Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “giving”

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.

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

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?”

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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One Size Doesn’t Fit All

What happens when God nudges us to break our own rules? Journalist Angelique Arde shares what happened when she did just this.

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Photo Credit: Ghostly Photography via Compfight cc

In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett say that poverty is “rooted in broken relationships”. The solution, then, to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things in right relationship again.

This sounds to me like beautiful truth, but what does a solution with the death and resurrection of Jesus at the centre look like? Considering the context and uniqueness of every individual, and that no two people’s brokenness is the same, can there be a one-size-fits-all Christian response to poverty?

I think not.

Many Christians are emphatically against giving money to people in material need, as it can be disempowering and entrench a culture of dependency. Others discourage giving food or clothing for similar reasons.  “Teach them how to fish,” say some, sounding sage, but the practical application – the when and how – is complex. For each and every person God sends our way, we need to discern how He wants us to love them. And to love is to honour.

It was late afternoon. I was ensconced in my home office when the doorbell rang. I considered ignoring it, but my visitor was persistent and rang again. And again. Annoyed, I got up from my desk, strode down the passage and flung open the front door. Standing on the pavement at the gate was a thin young man with a pronounced, apologetic stoop.

“Here we go,” I thought, and in that moment made a snap decision that no matter what his question, my answer would a firm “no”.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, madam, but I need R7…”

Cutting him off, I interjected: “NO SORRY,” I said, not a bit sorry, “I’m not giving you money.”

And before I could turn on my heels, he said, ever so gently: “It’s my birthday and I want to buy a Coke.”

Boom!

My heart just about cracked.

I was speechless for I don’t know how long – long enough for me to hear the still small voice. “Speak to him,” God said.

I unlocked the gate at the front door, and walked down to the pedestrian gate. “What’s your name?” I asked him, noticing the rosary around his neck. A conversation ensued and I learnt that he was a refugee from Zimbabwe. He had been in Cape Town for almost a year and hadn’t been able to find work. A woman in the neighbourhood had been helping him but life here was just too tough. With the help of this woman, he was heading home in the morning. Since it was his birthday, he decided to beg for money to buy a Coke, he said.

I have a rule not to give money, yet I had peace about breaking it. “I don’t think I have any money,” I said, humbled, “but I’ll have a look.” As I walked back inside, I remember asking God to give me wisdom. At the time I was living on the whiff of an oil rag, but I had been working through a teaching on the Abrahamic promise and God was challenging me to believe. I found a R20 note in my purse and felt happy about giving it to him.

I handed him the money, and suddenly felt prompted to pray for him. “Would you mind if I prayed for you?” I asked. “You can pray for me,” he said bowing his head and closing his eyes.

Reaching out to him through the bars of the gate, I thanked God for this precious man; for the beautiful image of God I saw in him, for the life God had given him, for the plans God has to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a hope and a future. I asked God to shower him in blessing on his birthday and forever more, to go before him and to deliver him safely home. I can’t remember exactly everything I prayed, because the prayer welled up from inside of me. Christ in me. And I felt the Holy Spirit so tangibly, his love so thick and pure and sweet. Hot tears streamed from my eyes and my friend’s. It was a beautiful moment, like heaven had for a moment embraced earth.

After a while, it was time to say goodbye, but my friend didn’t seem to want to leave and was struggling to look me in the eye. Then he blurted it out: “I lied to you. The money is to buy beer. My friends are waiting for me in the park.”

“Oh?” I said, with even more peace than before. “That’s okay!” I laughed. “I like beer, too. Enjoy it! It’s your birthday.”

Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the whole story was a lie. And maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that he heard the truth and felt the gracious embrace of a loving father. I felt it.  And it was wonderful.

How profoundly marvellous it is to be loved by God, our Father, who draws us with loving kindness; whose kindness brings us to repentance.

I think to have discernment is to discern the heart of God in a situation. It’s not to judge or discriminate whether a person deserves help or mercy or love. As if any of us deserves it! Yet he pours it out on us every day so that we may share it.

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