Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the category “Inspiration”

4 Inspirational Quotes on Generosity

God has given each of us a harvest of things to give, but often it’s easy to forget that we are blessed to be a blessing. Here are four quotes to help remind and inspire us to be generous today. Which one would you stick on your fridge or car dashboard?

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P.S. For more on generosity, we recommend reading these great articles: “What Is Urban Gleaning?” and “Is It More Blessed To Give?”

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A Friend in Need

Have you ever tried to build a friendship with someone from a different background to your own? In today’s post, Christine Martin Van Wyk shares the story of her friendship with Janvier – and shows why pushing past the difficulties is so worth it. By Christine Martin Van Wyk 

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Meeting Janvier

I met a homeless man online. My job means that I start my day with over 100 emails waiting for me in my inbox. Then the back-and-forth begins. In all these mails, I receive a lot of spam and sign-up’s. God used one sign-up in particular, I believe, to gently shift my perspective, and not so gently grip my heart:

“Hi Christine 
I’m so glad to receive from you a detailed program of DNA course and I 
take this opportunity to confirm my attendance to BOTH sessions (Monday 
28 January and Monday 4 February). If any change occur from you, please
 let me know via e-mail as I do not have a cell phone at moment. I have 
access to the City Libraries Internet for one hour every day from Monday
to Saturday! Concerning if I’m a vegetarian or not, I can say that I’m
not because I eat any kind of food! Once again I thank you so much and
may God bless you abundantly!  C u soon!
 Janvier Ntahomvukiye”

That was it. The simplicity of asking me to email rather than call; the blunt explanation of his gut wrenching situation; the resourcefulness of using a library; and the fact that he wasn’t a vegetarian.

Building a relationship

Over the next three months, Janvier joined my flying squad of back-and-forth emails. I found out that he speaks English, French, Russian, Swahili, Kirundi and a little bit of Spanish. I learnt that he’d been working as a chauffeur before being retrenched, and that he had lived in a shelter until he could no longer afford it. He wrote of how “the street life was not for him”.

That was how I got to know him, and build a relationship with him. I told him about NETwork, and organised to meet him after church services. We met to check in, to have coffee, and for me to give him the train tickets that my small group had sponsored. He was also able to take part in the Job Readiness Programme at NETwork. Through this he was able to renew his driver’s license (also sponsored by some ever-so-loving small group members), find work (currently as a driver for a cab company), and even meet a roommate.

More than just a “charity-case”

The important part of this story is that it is not a success story – it’s a relationship. Janvier is my friend. And it hasn’t been easy. Amid planning my wedding, I was challenged about how I stewarded my finances (flower budgets could have paid room rental). Janvier also had a run-in with the police, and there was a domestic upheaval which saw Janvier back on the streets.

When the impulse to give up becomes strong, I remember the first time I almost gave up on my friend. The time when I noticed that he hadn’t attended church two Sundays in a row. In all honesty, I thought he’d given up on church and given up on God – that the gravity of his situation (he was still sleeping in a park at that stage) had taken over and that he had decided to throw in the towel. I teetered on the edge of feeling like I had been taken advantage of – thinking that maybe once Janvier had realised that I wasn’t going to pay his way out of poverty, he’d moved along.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. After emailing him, he replied days later saying that he’d been beaten and mugged, and had had to be hospitalized. To top it off, he spoke words that thawed my heart. “I was too embarrassed to come to church C,” he wrote. “They also took my shoes. I can’t come to church without shoes,” he added.

There was a genuine necessity to build a friendship with Janvier, in order for me to be able to help him. Simply meeting his material needs wouldn’t have been helpful. When I met him, I thought that money and a steady job were what he needs. But those were things that would have met his foremost needs, but not his innermost needs. What he needs is for someone to walk with him, to hear him, to be his friend. And step in when he needs help, like I would for anyone else who I call my friend.

Christine is a member of Common Ground and is the Rondebosch AM Administrator. To read more posts in our Warm Up Winter blog series click hereFB_profile pic

The State of the South African Mother

For the average South African mother-to-be, access to good quality prenatal healthcare is not a given. By Anneke Jagau

I would like to introduce you to Jenny. When I met her she was sitting in a hospital bed. She was looking down and her hand was stroking the little head that was peeking out of her hospital gown, as she was kangarooing her little daughter. Born too soon, too young and too fragile to survive the danger of the world outside of the safety of the womb on her own. The moment that she felt water dripping down her legs at 26 weeks, she knew that she would be on a different journey to the one she’d previously imagined.

Her daughter had proven to be a little fighter. As soon as she was strong enough she was tied skin-to-skin on her mother’s chest. There, close to her mother, was the safest place to be. Jenny’s warmth kept little Zoe warm, and her love kept little Zoe alive. That was what kept her going. But it was not easy. Back at home where her other three children, whom she had not seen in weeks. There was no money for them to come and visit her in the hospital. She was worried about them – she felt guilty for not being able to be the mother that they needed her to be. Her husband was a truck driver and he was often away, leaving the other children in the care of their neighbor. They had no other option. She felt grateful for the good care she was getting, but she was also lonely and prayed every day that God would make little Zoe grow stronger so that they could go home soon.

Photo Credit: Fabio Trifoni via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Fabio Trifoni via Compfight cc

Every day in South Africa, more than 2700 babies are born – almost two babies born every minute. After most births, mom and baby are healthy and everybody is happy. However, that is not always the case. Jenny’s story is not uncommon in South Africa. According to United Nations estimates, every day in South Africa, 230 mothers are confronted with a story similar to Jenny’s – their baby is born prematurely. 23 of these mothers will see their babies die. Every day, 55 mothers lose their newborn babies; 62 families are confronted with a stillbirth; and in 2010, 250 mothers died while giving birth. These numbers, as well as numbers concerning income and education, make South Africa number 77 on a list of 176 countries in the Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report – a report that came out in the week leading up to Mother’s Day.

Our country is not the worst place to be for a mother, however, not everybody has access to the good quality of care that is available in South Africa. Many mothers don’t have the money to transport themselves to a place where they can get a high standard of care, and many hospitals and clinics are understaffed and insufficiently supplied. This leads to deaths that could have been avoided if the health system was more equally divided and efficiently managed.

After reading these statistics you may be feeling paralyzed. I certainly do feel that way whenever I hear information like this. The numbers are overwhelming and sobering. There are so many families being confronted with tragic losses. But there is hope, as most causes of maternal and neonatal death require fairly simple strategies and interventions to prevent. If the Ministry of Health coordinates these changes – like equal access to emergency care, infection prevention and timely treatment, as well as resuscitation training for everybody who works in a labour ward, the number of deaths could be substantially lowered.

But what can we do? First of all – pray. Pray for our government, and that they can make the right decisions. Pray for the doctors and nurses, that God will give them the strength needed to deal with very challenging circumstances they face on a daily basis. And lastly, pray for the mothers who are pregnant or taking care of their little ones – that they may have access to the kind of care they need so that they can see their child grow up to be healthy and happy. You can also join teams that visit hospitals and spend time with the moms like Jenny. You can knit hats and bring them to a labour wards, and your handiwork will keep the babies warm. If you are a breastfeeding mum, you can go to milkmatters.org and learn how your milk can help other moms and their babies. Like any other problem the numbers can be overwhelming, but giving the number a face will enable you to become part of the solution.

Anneke is involved with the Micah Challenge – a movement of passionate, yet ordinary Christians who are standing together to hold the world’s leaders accountable to their promises. Visit http://www.micahchallenge.org.za for more info.

A Light in Winter

By Emily Oppenheimer

As the coldness of winter sets in, I found a place that warms the hearts of the city. I ventured into a place with brightly coloured walls with a door that read “There’s a beautiful mess inside”. I assumed the sign was to let visitors know what to expect when entering these four walls, but I left realizing that sign was meant to be carried over each and every one of us. Life can feel overwhelming, chaotic, and simply messy at times, but God sees beautiful.

This haven is known as Beth Uriel, meaning “House of Light” in Hebrew. Beth Uriel, a residential facility, has become a light and a beacon of hope for the 26 young men between the ages of 18-24 that call it home. Beth Uriel envisions each and every young man being independent, self-suficient, and one step closer to obtaining their dreams.

Photo Credit: Stewart Harris via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Stewart Harris via Flickr cc

Beth Uriel desires to give quality educational opportunities at both the secondary and tertiary levels to each individual in their program. Beth Uriel sees every young person just as that, an individual, with unique talents and skills. No two of God’s creations are the same, and Beth Uriel seeks to give each person the opportunity to discover their own passion and decide on a career they wish to pursue.

Wilson Johnson, a 24-year-old resident at Beth Uriel, is excited to pursue a career in Human Resources. Wilson said he has always been a people-person, but now has the excuse to dress professionally while doing what he loves. Another young man by the name of Sipho, has decided to become a pilot for South African Airways, and Beth Uriel gladly plans to encourage and equip him in his pursuit.

Beth Uriel doesn’t stop at meeting the basic needs of these young men. Instead, they ask how they can help develop their capabilities. How can we help these individuals become the men that God intends them to be? The greatest investment we can make in this life is into the lives of others.

If you are asking yourself how you can cross paths with these young men and help them along their journey? Beth Uriel is looking for tutors to help strengthen and sharpen their skill sets, whether it is in maths, Xhosa, or Afrikaans. Tutoring might seem small and inconsequential, but actually it can be the greatest gift given to another. It is one small gesture can change the direction of a life. It might be only thing needed for Wilson and Sipho to change a dream into a reality.

As a tutor, maybe you will meet Wilson or Sipho. Soon after, you might discover a new friend – somebody to partner and walk with on the road of life. Managing Director, Lindsay Henley, captured this truth as she pointed to a sign above our heads that read, “He who wants to bring about change, has to learn to be changed by those whom he wants to change first.” She said this would be her advice to potential volunteers. We must always listen and lay our assumptions aside when our paths cross with another one of God’s creations.

For more information on Beth Uriel or how to become involved with tutoring or mentoring, please email Info@commongood.org.za.

Three Wishes For A Princess (1 minute)

If you do one thing today, watch this moving clip captured by Richard Bolland from the Common Ground New Hope Street and Shelter Ministry team.

Here’s what this lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, had to say when asked what she would want if she had three wishes…

For more info on how to get involved in the street and shelter ministry, email info@commongood.org.za. You can also check out the Common Ground New Hope Facebook page here!

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