Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

Thanksgiving at Beth Uriel

“Every year at Beth Uriel is a miracle,” says programme director, Lindsay Henley. And what better way to give thanks for another year of miracles and blessings than with a thanksgiving dinner?

The Beth Uriel family

The Beth Uriel family

Beth Uriel, “House of Light”, is a home with a heart – and dining room table, or tables – bigger than most, which makes their annual thanksgiving dinner a very special event. Why a thanksgiving dinner, you might ask? “Because we have so many things to be thankful for!” explains Lindsay, their programme director.

The brightly painted Beth Uriel house in Woodstock, Cape Town, is home to 26 young men from different, and often very difficult, walks of life. But regardless of the journey that bought them to Beth Uriel’s front door, here they’ll have the opportunity to further their education and pursue a meaningful, independent future with a lot of love and support. So when another year is drawing to an end there are plenty of reasons to give thanks in this home.

“As we circled the room and spoke of what we were thankful for so many things came out: gratitude for family and friends, thanksgiving for second chances, appreciation for support and guidance, and thankfulness for God’s provision,” says Lindsay.

A photo from last year's thanksgiving dinner

A photo from last year’s thanksgiving dinner

“Our ‘basket of loaves and fishes’ is literally filled with nothing at the start of every year, and yet we celebrate so many accomplishments and gifts when it comes to the end of the year,” Lindsay says. “Each gift is a miracle.  Whether it’s money towards school fees, clothing, shoes, bread, gas for our stove, or the gift of time from tutors and other volunteers. Grace comes in so many shapes and sizes at Beth Uriel and thanksgiving is a time to celebrate it!”

Emily and Marcienne at this year's dinner

Guests Emily and Marcienne at this year’s dinner

Here’s what some of the guests who got to enjoy the evening had to say:

“What a privilege to share a delicious thanksgiving meal with the Beth Uriel family. As we each explained what we were grateful for, I felt a real sense of community. A group of individuals each with different reasons for saying thanks pulled together because of one beautiful place!” – Marcienne Koenig, Common Good programme coordinator

“When I signed up to help with tutoring at Beth Uriel to fill an empty evening once a week, I didn’t realise what God was getting me into. Over the past two years, He has been changing my heart through the Beth Uriel boys… I am so grateful that Jesus gave me the courage to step through the doors of Beth Uriel and offer myself to His work there, because through that He has blessed me abundantly.” -Kate Posthumous, Beth Uriel volunteer tutor

A message of inspiration for the year ahead

A message of inspiration for the year ahead

“I thank God for the foundations of Beth Uriel which were laid many years ago, as it is still resulting in strong young men exiting the house when they have completed their stay.” – Blamo Brooks, Common Grounder and Beth Uriel board member

“It was such a wonderful night to celebrate with Beth Uriel and to stop and reflect on the blessings in our life. We were able to give thanks and remind one another just how far we have come through God’s grace and provision. No matter how many trials we currently are facing, we always have something to be thankful for.” – Emily Oppenheimer, Common Grounder

What are you giving thanks for this year?

For more on Beth Uriel, visit their website. Keen to become a volunteer tutor next year? Email us for details.

Advertisements

Let’s Care for Carers this Christmas

Tinsel in shop windows is just one tell tale sign that the festive season is upon us, but what if this year we took the focus off all the sparkly stuff and celebrated the people Jesus would want us to celebrate?

Carers - March '11 007

A carer from Westlake United Church Trust making a home visit to a client

The World makes much of the rich and famous, celebrating success, excess and triviality, but as Christ-followers, we need to ask, “Who would Jesus be hailing as the real heroes?”

Across Cape Town there are thousands of men and women who devote their lives to caring for the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth then by celebrating these unsung heroes who serve those in need in our City so sacrificially every day? 

On Saturday, 23 November, Common Ground Church will host our third annual Care for the Carer event. At the event 150 caregivers will be honoured and treated to inspirational talks, delicious snacks, gifts and entertainment.

Carers and volunteers at last year's event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

Carers and volunteers at last year’s event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

“This one pamper day means more to me than words could ever describe – I now know that I’m loved and cared for, and what I do as a carer is appreciated and noticed. I’m also so deeply moved to know that people from Common Ground Church are thinking of and praying for me,” says Veronica Weiers, a carer who has attended our two previous Care for the Carer events and who will be pampered at this year’s event again.

There are two main ways you can support this event:

1. Team up with your small group and purchase a gift bag for R120.

This will cover the cost for a carer to attend the event. Inside the bag, you’ll find the profile of your carer to help you pray for them, write them an encouraging card, and fill their gift bag with treats to the value of R100.

Your small group should be discussing the Care for the Carer gift bags this week, so why not chat to your small group leader or champ about how you can help get your group involved?

If you are stirred to purchase a separate bag from your small group, speak to your champ and visit the Common Ground Involvement Desk after the service on Sunday. All bags need to be returned to the Common Good involvement desk on Sun, 17 November.

2. You can also sign up to volunteer at the event.

You will need to be available to serve on Saturday, 23 November, from 10h00 to 12h30. You can volunteer as a member of the events team, as a table host, or as a driver (to transport carers to and from the venue).

Sign up at the Common Good Involvement Desk on Sunday, 3 November, or email us.

This is such a great way to serve those who give their lives in service to others.

Have you watched the Care for the Carer video?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Show loveShow Love This Christmas

Care for the Carer is just one way to get involved in our ‘Show Love’ campaign! You can also purchase Give Hope gift cards which will support various Common Good initiatives.

These cards will be on sale at the Common Good Involvement Desk after Sunday meetings or from the Common Ground cafe during the week. For other ideas, pick up our Christmas PlugIn Sheet from the Common Good Involvement Desk. More updates to come!

Early Childhood Development: What’s The Big Deal?

We all know the importance of education but did you know that the success of a child’s education begins before they’re even born? Watch this 4 minute video to find out why those early childhood years are so important and how we can all be part of the solution:

Interested in learning more? Read this article by Bernadette Moffat, delivered at the launch of the Child Institute’s Child Gauge 2013. We also thought the statistics in this Times Live article were pretty eye-opening – 58% of children under the age of nine live below the poverty line!

Have you read any interesting/informative articles on ECD lately? What are your thoughts?

P.S. Email us for more on how you can get involved in addressing this issue through Common Good.

What’s Mine is Not Mine

What should we do with the treasures with which we’ve been blessed? Sindiso Mnisi Weeks shares how she’s grappling to let go in a culture holding on.
4479869088_4d40515a14_o

Psychologists describe how a significant milestone in child development is when the child begins to understand herself as a separate entity from her mother and the rest of the world. What follows shortly thereafter is the realisation that she can possess things. “Mine!” she says, “… mine, mine, Mine, MINE!”

Perhaps one of the most radical – counter-cultural … even, perhaps, counter-evolutionary! – lessons the Gospel calls us to embrace as adults is the lesson that, though we can possess things, what we possess is actually not ours.

How often does the Bible call us to:

“[N]ot lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19-21)

And our hearts should be in God alone.

So, what should we do with those treasures with which we have been so blessed – and for which we might have worked very hard – in this world?

“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3: 11)

Or, in the words of the Old Testament:

“‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. … [T]he land that you hold as a possession … will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.”… “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.'” (Leviticus 25: 23-24, 28, 35)

In this vein it continues.

If the Bible takes such a radical approach to material possessions, why is it so hard to persuade our own hearts of this attitude?

Some would say it’s evolution – the survival of the fittest instinct that has kept us from extinction so far. Some would say it’s our fallen nature – the sinfulness within us that resists all things godly and pursues self-interest at every turn.

Maybe it’s both.

Yet the truth remains that, for most people, the child within who first awoke to the realisation that at least some things could be “mine!” refuses to let go. Very much like Adam and Eve when their eyes were opened to selfishness and greed and they lost their ability to fully trust in God’s provision for them, even as they lost their place in God’s immediate company in Eden.

I can give you the experiential background on why it’s hard for me, personally, to take this radical, Biblical approach to material possessions. I grew up in a family where financial security was rarely experienced. Now, I’m one of few people in my family who has achieved financial security and it’s hard for me not to worry about “having enough”. It’s also easy to tell myself that it’s not just for my sake but also for that of the people who depend on me for support.

Yet, in the moments in which I am able to be entirely honest with myself, I admit to God that what is really at issue is that – despite my ten years of following Him – I remain one “of little faith”.

This is what makes me desperate to possess the things that He has given us all to enjoy in the world and to do so even against the backdrop of deprivation and suffering experienced both near and far. I am pathologically attached to “my hard-earned belongings”. And, because I don’t earnestly trust that I’ll be taken care of if I do let go of them, “my assets” are where my “real, daily functional salvation” lies (to quote Revd. Tim Keller).

More than that, I don’t trust the people to whom the things I would so painfully let go of might be given to use them “well” (whatever that means), which is why it’s often hard to give to those in need.

Just recently, in my quiet time, I returned to the parable of the rich man dining at his table while Lazarus lay at his gate covered in sores that were licked by the rich man’s well-fed dogs (Luke 16: 19-31). The rich man died and went to hell while, when Lazarus died, he went to heaven. And, when the rich man inquired into why this was so, “Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 16: 25) At essence, the cause was not the man’s wealth but what the way in which he used his wealth revealed about his heart. After all, “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2: 17, 26)

When I sat at a restaurant later that week, there was no poor person at the door. Yet, nonetheless, the mothers watching their children die from starvation were briefly revealed to my mind’s eye and I knew it was the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart to say that I am that rich man. And, indeed, according to the “global rich list”, I am.

The only question remaining is whether, when I meet my Maker, He will say “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom … [for] as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”” (Matthew 25: 34, 40) God help my heart to let go of the things I so unwisely hold onto and recognise that the present shall pass like the night while eternity is long …

In the Apostle Paul’s words, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on … those who buy something [should live] as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31)

How are you feeling challenged to be generous?

– Sindiso Mnisi Weeks is a senior researcher at the Centre for Law and Society at UCT. She and her husband, Daniel, were members of the Common Ground Church Rondebosch AM congregation until recently relocating to the USA. 

P.S. Other recommended reads: “Hope In An Age Of Hunger” by Roger Wood and “What Is Urban Gleaning?” by Caroline Powell

Hope In An Age Of Hunger

Are we conforming to a culture of comfort at the expense of those in need in our City? Roger Wood shares what he’s personally grappling with post-Live Under The Line.
3540224082_88ff409153_o

“So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall…” These are the lyrics from the chorus of the song sung by Eva, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.  These words sprang into my mind, as we came to the end of another attempt at Living Under The Line.

At our first attempt three years ago, my wife and I just about managed to keep to the R60 budget but the second year we failed!  This year I’m afraid we modified our target restricting ourselves to a modest breakfast and evening meal only and reflecting on how others cope when they have to manage on this amount daily.  But is it really about surviving the three day target?  If we are thinking this way we’re missing the point.

Prior to Living Under The Line, I had been helping a local NGO evaluate bursary application forms.  One of the requirements was that the applicants must be from a rural area and one of the points to consider was financial need.  Many of the applicants stated that they were living with Grandmother, as their parents had died. In addition there were often a couple of aunts and uncles living in the house as well as the additional siblings.

Grandmother was able to get a state pension of R1260 and child support subsidy for two children. That amounts to a total income of R1860.  If you do the maths, that works out to R10 per person per day.  These stories brought home to me the reality faced daily by so many in our country.

At the same time I had been re-reading the book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”, written by Ron Sider back in 1978. For me, the challenge of Living Under The Line was more of an opportunity to examine our own lifestyle.  I began to recognise that my wife and I have adopted a lifestyle similar to those in our community. We spend our money on: our home, food, clothes, possessions, entertainment, cars and holidays.

We have a greater affinity with the affluent rather than with the downtrodden and the oppressed. We have accepted a middle-class culture and have ignored Jesus’ radical teaching with regards to money and possessions. We have not even chosen to live simply, so that others may simply live.

People with money can always buy food. Hunger affects only the poor and as they usually live a long way from where we live, we are not always aware of their need.  What a tragic picture! Affluent Christian communities amassing wealth while millions of people hover on the edge of starvation.

Ron Sider sums up the first chapter of his book with these words:

“But if the Christ of the Scripture is our Lord, then we will refuse to be squeezed into the mould of our affluent, sinful culture.  In an Age of Hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists.  But nonconformity is painful.  Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth and poverty will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”

What do you think?

-Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good.  He and his wife, Jane, are members of the Common Ground Constantiaberg AM congregation.

P.S. Did you know yesterday was World Food Day? Here are some other interesting reads: “Beyond The Hunger Pangs” and “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice”

Post Navigation