no rush to wrap things up or have serious conversations during ad breaks.  I enjoy my simple evenings.

But it’s difficult. I have to keep reminding myself that who I am is not dependent on my material possessions.  Life is not about keeping up with what “The Jones’” have.  How much of my hard work is steered towards impressing others?  Will I give them the power to determine how I live my life? Or will I realise that all this striving and chasing is for a temporary comfort and satisfaction that doesn’t lead to contentment?

I think part of the problem is that we trust the voice of culture a bit too much. Billboards, the Internet and TV are constantly telling us that we need more – more clothes, more gadgets, more stuff. With all this ‘noise’, we can lose our ability to hear the still small voice of the Spirit. God may want us to get involved with a particular initiative, to build a relationship with someone, or to contribute to something that will help the city to flourish… But we need to take the time to listen to him.

A strange thing happens as we start to simplify our schedule to make more time for others, and as we give more freely of our finances and things to bless others. Our hearts change and we begin to desire God more than we desire anything else. With this comes a realisation that there is nothing simpler and yet more powerful than relationship – with God and with others.

Perhaps what our country needs is not more stuff but more people willing to give of their finances, time and talents to love their neighbours. So let’s begin clearing the clutter in our lives, not out of guilt but out of hearts so moved by gratitude for all that God has graciously given us that we can’t help but live generously in return.

– Richard is the Initiative Programme Manager at Common Good and serves on the Common Ground Church Wynberg leadership team.

P.S. For more on living simpler, read The Not So Simple Life and our June newsletter.

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