Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “generosity”

Give Hope with Izandla Zethemba Fun Days

This Christmas, don’t just give another box of chocolates; instead purchase a Give Hope card and enable a child to attend a fun day… Here’s more about Izandla Zethemba and why these days out are the real gift.

Enjoying the thrills of chilly waves at an Izandla Zethemba beach day

Enjoying the thrills of chilly waves at an Izandla Zethemba beach day

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Cape Town and a group of children are ready for a day at the beach. Flip flops, hats and swimming costumes are on; towels and spare clothes are packed. The anticipation of sunshine and ice cream is visible on almost every single one of the 60 faces as the big bus pulls into the Muizenberg beach parking lot.

Most children love a day at the beach but this day is made all the more special by the reality that, for many of these children, days like this don’t come around all too often. For some, this will be their first trip to the beach, for others it will be a rare chance to forget the challenges of home and enjoy a moment of carefree childhood – jumping in waves, building sandcastles and eating hot dogs.

A sand castle building competition under way

A sand castle building competition under way

These children are all a part of Izandla Zethemba (IZ), a community-driven HIV/Aids programme based in Thambo Village, Gugulethu, which provides care to families affected by the pandemic. This care includes weekly support groups for both adults and children, counselling sessions, home visits, and nutritional support. The children’s support groups also go on recreational outings once every six to eight weeks.

These fun days are a highlight on the calendar for both the 120 younger children, who form the aged 5-11 group, and the 40 teens, who are in the aged 12-18 group. Past outings have included trips to the aquarium, the snake park, the ice rink, up the Table Mountain cable car, and, of course, the beach!

A trip to the petting zoo

A trip to the petting zoo

“These days are great for them to explore their country and take a break from the hardships at home,” says Xolile Makutoana, the teens support group coordinator. “After a fun day, when we do a home visit. the parents tell us how much they appreciate it and that the children keep talking about it. For some of them, the next time they go outside [the community] will be the next fun day.”

“Some of the children are HIV positive or a family member is positive,” explains Lucy Joseph, who oversees the younger children. “And some of their parents have died and they’re now living with grannies, aunts or siblings. When we go on the home visits, we asses their living situation to find out who is employed, how many people are staying in the house, how well they’re being taken care of and if there’s enough food.”

Learning how to skate on ice with the help of friends

Learning how to skate on ice with the help of friends

In cases where it’s needed, IZ will provide stationary, school uniforms and monthly food parcels. For the teens, much of a week the week is focused on discussing life skills topics. The staff also build close a relationship with the clinic to ensure that those on medication are taking their medicine correctly.

“Some of the environments where the children are living is not healthy,” says Lucy. “The fun days give relief to the caregivers and the children always come back happy and with lots of stories. For some of the kids they don’t have outings with their family so it gives them something to experience outside of their community.”

“I enjoyed everything about the outing… It was good to bond with my sisters, to go out and be just our selves,” says Nokuthula, 15.

“When we go out we forget our problems and worries that we have back home,” says Abongile, 17. “Everyone is treated equal and special. You feel you belong to a loving family.”

For more on how you can get involved with Izandla Zethemba, email us. Read further for info on how you can support through Give Hope…

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Show loveShow Love This Christmas: Enable a child to attend a fun day

This festive season you can enable a child to attend a fun-filled day outing. How? Purchase an Izandla Zethemba Give Hope card for R50. There are also other cards available which all support Common Good initiatives. Click here for more info. On sale at Common Good Involvement Desks (Sundays) and at the Common Ground café.

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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.
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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

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?”

What Is Urban Gleaning?

Caroline Powell unpacks how we can use biblical principles to give in a way that dignifies and uplifts those we’re trying to help.

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19: 9-10

Based on God’s generosity laws in the Old Testament, Urban Gleaning is a modern day model for ensuring that when Christians are involved in the giving and receiving of time, things, skills or money, which is still necessary in a world of inequalities, dignity is upheld to the highest standard.

While these laws were given to people living in a rural setting, thousands of years ago, the principles that they teach us are applicable to every Christian, everywhere, today.

God has given each of us, no matter what part of the city we live and worship in, a unique and precious harvest from which to give. Looking at it from that perspective, we should embrace God’s laws not to just “do charity” but to enter into a lifestyle of generosity and pursuing equality for the benefit of the whole of society.

Being a Boaz: Following God’s generosity laws with God’s heart

“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men: ‘Even if she gathers amongst the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.’” – Ruth 2:15-16

In the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, we are provided with a “gleaning tutorial” – the example of someone who went beyond just following God’s laws, but applied the heart of God by honouring his responsibility as family and neighbour, and ensuring the safety and dignity of Ruth, the gleaner.

As the church, we are called to see the world as our neighbour, to welcome everyone in as family, and to extend ourselves beyond simple charitable giving. We are also called to be like Boaz –someone who makes sure that vulnerable people are not shamed, embarrassed or harmed when the Church seeks to support and help them.

So what next?

It may be helpful to ask yourself some of these questions as you enter into a lifestyle of generosity, and dignified giving and receiving:

• What is the harvest of my life – the skills, time, relationships, money, stuff that I have to leave aside for the poor, the vulnerable, the widow and orphan?

• Do I have something other than “material wealth” to share, that I may have overlooked?

• What happens in my heart when I’m challenged not to “shake the olive tree a second time” (Deuteronomy 24:20)? Why do I sometimes want to hold onto things that I do not need, or find it so hard to give away the things I love?

• What is happening in my city, or even church, that may be causing vulnerable people harm or shame while trying to help them? How can I do things differently and speak up for change?

• How can we as the church help each other to see God’s laws being followed with God’s heart? How can we move beyond charity to relational giving and receiving?

Ways To Get Involved

Here are some practical things you can do:

• Donate items: Bring excellent quality goods to The Warehouse from 09h30-16h30. Click here for some guidelines.

• Help sort and prepare donations at The Warehouse during the week (09h30-16h30). Please telephone ahead of time if interested.

• Engage with Justice Saturdays: Come to The Warehouse the first Saturday of each month from 09h00-12h00 and get involved with a variety of fun activities including worship, prayer, bible studies, teachings and acts of service. Email The Warehouse for more info.

–          Caroline oversees Church Mobilisation and Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town that exists to serve the local church in its response to poverty, division and injustice.

For other ways  you can give of your time, treasure and talents, contact us.

P.S. Other great reads on this topic: “How I’ve Learnt To Give” by Tim Hoffman and “Is It More Blessed To Give?”

A Guide to Clearing Life’s Clutter

If your life is so full of “to do” lists and stuff that you’re battling to find God in among it all then maybe it’s time for an early spring clean, writes Richard Lundie.

First up, a confession. If you were hoping for a step-by-step guide on how to live simpler, this isn’t it. But it will hopefully point you to the ultimate life coach: Jesus. Jesus said some radical things about how we should live in the Bible. Often so radical that we tend to skip these sections so we don’t have to feel too uncomfortable. I have this experience when I read Jesus’ teachings on material possessions.  In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

A little uncomfortable.  A little hard to contemplate.  A little awkward when I consider how much stuff I have.  And even more awkward when I consider how much more stuff I want.

We run, chase and pursue things that we believe will bring satisfaction, but rarely do.  We then cling to these things, these inanimate objects that have no ultimate significance in our lives. How much of our joy is consumed by worry over these things?  How much of our fears are based on the loss of these items?

These ‘things’ are not bad, just as wealth and physical comfort are not bad, but when we want something out of them – some meaning, fulfillment or identity – that it is impossible for them to give, that’s when they can become bad for us.

As a family, we’ve had to make some tough decisions around how we’re going to live simpler and steward our finances for God’s glory. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was struggling to finish his studies.  He was in his final year of Bible college but having grown up in an under-resourced community didn’t have money to pay the final semester. By cutting back on other things and creating margin financially, my wife and I were able to invest in his education so that he didn’t have to leave college.  It wasn’t easy but by choosing to live more simply we were able to bless not only him but the future of his family as well.

A few years ago, we also decided to unplug our TV so that we would have more time for each other and more money to spend on things that really mattered.  I think back to how I would drop everything to make sure I watched the next episode of my favourite programme.  I don’t miss that.  Our evenings are simpler now.  I read to my kids every night. I enjoy conversation with my wife, and there is no rush to wrap things up or have serious conversations during ad breaks.  I enjoy my simple evenings.

But it’s difficult. I have to keep reminding myself that who I am is not dependent on my material possessions.  Life is not about keeping up with what “The Jones’” have.  How much of my hard work is steered towards impressing others?  Will I give them the power to determine how I live my life? Or will I realise that all this striving and chasing is for a temporary comfort and satisfaction that doesn’t lead to contentment?

I think part of the problem is that we trust the voice of culture a bit too much. Billboards, the Internet and TV are constantly telling us that we need more – more clothes, more gadgets, more stuff. With all this ‘noise’, we can lose our ability to hear the still small voice of the Spirit. God may want us to get involved with a particular initiative, to build a relationship with someone, or to contribute to something that will help the city to flourish… But we need to take the time to listen to him.

A strange thing happens as we start to simplify our schedule to make more time for others, and as we give more freely of our finances and things to bless others. Our hearts change and we begin to desire God more than we desire anything else. With this comes a realisation that there is nothing simpler and yet more powerful than relationship – with God and with others.

Perhaps what our country needs is not more stuff but more people willing to give of their finances, time and talents to love their neighbours. So let’s begin clearing the clutter in our lives, not out of guilt but out of hearts so moved by gratitude for all that God has graciously given us that we can’t help but live generously in return.

– Richard is the Initiative Programme Manager at Common Good and serves on the Common Ground Church Wynberg leadership team.

P.S. For more on living simpler, read The Not So Simple Life and our June newsletter.

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