Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

What Is Urban Gleaning?

Caroline Powell unpacks how we can use biblical principles to give in a way that dignifies and uplifts those we’re trying to help.

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19: 9-10

Based on God’s generosity laws in the Old Testament, Urban Gleaning is a modern day model for ensuring that when Christians are involved in the giving and receiving of time, things, skills or money, which is still necessary in a world of inequalities, dignity is upheld to the highest standard.

While these laws were given to people living in a rural setting, thousands of years ago, the principles that they teach us are applicable to every Christian, everywhere, today.

God has given each of us, no matter what part of the city we live and worship in, a unique and precious harvest from which to give. Looking at it from that perspective, we should embrace God’s laws not to just “do charity” but to enter into a lifestyle of generosity and pursuing equality for the benefit of the whole of society.

Being a Boaz: Following God’s generosity laws with God’s heart

“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men: ‘Even if she gathers amongst the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.’” – Ruth 2:15-16

In the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, we are provided with a “gleaning tutorial” – the example of someone who went beyond just following God’s laws, but applied the heart of God by honouring his responsibility as family and neighbour, and ensuring the safety and dignity of Ruth, the gleaner.

As the church, we are called to see the world as our neighbour, to welcome everyone in as family, and to extend ourselves beyond simple charitable giving. We are also called to be like Boaz –someone who makes sure that vulnerable people are not shamed, embarrassed or harmed when the Church seeks to support and help them.

So what next?

It may be helpful to ask yourself some of these questions as you enter into a lifestyle of generosity, and dignified giving and receiving:

• What is the harvest of my life – the skills, time, relationships, money, stuff that I have to leave aside for the poor, the vulnerable, the widow and orphan?

• Do I have something other than “material wealth” to share, that I may have overlooked?

• What happens in my heart when I’m challenged not to “shake the olive tree a second time” (Deuteronomy 24:20)? Why do I sometimes want to hold onto things that I do not need, or find it so hard to give away the things I love?

• What is happening in my city, or even church, that may be causing vulnerable people harm or shame while trying to help them? How can I do things differently and speak up for change?

• How can we as the church help each other to see God’s laws being followed with God’s heart? How can we move beyond charity to relational giving and receiving?

Ways To Get Involved

Here are some practical things you can do:

• Donate items: Bring excellent quality goods to The Warehouse from 09h30-16h30. Click here for some guidelines.

• Help sort and prepare donations at The Warehouse during the week (09h30-16h30). Please telephone ahead of time if interested.

• Engage with Justice Saturdays: Come to The Warehouse the first Saturday of each month from 09h00-12h00 and get involved with a variety of fun activities including worship, prayer, bible studies, teachings and acts of service. Email The Warehouse for more info.

–          Caroline oversees Church Mobilisation and Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town that exists to serve the local church in its response to poverty, division and injustice.

For other ways  you can give of your time, treasure and talents, contact us.

P.S. Other great reads on this topic: “How I’ve Learnt To Give” by Tim Hoffman and “Is It More Blessed To Give?”

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To Braai Or Not To Braai

How are you celebrating Heritage Day today? Have we lost the essence of what this day was really meant to be about?

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Photo Credit: Blyzz via Compfight cc

For the last couple of years, there’s been a debate raging over how we as South Africans should celebrate Heritage Day.  For many, it’s an opportunity to partake of that widespread South African tradition, the braai, ukhosa, or chisa nyama, but for others this seems like a cop out.  For these South Africans, honouring this public holiday by slapping some meat on the braai is the equivalent to celebrating Christmas by wrapping some tinsel around a tree.  It lacks substance, depth, and meaning.

But how do we as South Africans celebrate a joint ‘Heritage Day’ when our heritage can look so widely different depending on our cultural upbringing? 

Maybe we should start by going back to the roots of this public holiday.  Did you know that today, 24 September, was formerly celebrated as Shaka Day in Kwa-Zulu, in memory of the legendary King Shaka Zulu?

Initially, the proposed Public Holidays Bill presented to the new Parliament of South Africa omitted Shaka Day, but it was later decided to make this day National Heritage Day where all South Africans could celebrate the diversity of cultures, beliefs and traditions that make up our country.  So even from its inception this public holiday was a topic of contention.

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated:

“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

The Heritage Day ‘pot’ was stirred even further though when in 2007, Jan Scannell (or Jan Braai, as he’s come to be known) came up with the idea to create a Heritage Day initiative that would unite all South Africans in a common cultural activity – the act of cooking meat over an open fire.  And ‘Braai Day’ was introduced as a way in which all South Africans could celebrate Heritage Day together.

This idea has grown in popularity to the extent that many people now refer to Heritage Day as Braai Day.  Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu has given his endorsement by becoming the National Braai Day patron.

He was quoted saying, “… what Jan Scannell had in mind with the Braai Day initiative… is nurturing and embracing a common South African culture, which is shared across all races and genders. Not one South African person can tell you that they have never witnessed a braai.  Even in rural areas they light a fire and put their meat on it to cook.” (The Times, 12/09/2008)

This debate is likely to simmer on for years to come, but perhaps it’s not so much about what we do on this day but about how we behave towards our fellow South Africans during the other 364 days of the year.  Are we interested in learning about other cultures?  Asking questions and listening to the stories of how other South Africans celebrate their heritage?  Maybe if we did this, when Heritage Day rolled around we’d have a more diverse group of friends around our braai to celebrate it with.

What do you think?

Literacy Feedback: Amy Learns Spanish

Most of us can recall a favourite book from our childhood that we just couldn’t put down. Sue Taylor, a Literacy Programme manager, shares what happened when one little girl found hers.

Chloe poses proudly with her English/Spanish book

Amy* poses proudly with her English/Spanish book

With great excitement, Amy* leaped out of her chair at the end of Literacy class to go and choose her very first ‘Take Home’ book. The learners were thrilled when they arrived at class to discover that we finally had library books that they could take home to read with their families. And that every time they returned them, they could take out another one. What a treat!

Most of our children in the Literacy Programme have no books at home at all, but thanks to a generous donation we’re now able to provide books for them to take home.

Amy came back with a book that had her intrigued. Every page had a tag at the bottom and when she pulled it down it revealed words she had never seen before. I worried that these new words would confuse her, but she was adamant that this was the book for her. So, we had a look.

She read out the word “hello” and then, when the tag was pulled down, sounded out the word “hola“. And again, once she read “goodbye,” she pulled the tag down to reveal the word “adios“. “What is this?” she asked and I explained that the book was written in both English and Spanish and that she had just read two Spanish words.

Her eyes grew wide and a huge grin spread across her face as I explained that because she was now reading she could even learn another  language.The penny dropped in that little head at that moment as she realised that reading opens doors to anything you want to learn about. in my family we call that a ‘Red Bull’ day – learning had taken wings!

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Literacy Programme either with their time or with a donation. You have helped open up new horizons for the students in the programme.

Muchas gracias, as Amy would say 😉

Keen to find out more? Email us for details on how you can get involved with the Literacy Programme at schools in various areas around Cape Town. 

*Name has been changed

Have you heard of lutling?

Probably not, but if you’re intrigued, read on. Christine Martin van Wyk explains her experience of ‘lutling’ and why she and her husband are going to do it again.

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

lutl·ing [lah-ti-ling]

verb 1. the act of a person or thing that eats food to the value of ZAR10 or less per day with the express purpose of identifying with the 13 million people in South Africa who live below the poverty line. Usage: “Would you like a granola bar?” “A granola bar is R7.50 and I’m lutling. That’s three quarters of my daily allowance.’’

Did you ‘lutl’ last week?

Congratulations are not necessarily in order, for the simple reason that living under the line for three days is not really a triumph. I spent a large proportion of my three days dreaming about my meal at midnight on Wednesday. My hunger pangs mingled with the uncomfortable reality that the 13 million people who live under the line every day of the year, and who I was trying to empathize with, didn’t have that meal to look forward to.

A self-confessed foodie, I am far from bashful in declaring that food brings me a lot of joy. I love everything about it. I love buying food, I love baking wedding cakes. I love putting a meal down on the table and I especially love watching people bond over food. I spend the better part of Sunday planning a weekly menu for my husband and I. Ask my friends, ask my family. Ask my Weigh-less coach. I love food.

To give you a good idea of our Live Under The Line (LUTL) experience, I’m going to be interspersing this post with Tweets  from by husband’s Twitter account during the challenge. Here’s the first one:

“Tonight I ate an ungodly amount of pasta to try make up for the next 3 days. It’s all the fun of carbo loading but without the race. #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

The usual preparation went into lutling this year (third year running): the tears, the denial, the bargaining. The soya mince. And yet God had new things for me to learn.

Small things:

Packets are an unnecessary expense. As my husband and I clocked in an early shop at Checkers, with calculator in hand, we forgot to factor in the price of a plastic shopping bag, never mind the eco-friendly brown paper ones I usually use. We carried our instant noodles, tomatoes and bread in our arms. That was a first.

“Wife and I heading to Checkers for our #lutl shopping. Holding thumbs for some unrealistic specials. Whole chicken for R2.99? Can only hope.” ‏@simonstreep

When you have little, it means a lot. As we packed our boot with the groceries, I worried about the eggs. I mean, I usually give them a second thought, but never before have I actually been concerned for their well-being. But when those six medium non-free range eggs represent three breakfasts for two people, I worried.

Carelessness is a luxury. I cooked some butternut soup in advance and I left it out over night, because the pot was hot. It wasn’t ready for the fridge, and I often do this. But this time of all times, the milk I added (for the creaminess that is normally provided by my unaffordable yogurt) must have soured. My final LUTL dinner was a slice of bread with margarine and some sweet potatoes that a friend spared for me.

“Wife just phoned to say our butternut soup has fermented. But I had already finished a bowl. #fail #supper #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

My husband really does need me. That is all.

“I might need lessons in frying eggs again… #eggfail #breakfast #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

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“I spoke too soon. Tomorrow, my wife shall be on frying duty… #breakfast #fail #lutl” @simonstreep

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“My wife fried my egg this morning, hence why it actually ended up resembling an egg. #breakfast #win #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

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Big things:

Assuming others needs is dangerous. On Mondays, our church meets to pray. In light of LUTL, we had a few representatives from some of our Common Good partner organisations share with us the ways we could partner with them in prayer. I was struck by the common thread in their requests. They need people. They asked us to pray for people – for more volunteers to join their ranks and for existing volunteers who are working under challenging circumstances. An example, they asked us to pray for the teachers at a school where funding for a feeding programme has been lost. These teachers now have to choose seven children from their class of 45 who will receive a meal.

This really struck me.

My assumption has always been that organisations are under-funded, and while they certainly are, the request was for people to join their ranks. People are needed, our TIME is needed.

Moreover, giving financially to these organisations doesn’t exempt us from giving our time to them. Nor does giving our time let us off the hook of giving of our finances to organisations that are in need.

Being in need makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to cold weather. Vulnerable to sin. It’s easy to be ungracious, impatient and downright grumpy when we’re hungry, when we’ve shared our slice of bread with a ‘starving’ spouse. It doesn’t excuse us for rudeness, or excuse genuine malice, but it explains and contextualizes the genuine struggle that a quarter of our country experiences.

When we see faces that look genuinely surly or disgruntled, we can be aware that it may be rooted in genuine vulnerability. Not hunger. Not a headache that cannot be medicated. Vulnerability. And our grace goes a long way for these faces and people.

God gives us more (grace). James 4:6. We are not above new lessons from our Heavenly Father. Having lived under the line twice before, I wondered what I would have to write about. Now I’m struggling to keep quiet. Just as a piece of scripture on different days will speak to us in varied ways, the same experience can yield brand new fruit. Fresh grace and tears for those who experience this struggle everyday of every month.

I’ll be lutling next year. Prepare yourself in advance, @simonstreep.

– Christine is the coordinator for the Common Ground Rondebosch AM congregation and embarked on the LUTL challenge with her husband, musician and writer, Simon van Wyk, who provided a running commentary of the LUTL challenge via his Twitter account.

So how did you find lutling this year?

Video: Live Under The Line

The challenge may be over but the journey has just begun.

After just three days of living under the line, many of us have a new perspective of what it means to live below the poverty line in South Africa. In our Live Under the Line feedback clip, three  Common Grounders share how their hearts have been freshly stirred by this campaign.

If your heart has also been freshly stirred, download our plugin sheet and our September calendar to find out more about the various ways that you can get involved in the restoration of our city.

P.S. For more Live Under the Line feedback stories read these blog posts here.

 

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