Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the category “Warm Up Winter”

WUW Prayer Pointers

As you gather and deliver your clothing for Warm Up Winter, here are some things to keep praying for…

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That we would freshly see vulnerable people the way that Christ sees them – as image bearers of God. 

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

The clothes people give often reveal how they see vulnerable people. Ask that God reveals any prejudices or wrong thinking you might have about vulnerable people. Pray that we would see all people as image bearers of God and treat others with dignity.

We would more deeply understand what it means to be stewards of our things – not owners. 

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” When we more deeply understand the sacrifice Christ made for us, and when we more fully grasp His deep love for us, it becomes easier to give with gratitude. Ask God to keep deepening your understanding of the sacrifice He made for you. Ask God to give you some new revelation about the stewardship of your life for His glory.

Ask God what role you play in His redemption and restoration plans for vulnerable people in our city. 

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

We want to be the kind of people that are constantly hearing from and responding obediently to God. In the Bible, it is clear that God has a special concern for vulnerable people. Ask God to reveal his heart for vulnerable people in our city. Ask him to show you how to respond, not just once a year, but every day in the way you steward your influence, time, money, relationships, choices and things.

Ask God to give you a fresh revelation of His grace towards you. 

2 Corinthians 8: 1 – 3 says, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.”

The churches of Macedonia gave in response to God’s grace – because they understood and loved the God they served. When you understand grace, circumstances take a back seat. Your giving is not determined by your debt-to-income ratios, financial indexes, leading economic indicators, or tax code. No – your giving is motivated by God’s grace!

Thank you for journeying with us this year! We’d love to hear your thoughts about this year’s Warm Up Winter campaign. Email us photos and reflections to info@commongood.org.za. If you missed any of our WUW blog posts you can read them here. FB_profile pic

 

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

How I’ve Learnt to Give

Sometimes, the simplest way to determine how to give is to ask ourselves how we would like to receive. By Tim Hoffman

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How do I channel my desire to give so that it doesn’t make the receiver feel awkward, or worse, come across as arrogant and belittling? I’m sure many of us are pondering this and similar questions as we take part in Warm Up Winter. Here are some of my reflections based on what I’ve learnt from being on the receiving end.

The importance of relationship

My father is one of the most generous people I know. When I’d go home for university holidays, he’d never let me leave without giving me some cash for fuel for the drive back to campus. Even a decade later, he continues to give to me in so many ways – often unexpectedly and sometimes lavishly.

So does his giving make me feel awkward? No – because he’s my dad! We have a well-established, 35-year-old relationship where no matter what is said or what is done, there is an unspoken and profound basis of understanding regarding our actions. I know that my dad expresses his love through acts of giving. It’s not that he loves me any less than those fathers who do more talking and hugging, but his primary way of showing me his love is through his giving.

But if it wasn’t for the fact that I have a deep personal bond and relationship with my dad, I would probably have felt incredibly awkward about the untold expenses that he’s made on my behalf. The presence of relationship makes a massive difference in the transaction, both in the giving and receiving. Those in relationship can know each other’s needs and respond meaningfully and appropriately, even without ever being explicitly asked for help.

The importance of how a gift is given

A while ago, my wife and I were on the receiving end of an extremely gracious act of generosity. A couple, whom we hadn’t seen in several years, offered to pay a significant debt of ours. They may not have been close friends, but we were comfortable with receiving their generosity because of the way they gave it.

The offer came after a wonderful evening of sharing what God had been doing and was doing in our lives – in other words, relationship building! We casually, and unintentionally, mentioned that we’d recently incurred some debt through life circumstance. The next morning as we were saying good-bye, one of them told me that they’d been struck by something we had said the night before and that they wanted to pay our debt.

We hadn’t asked for help and we hadn’t even specified how much money it was! In fact, I’d mentioned that we’d figured out an affordable payment plan that would allow us to pay it off in the next two years. When I asked him why he wanted to help us, he replied that as they were now free from their own financial debts they’d felt the Holy Spirit prompting them to help us do the same.  Within the next few weeks, we received a check in the mail that covered our debt in full.

I’m still in awe of their generosity. What a blessing! Did it feel awkward? At first, as we weren’t yet the deepest of friends. But does it still feel awkward or make me feel dependent or inferior to them now? No! In many ways it’s improved our friendship, because of the way the giving was done.

They were so humble about it, which in turn humbled us. They didn’t seek recognition. They didn’t proclaim their act of generosity from the mountaintops of Facebook. They wanted to help quietly because they’d felt God prompt them to do so. How we give radically changes when we give out of a revelation of what God has done for us and not out of a sense of guilt.

Generosity is about more than just material giving

Around the same time, we had some other friends who weren’t able to help us financially but who were still extremely generous to us.  Having a lot of experience in personal finance, they graciously made time to give us insight and advice over several phone conversations and emails, even though they were both very busy.

Thanks to them, our budget is now more realistic and better balanced, and this has helped us avoid getting into debt again. Out of love, they gave us something worth just as much as the check in the mail– their time and talents. There are so many different ways to give! Even if we aren’t able to give financially, we can still bless people with our time, talents, and resources.

In what ways has Warm Up Winter challenged you to think about how we give?

Do you have any similar experiences of giving when you’ve been on the receiving end?

How could this experience change how you give?

This blog post is part of our Warm Up Winter blog series. Read our previous WUW posts here

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Minding the Gap

Giving across the socio-economic divide is not always easy. We need to be conscious of the roles that we assume when building relationships with each other, and should aim for interaction based on equality. By Richard Lundie

Photo Credit: ChrisK4u via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ChrisK4u via Compfight cc

I while ago, I was challenged deeply by a story of a Cape Town church that was leading a trip to Madagascar.  In preparation, one of the Malagasy pastors said to the Cape Town pastor, “Please tell your team to remember that when they speak to us, we are not stupid – we just don’t speak English well.” This highlighted to me the predisposition of South Africans to take the role of paternalistic experts who roll into a place to make it all better for “those poor people”.

The Psychologist, Eric Berne, has developed a model to explain the way that humans interact with each other. In examining how people communicate, treat each other and expect to be treated, there are certain patterns that can be anticipated. If you can identify these patterns, then you can find more helpful ways of interacting, and can improve relationships with others.

Berne’s model is based on three “characters” that people assume when interacting with someone else: Parent, Adult and Child.  Depending on who you are relating to, you will assume one of these three roles and will treat the person that you are relating to according to one of the three roles. When in the Adult role, there is an objective view of the situation. You treat other people as they would like to be treated.  As the Child, you lack objectivity, demand things and avoid accountability.  People in the Parent role want to control, talk down to people and, in that context, believe that they know best.

The “role” that we assume when interacting with someone is going to influence how they respond to us. If we treat people like children, they will respond like children. If we treat people like adults, they will respond like adults. Think about your workplace –  if your boss is “talking down to you”, you might respond by being sulky, grumpy or talking behind the boss’ back. This is classic Parent-to-Child interaction. It is not very honouring is it? You don’t want to behave like a child, but in that instance it was the most obvious, natural thing to do because of the way that you were being treated.

Let me give an example in the context of social justice. You meet someone who is in need of food or clothing. Do you treat them with honour, like a responsible adult?  Or do you pat them on the shoulder, give them a smile and perhaps give some sage advice? Would you use the same tone, language and actions with a good friend? Perhaps, unwittingly, our frustrations and experiences of helping people across the socio-economic divide are because we are being the Parent, and therefore creating a Child response. What we want is adult-to-adult interaction in relationships. We want to be treated like adults, and treating others like adults is honouring to them.

So, how do we move towards adult-to-adult interactions with people from a different background and income bracket?

  • Recognise that all people are image bearers of God.
  • You always have something in common with someone else. Find it, and build on it.
  • Listen to people’s stories and don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume people want something from you.
  • You are not their hero.  They are not your pet project.
  • Ask questions – not to fill your head with knowledge, but to build respect.
  • Find or build situations where you can interact adult-to-adult. You might give someone a job for the day. Why not get alongside them and paint with them, garden with them, and so on.

Before you give, stop and think about how you can relate to the person that you are giving to in an adult-to-adult way. If you are not sure how to do this, perhaps inquire about giving through an organisation that gives things in an empowering adult-to-adult way.  Keep looking for ways to interact on an adult-to-adult basis.  It’s the way you would want to be treated, isn’t it?

Richard works for Common Good and serves on the Eldership Team of Common Ground Wynberg. Read more posts in our Warm Up Winter series hereFB_profile pic

Worthy of Dignity

This Warm Up Winter we’re challenged to not just give our cast-offs, but to give our best. By Roger Wood 

Photo Credit: 55Laney69 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 55Laney69 via Compfight cc

I don’t believe that God wants us to live feeling guilty for the material things and the many blessings that He has given us.  His challenge to us in Micah 6: 8  is to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  In order to do this we need to see that everything we have belongs to Him. We therefore hold it in trust to be used for building the Kingdom.

A friend of mine recently told me of how the Lord had been working in her life as well as in her husband’s.  When visiting one of their parents, they noticed someone begging from door to door.  Not wanting to give money, they still felt that the person had a need. Remembering that they had a bag of apples in the car, she suggested to her husband that they give some to him. Parking the car she went into the house and he went to give the apples.  On returning to the house she noticed that he was no longer wearing his jersey.  “What happened to your jersey?”  she inquired. “Well, I felt that the Lord wanted me to give it to the man. He looked so cold,” he replied. “I pleaded with God. I told Him it was my favourite jersey. But He simply replied  – ‘So what?  Are you going to let him stay cold just because it’s your favourite jersey?'”

So often when it comes to giving items for Warm up Winter, we’re willing to give of our surplus or the clothes that no longer fit us, or the items that we don’t want anymore. But sometimes God is going to prompt us to give of our best.  Whether we do or not will depend on how we see the things we possess, and the people to whom we are giving.

So what should we be giving?

In a previous article, I mentioned the people living under the subway in Rondebosh.  The one thing that touched me was the shoes neatly placed together by their make shift bed.  They were placed just as I placed my slippers at the end of every day.  People in need are made in the image of God, and in giving we need to respect that.

Caroline Powell, of The Warehouse says, “Some people think that those who have nothing can do with anything as long as it will keep them warm. But I believe that God’s heart for people is that those who have nothing, actually deserve the very best.”

With Warm Up Winter we are wanting to bless people through the items we give. In order to do this we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Is it clean?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Would I be willing to give this item to my best friend?

What can I do with damaged clothes?

If you can restore the item (by fixing or mending it) so that it does not look tattered and worn, then feel free to give it. But if it is beyond fixing, and is something that you would no longer wear yourself, then rather find a different use for it. We strongly believe that no one (no matter what their situation) deserves to be given something that is damaged and unusable as this erodes dignity.

This blog post is part of our Warm Up Winter blog series. Read our previous WUW posts hereFB_profile pic

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