Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “Common Ground Church”

3 Leadership Couples on Christmas

What does the festive season mean to you? We asked three couples to share how they’re celebrating.

269691_2000666748313_6566034_nAndre and Sabrina Ntambwe – from Common Ground Church Wynberg

How and where are you spending Christmas this year?

We will celebrate this Christmas in Lusaka, Zambia, with my (Andre’s) mom and other siblings. It’s the first Christmas with my mom and other siblings in many years, so it’s going to be very emotional. We celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts and we invite those without family to join us for lunch because we believe that Christmas is a good opportunity for us to show love to those who desperately need it. Traditionally, I remember as a young boy that my parents would use Christmas as an opportunity for family reunion and reconciliation. Lots of people in my country view Christmas as the opportunity to reconcile with friends or family and show love to those who have no parents.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Whenever we hear the word Christmas what comes to mind is God’s provision, generosity and His unconditional love. Why provision? Because there was no other way for humankind to reconcile with God after the fall if not through the birth of Christ – His life, death and resurrection. Why generosity? Because God gave us Jesus as a free gift that we did not deserve. Why unconditional love? Because we bring nothing to the table but our sins. So for us whenever the word Christmas is mentioned we don’t just see a baby being born, we see God’s generosity and His free gift of salvation.

Do you have anything planned to make this Christmas more meaningful?

Yes! We bought a couple of Give Hope cards from Common Good for our friends in Lusaka. We have also bought gifts for three kids we know who have no parents. We will have lunch with them at my mom’s place and celebrate with them.

Andre and Sabrina serve on the leadership team of Common Ground Church Wynberg. They have two young sons.

George and Bev-001George and Bev Draper – from Common Ground Church Bosch AM

How would you sum up the meaning of Christmas?

The basis on which we approach Christmas is epitomised in Isaiah 9:6 – ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. This helps to explain God as we have experienced him as Spirit, Father and Saviour. While as family we may worship in separate communities and in different ways, as Christ-followers we stand agreed on this truth that Christmas is a time for spiritual affirmation and celebration.

Are there any traditions you follow at Christmas time?

We spend Christmas Eve together as a family because we are all involved in church on Christmas day in our various places of worship. We take time to go around the table taking turns to affirm one another. The Christmas season is also a time of a break for us when we can catch up and spend time with friends. We have in the past, and plan to this year, open our home on Christmas day to others who may not have family to eat and hang out with.

George and Bev serve on the leadership team of Common Ground Church Bosch AM. They are both medical doctors.

945890_10151360259466829_1277224157_nIan and Tammy Teague – from Common Ground Church Bosch PM

What is at the heart of Christmas day for you?

To us, Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift – Jesus coming to the world to save us. This is something we are constantly grateful for but at this time of the year it’s wonderful to celebrate this with our family and community. It’s also a time to reflect on our other blessings like our family and friends, and make an effort to show them how much they mean to us.

How are you planning to spend Christmas this year as newlyweds?

We’ll be spending our first Christmas together in our home in Cape Town and we’ll have Ian’s family staying with us. We love this time of the year and will be doing the usual Christmas activities – putting up our first Christmas tree, baking mince pies and spending time with family and friends. We want to make sure that Christmas becomes a time of reflection, rest and fun in our family.

We’re looking forward to doing some reading together on Christmas Eve. We’ll look at the Scriptures that point towards Jesus’ coming and the story of His arrival. Sometimes we need reminding of how absolutely amazing that night was. We can’t wait for the Christmas morning service at Common Ground Church and our present-opening and Christmas lunch that will follow.

Ian and Tammy serve on the leadership team of Common Ground Bosch PM. They got married earlier this year. 

What does Christmas mean to you? Do you have any ideas of how to make it more meaningful?

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Show loveFind out more about our ‘Show Love This Christmas’ campaign for ideas on how you can make a difference this Christmas.

 

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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”

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.

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?

Designed For Diversity

Andre Ntambwe shares how God placed him in a strange land surrounded by people from a different culture for a far greater purpose than he could have imagined.

In 2002, after I had moved from the DRC to Zambia, I received a prophesy from a man while praying on a rural mountain. He told me that God was going to take me out of the country and put me among people of another colour, and that I should never damage those relationships as they would ultimately be used for His glory.

At the time I didn’t fully understand what this prophesy meant, but now being a part of the leadership team of Common Ground Church Wynberg, a multi-cultural congregation in Cape Town, I can see the fulfilment of this prophesy as God uses me to minister to people of different nationalities and cultures every day. When I meet someone I don’t see their colour, or their culture, or their background. I see a fellow person created in God’s image. This is one thing we all have in common.

My own story reflects just how powerfully God can use friendships with people of a different colour and culture to impact and shape us. One of the friendships that had the deepest impact on me was when I met Steve and Sarah Binos. At the time, I  was really struggling to settle down in Cape Town and find a job that could cover my rent and food.They invited me to their home for lunch and we continued to stay in touch. I remember being struck by how interested they were in my life. I felt I could really share my story with them. Their hospitality and warmth meant more to me than they could ever have known.

It was also Steve and Sarah who first introduced me to the church that is now my spiritual home and community, which was then called Friends First and is now Common Ground Church. I wasn’t familiar with the area and I was surrounded by people who weren’t from my culture but as I walked through the building’s doors for the first time I felt God say, “You are finally where I want you to be.”

But it wasn’t always easy. At first I battled with some of the cultural differences. For example, I remember frequently being asked what I did for a living. This seemed like such an odd question to me as it wasn’t one we ever asked in my culture. I never really knew how to respond. I also felt sometimes that people would talk to me as though I knew nothing, or would make assumptions about the country I was from which I found offensive.

My wife also struggled to understand jokes which didn’t make sense to her. She would get offended by a comment someone would make about her clothes and I would have to explain to her that they were just joking.

What I realised is that it takes time. I joined a small group and became very good friends with a couple, Mickey and Jo Beley. By spending so much time together, I had the freedom to ask them questions or challenge them when I was unhappy about something. We could be completely honest with each other. This helped bridge any misunderstandings caused by our different backgrounds or upbringings.

Now I get so excited when I see the increased diversity in our congregation as I truly believe we can all help each other understand the scriptures better. There is no reason I can’t connect with someone from another culture, because we can all lay claim to a unified culture centred around Christ and not on our own upbringing. After all, Christ didn’t let culture or social status prevent him from befriending and loving people from all walks of life, and neither should we. God didn’t create such diversity for nothing. It’s shaping us on all sides.

Pic-30 – Andre is the founder of NETwork, a non-profit organisation which helps train and connect job-seekers to employment opportunities. He also serves on the leadership team of Common Ground Church Wynberg. He is married to Sabrina and has two young sons.

For a full account of Andre’s story, click here.

P.S. For more on this topic, read How I came to marry my ‘umlungu’ and Love across the colour line

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