Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “Common Good”

Beyond The Hunger Pangs

During the Live Under The Line challenge, the Common Ground Church base was buzzing with conversation as staff members traded recipes and shared their experiences. But what about a month later? Here are some post-LUTL staff reflections…

I’m trying to be more generous

156098_10151343760646281_797515950_n-001“After doing LUTL, I’m more aware of how I spend money on a daily basis. It’s incredible how all the little things we buy here and there add up and are often unnecessary luxuries—luxuries that most living in poverty cannot afford to have. I’ve tried to cut back on unnecessary spending and also limit my electricity usage to have more on hand for blessing others. During LUTL, I became quite grumpy and moody when I didn’t have enough to eat for the day. Now when I see someone begging who is quite aggressive or desperate, I understands that it might be just because they haven’t had enough to eat. It’s given me a greater heart of compassion and grace for people living in challenging situations.” – Lindsay Sherring, Common Good fundraising coordinator

I’m thinking, what else?

73017_457583527711_6000657_n-001“This year was my second time doing LUTL, and whilst the first time was about initial exposure and counting the rands and cents, this time was more about the unbelievable reality that 13 million South Africans live on R10 a day for ALL things. It made me realise how easy it is for me to pay R40 or R50 for a simple lunch – when that represents the entire amount one person living below the breadline has to live on for five days. The hard part is the next step. Contracting budgets is one response – but what else? It will be different for everyone, but there must be some kind of response.  But guilt cannot be the driving factor, otherwise our motives will be misplaced. It must start with seeing others the way God does – made in His image, and therefore deserving of dignity.” – Tim Hoffman, Common Good mobilise and equip programme manager

I have more compassion

901939_611366308891932_516021097_o-001“Around the office we chatted that it was almost impossible to live on R10 a day and remain healthy, both mentally and physically. I’m far more aware of people who are living on the street and I have more compassion for them and their situation. Now I take the time to talk to them, to be friendly and engage them in a conversation, rather than just giving them a nod or smile or ignoring them completely. I have tremendous respect for those who struggle on a daily basis to cope with life without adequate resources. I am truly blessed to have what I have and be in the situation I am, but I am also aware that anyone can end up in a desperate situation and that it is often not of their own making but because of life circumstances beyond their control.” – Moira Richards, Common Ground Church hospitality and redemption group coordinator

What about you? Has the Live Under The Line challenge impacted you in anyway?

P.S. Other great post-LUTL reads: “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice” and “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow”

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Why My Family Is Going Hungry

Every mother wants her children to be healthy so why would you choose to feed your family on a daily budget of R10 per person? Julie Williams shares why they’ve decided to take on the LUTL challenge.

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Next week, our family, together with thousands of others in our city, will embark on a three-day challenge to Live Under The Line (LUTL). This means that for three days we will attempt to identify with those living below the poverty line in our country by living on a daily budget of R10 per person per day.

In reality, this exercise is a lot like Bear Grylls attempting to summit Everest and getting dropped off via helicopter 10 metres from the top, then claiming all the glory before getting flown off again to safety.

I’m well aware that for the more than 13 million people in our country for whom living below the poverty line is a daily reality, their R10 has to stretch impossibly further than food (transport, housing, water, electricity, education, clothing, medicine). But still, attempting to convince my boys that life is still worth living without Honey Cheerios in the morning feels like an equally impossible challenge.

So why bother? Why sign up for the impending storm of tears when my little ones discover that juice is not a birthright and that chicken does not grow on (cheap) trees?

Precisely because these are tears that need to be shed. In fact, they are well overdue. It’s an unquestioned principle, that as parents of reasonable means, we do all we can to ensure our kids are protected, well-fed, nurtured and provided for in every way. But I’m beginning to realize that in my attempt to protect my kids from all pain, I run the very real risk of numbing them to others’ pain. Of starving them of empathy as they fill up on their daily snacks.

Beneath all compassion and kindness, is an ability to consider others as you do yourself – to imagine what it must feel like to walk in others’ shoes. How can we learn this except by trying on those shoes from time to time? However uncomfortable they may feel.

These three days won’t end world poverty, but I pray that in our household, they will end a kind of poverty of the soul. That as we go back to living our lives of relative comfort, we will better understand what we have been given, and the immense responsibility that comes with it.

Author’s note: We have a 9-month-old in the house who has flatly refused to embark on the LUTL challenge. She has claimed amnesty by virtue of having to already live under a pile of brothers.

– Julie Williams is a part-time freelance copywriter, mother of three and pastor’s wife. She serves on the Common Ground Church leadership team together with her husband, Terran. 

P.S. Considering doing the LUTL challenge with your family? Download The LUTL Family Guide for helpful tips and advice. We also recommend reading, “Learning to Live on Less”, for one mom’s feedback on  how the challenge impacted her family.

The Life-Changing Impact of TWD

It was Human Rights Day, 21 March 2013, when all across Cape Town thousands of people set out to do something different to make a difference as part of the TWD (That Was Different) challenge. It was grand, epic, crazy – and a whole lot of fun! But how has the money raised from TWD helped change lives for the better? Watch this video to find out.

Keen to start planning your TWD 2014 challenge? Visit www.thatwasdifferent.net for more info to help  you get going.

What does it really mean to live social justice?

Rigby Wallace shares five key pieces of wisdom he’s learnt after years of grappling. (We reckon this is worth printing and sticking on your fridge!)

1. It all begins with encountering the authentic Jesus:

For Jesus it was about being and bringing good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Paul calls the Christ-follower to put off his/her old ‘self’ and put on the ‘new self’, which is our call to become more like the most compassionate and just person in the universe. Col 3:12 makes it clear that putting on compassionate hearts is a way to evidence our relationship with Christ.

The more we follow Christ and become like Him, the more we will have hearts that care for the least, the lost and the lowest in our city.

2. Make your home the first frontier:

The way we pay our domestic workers and gardeners needs to be evaluated. If you can’t pay any more, then reduce the work hours so they can work a bit more somewhere else. This is an area that God is clearly watching over.

James makes the point when he says, “The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you” (James 5:4).

Whenever you get a bonus, give your staff at least the same percentage. Help with school fees and extras wherever you can. Speak to your staff and all those who are economically disadvantaged in any way with great respect. The gospel calls us to guarantee all those we meet the dignity God created them with.

3. Learn the power of team:

Wherever we can operate from community, we will bring more to that moment than we could ever bring as an individual.

That’s why I am so excited about Common Good. This team of dedicated ‘social justice’ champions, stand ready to equip and mobilise us towards the poor and marginalised in our city. I love it that they can cater for the guys wanting to take baby steps to the seasoned campaigners who are ready to slay the giants.

For Sue and I we have seen the wisdom of giving some of our mercy giving towards their efforts, rather that indiscriminate acts of kindness at robots or when our doorbell rings. Whilst we still respond to these requests from time to time, we find it easier to look people in the eye and say ‘Sorry sir/madam, not today, we are helping through our local church in projects where we are helping people we know!’

If we all did this together, we could empower Common Good with some of their big initiatives. Doing it together in team keeps us wise, focused and encouraged.

4. Keep informed:

Practice noticing the challenges facing our city and church as we seek to follow Christ as an opportunity for gospel faithfulness. Their is no virtue in hiding our heads in the sand.

Read the Common Good blog. Sign up for their newsletter and read it! Read Tim Keller’s ‘Ministries of Mercy‘. Listen to the media as they report on the socio-economic challenges facing us in Cape Town specifically.

And don’t be intimidated, because we have Jesus as our heavenly champion ready to give grace and wisdom wherever He is calling us to respond.

5. Embrace an empowering economic philosophy of life:

I learned the following economic wisdom 15 years ago:

a. Earn more: Live in your full income generating potential (Study, develop skills continually)

b. Consume less: This tempers and helps draw a circle around our life-stage monthly budget . Sue and I need to revisit this periodically as our circumstances change.

c. Hoard nothing: This calls us to regularly get rid of stuff that may benefit others. When we buy new clothes we can give away some of our good-quality clothes. We moved house a couple of years ago and were amazed at how much stuff we had been hoarding.

d. Be generous: This includes more than financial generosity. It’s time. It’s hospitality. It’s growing your relational range by opening up your home. We have been doing this over the years.

A highlight for Sue and I is opening our home over most Christmases to displaced people that have made Common Ground their home. Having four or five of these amazing people in our home, seated with our family for a Christmas feast has been special. And listening to their incredible stories has enriched our lives wonderfully.

e. Celebrate life: This is a call to avoid the ascetic trap of doing all the right things but being miserable in the process.

Living social justice will have difficulties and bring serious challenges to our lives, but when we do it from gospel ravished hearts and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going to experience mountains of joy.

And, finally, remember, it all begins with encountering and following Jesus…

– Rigby oversees the leadership team of Common Ground Church in Cape Town, together with his wife, Sue.

What from the above really stuck out to you? Do you have any wisdom you’ve learned you’d like to share with us?

What Does God’s Mission Mean to Me?

We asked three people at different stages in their journey to share their thoughts with us.

Kevin with his wife, Claire, and their daughter, Sierra.

Kevin with his wife, Claire, and their daughter Sierra

Displaying His Infinite Glory

By Kevin Murphy

“It means, chiefly, to prioritize what Christ prioritizes, which is the maximal display of his infinite worth (his glory). We don’t always get it right, but we’re trying to have that as the motivating factor for everything we do. That shapes the way that we interact with our community, as we want them to see the infinite worth of Christ and thereby come to know him. But it also shapes the way we live out our everyday lives, for God is glorified when we steward his creation, and when our hard work and diligence in the market-place is fruitful. But God is especially glorified when we live out his heart for those who are hurting , the broken or on the outskirts of society’s priority list, and make ourselves available to be used by God to heal that which is hurting.

“So we’re trying to treat each person we meet with equal dignity, we’re aiming to teach our children (and ourselves!) the value of human life. That it is not the rich or poor, educated or simple who are to be esteemed but that each person has been made in the likeness of God; and therefore while each and everyone of us is in need of Christ’s gracious disposition towards us, every individual also carries the dignity of being image-bearers of God. Just as the gospel compels us to go-and-tell, so it compels us to go-and-love.”

– Kevin is a pastor at Common Ground Church and leads the leadership team of the InnerCity congregation.

IMG_1234Out of an Overflow of His Goodness

By Nathalie Koenig

“For me, living in the fullness of God’s mission means nothing less than being in the centre of God’s will – and exactly where He allows me to thrive. I remember the day that I started volunteering with Arise, an NGO in Heideveld, and was filled with the joy of knowing that I would get to do a lot of the things that I most loved doing. Being with people, being challenged, telling stories, and helping children get excited about themselves, the world, and all that’s in it. That the hope of Christ would be shared and some of creation’s brokenness restored in the process were simply natural overflows of God’s goodness to me in providing that opportunity. I didn’t go out to evangelise, or do justice, I was just put somewhere by my Father because He loves me, and loves the world. God’s mission is such a beautiful thing, because it’s what every single person on the planet needs to live as He created them to live. We are all participants in and beneficiaries of His mission.”

– Nathalie is a programme coordinator at Common Good and a member of Common Ground Church‘s Wynberg congregation

169134_10150359827155543_5654958_oTo Make Him Known

By Craig Stewart

“As a follower of Jesus, I love, but often struggle to make real in my life, the idea that God wants to make himself known to others through me.  Love and justice are core parts of who God is, and as I seek to make him known I find myself wrestling with how I am representing his character.  How I treat others, the way in which I cooperate with or subvert the systems of this world, the wages I pay, how and how much I consume, the products I sell, and how I love my neighbour in this global world – all either proclaim (with the rest of creation) the reality of a loving and just God who wants to be known, or they don’t!”

“God’s desire to be known as just and loving is sometimes best declared through words, projects or events that I participate in or give my money and time too.  But if I’m not always seeking to have my life reflect the full character of God then I lack integrity and my efforts are simply a clanging gong. I particularly identify with and like this quote by Chris Wright in The Mission of God:”That God’s will to be known precedes and undergirds all of the efforts of God’s people in their mission of making Him known.”

Craig is the director of The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation that exists to serve the church in its response to poverty and injustice

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