Another World Is Possible.

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This morning while I was checking my e-mail, the news headlines on my AOL homescreen were going through as usual. I normally look at the beginning articles and then scroll to the next one, never really reading in depth. But this morning, something caught my eye. Aaron Toppen, a 19 year old soldier from Mokena, Illinois, was among five U.S. servicemen killed in southern Afghanistan in an apparent friendly-fire air strike during a security operation. I read the news article, and I was able to find his sister on Facebook, in which I was reading some of her posts and saw that just a few days ago, Aaron had messaged her saying, “Just wanted to say I love you guys and I’ll let you know when we get back.” I began to weep uncontrollably as I viewed pictures of him, and his simple humanity hit me in the face. Aaron had just lost his father about 5 months ago, and now his sister and his mother lost their brother and their son. My tears turned to tears of anger as I cried out to God, asking when enough is enough. When will old men stop dreaming up wars for young men to die in. When will there ever be reconciliation, hope, peace.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired. I am tired of fighting, I am tired of my brothers and sisters from everywhere in the world, not just in the American military, that are suffering from the horrors of war. I am tired of hearing about people dying because of war, I am tired of hearing about the tragedies war has caused, and I am tired of the violence that has become a “normal” thing. I am tired of it all. I find myself asking all the time in regards to war, God, where are you?

God is in us. He’s here. He’s now. We hold the key to reconciliation, hope, peace. God isn’t going to fix these problems when He has given us the key to do it. We need to stop dehumanizing people, we need to stop justifying war, we need to stop the hate. If you serve in the American military, you are my brother and sister. If you serve in the Iraqi military, you are my brother and sister. We come from the same walks of life, we are all human beings. And if we’re being honest here, war has taught us to dehumanize. Enough is enough.

Another world is possible. If you’re as tired as I am with war, join me. May we lay at the graves of fallen soldiers all over the world and groan so loudly that government officials ask us what we’re doing. May we have the courage to go to war stricken areas and form relationships with those we’ve been taught to dehumanize. May the cries of our heart reach the ears of our President. We don’t have to settle for the fact that young death is a chance we take when young people sign up for the military. Let us dream up something different together. Let us hold hands as we walk to the front doors of the leaders of our nations to proclaim that another world is possible.

 

“Someday war and poverty will be crazy, and we will wonder how the world allowed such things to exist.” – Shane Claiborne

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Be The Change.

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Many of you who have been following my journey are familiar with this little guy named Kati.  If you’re not familiar with him, or in case you want to hear the story of how he managed to steal my heart one more time, continue reading.

It was a slightly cold September day in Mpophomeni, South Africa.  I arrived at Masibumbane, the place I was volunteering at.  As Nat and I pulled up to the building, this young boy is playing right outside the gates. He looks at me with shock (I’m assuming because of my skin color) and invites me to play with him in Zulu. (which, at this point in my life, I barely understood any Zulu.)  I spent the majority of the morning with this cutie attached to my hip.  I brought him upstairs with me to the children’s section of the place I volunteered at, and he had so much fun playing with the toys and the other kids.  As the day finished up, I told Kati goodbye and that I would see him tomorrow, and he responded with, “Bye, mama!” That last word really struck me.  I remember stopping in my path, looking at Nat a tad bit freaked out, and saying, “Did he just call me his mom?”  Little did I know, that word would soon describe exactly who I wanted to be for this little man.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Kati and I were inseparable.  Everywhere I went in Mpophomeni, he went with me. I didn’t realize how quickly he was stealing my heart until one day I made a trip down the road to grab chips (fries) for lunch.  The chip shop was also a shabine, which is where people consume more alcohol than they probably should.  I’m standing in line waiting for some fries, and this woman, quite drunk, approaches me.  She says, “So I hear you’re Kati’s mother now.” I was confused not knowing who she was, and she could tell. She looked at me and said, “I am his mother.” and drunkenly walked away. I had never felt more angry in my life.  Images of Kati flashed through my head as I thought about the boy who called me his mom because of this woman right here: he didn’t actually have one. I began to ask around the neighborhood about Kati and his home life, and the answers I got fit together like a puzzle piece.

Kati did have a mother, but she was never around.  Sadly, she enjoyed the life of alcoholism more than she enjoyed the life of being with her son.  Kati lived right across the street from Masibumbane in his grandmother’s house, however his grandmother owned a shabine, which explains why people were always in her yard drinking, so his grandmother was always quite drunk as well.  His father lived with Kati and Kati’s grandmother, but was also always drunk.  So if we piece everything together, Kati was dwelling and being raised around people who were almost constantly drunk. There was no normalcy of a stable family for him because he had no idea what that was like.  I was the first woman to have given him the image of love, security, happiness, and hope. He clung to that. He didn’t just become my son.  He became my best buddy.

Kati is one of the most beautiful children I know.  His smile can light up the world on the darkest of days, and that laugh of his could make any bad day a million times brighter.  His 4 year old sense of humor can make adults laugh, and his stubborn ways are more adorable than I can explain.  He’s a caring, spontaneous, adventurous, little guy with a free spirited attitude. He has issues sharing toys, but he’ll be the first one by your side if he sees that you’re upset about something.  He loves to touch faces, and he’s incredibly mischievous at times. He’ll ask for the food off of your plate, but if you tell him no he will walk away and still say thank you. His manners are impeccable, his English is beginning to come together, and he is very scared of dogs.  His gives the best hugs out of anyone I know, and his kisses are still imprinted on my cheek to this day.  As I said goodbye to him on my last day, he didn’t understand why I was crying because he thought I was just going to come back tomorrow. He wiped the tears from my eyes as he said, “Don’t cry, mama. I will see you tomorrow.” The most beautiful moment of my life was that moment; the moment that my 4 year old son and I said goodbye.  Most people would argue with “How could it be beautiful when it was so sad?” and yes, it was so incredibly sad.  But in that sadness, there was so much beauty.  In that sadness, I realized how much Kati had changed my life throughout the past year I got to spend with him.  In the end, Kati was the one holding me after the year I spent holding him.  In the end, he was the one wiping the tears from my eyes after I had wiped countless tears from his.  In the end, I was his mother, and he was my son.

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Kati is currently doing very well. The people and staff at Masibumbane have continued to take care of him upon my request, and I know they would have even if I never would have requested it.  I got the chance to Skype him for the first time a few months ago, and there was no greater feeling in the world then hearing him say “Mama!” as his little confused face was smiling and touching the screen.

I have a few goals for Kati in life:

1.) He is surrounded by people who love him.

2.) He gets a solid education.

3.) I am able to visit him at least once every 2 years.

4.) God willing, I am able to adopt him and live with him in South Africa one day.

Goal number one has been achieved, and now we move on to goal number two, which is where you all come in.  The schools in the townships here in South Africa, specifically Mpophomeni, are schools that cannot offer children with a solid education.  The government gives less money to schools in townships than they do to schools outside the townships.  Our goal as a people who love Kati is to provide him with a great education, which means sending him to a school outside of the township. It costs money to attend the school, to purchase a school uniform, and for bus fare. After months of organizing (and there’s still so much organizing to be done!) the staff of Masibumbane and I have come up with a school and prices.  The school is a school in Howick, which is a neighboring town to Mpophomeni.  It is a government school, but a very good government school at that. 

Tuition: R1200 yearly ($120)

Uniform: R800 ($80)

Bus Fare: about R500 ($50)

In total, that’s about $250 to $300 a year to send Kati to school.

He’s currently 4 years old, so there’s plenty of time to start saving up!  The schools here last only until middle school, and then you have to transfer to a high school.  The high school we would love to send him to is a Christian boarding school at Kwasisabantu Mission, and the tuition there is much more expensive: R12000 ($1,200) a year.  Of course, there’s much more time to raise those funds, but we want to get an early start!

We are keeping a file for Kati at Masibumbane with all of the funds received. To make the transfer easier, all funds will be sent to me where I will also be keeping a separate file for Kati and then making the electronic transfers over to Masibumbane in South Africa once a month. You have the chance to help an amazing kid get the education he deserves. If you’re interested and have any more questions, shoot me a facebook message or send me an e-mail! (abigailcable2012@aol.com) If you feel driven to support Kati, write a check out to “Masibumbane – Kati’s Schooling Fund” and mail it to:

Abigail Cable

1200 Park Road

Harrisonburg, VA 22802

Or give it to one of my family members if you’re in the Johnstown area. You can be sure they will pass it along to me.  We’re in the works of possibly setting up a link so people can donate, which will make the transfers a lot easier.

With that being said, my plans are to return to South Africa next May or June (2015) and remain there until August, volunteering at Masibumbane.  I am very excited about these plans, but I know that I am not capable of doing it on my own. I am asking for support, both prayerfully and financially, as I make these steps to return to a place and people who have captured my heart. For more information on what Masibumbane is doing, visit http://www.masibumbane.org.za/.

To everyone who has been following me on my crazy journey, thank you.  You rock, and you all inspire me to keep going.

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

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I read a news article today by Fox that was deeply troubling.  In fact, my stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Today, while scrolling through my news-feed on Facebook, I came across an article uploaded by Fox titled “Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts inmates on ‘bread and water’ for flag desecration.”  The title thoroughly intrigued me, so I read on.  I won’t type out the whole article, but I will attach the link at the end of my quote for those who are interested in reading the whole thing:

“Controversial Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, says 38 inmates have rebelled against his new policy of putting American flags in jail cells, desecrating the Stars and Stripes and earning them what he calls a diet of bread and water…Arpaio said that any inmate who damages a flag will be eating the so-called nutra-loaf- without utensils- for two weeks…”I run a patriotic jail system,” said Arpaio. “I am somewhat disappointed that 38 inmates recently desecrated the flags, tearing them up and writing on them and throwing them in the toilet.”…The Maricopa County sheriff has made headlines in the past for making prisoners wear pink underwear and questioning President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. A federal judge ruled last year that his office has racially profiled Latinos, a decision the five-term sheriff is appealing. The Arizona Civil Liberties Union said it did not have a comment on Arpaio’s flags-in-cells program or the punishment he’s devised. “This is not a First Amendment situation,” Arpaio said. “When they tamper with the flag, they are tampering with government property.””

In another article that was written about this situation, it said:

“The flags are part of a push for patriotism in county jail cells that includes listening to the “Star-Spangled Banner” every morning and “God Bless America” every night over the intercom system.”

But what was even more disturbing was reading the comments below the article on Facebook:  “They all deserved to by hanged.” “Joe should be our next President!” “Good for Joe! Giving those people what they deserve for disrespecting the greatest nation on Earth.” “We should kill them all!” My heart ached and is still aching as I write this now.

America, what is wrong with us. I’m going to be talking about a few things about this article, but first, let’s talk about the good ole’ American flag. Have we gone so far to the point where we want to hang a flag, A FLAG, in a jail cell? I want to talk about this flag for a minute, because I think as a follower of Jesus Christ it is important to address it.  I understand that there are many patriotic people out there and that’s fine, you can be patriotic if you’d like to be because this is America and we have that freedom. However, I’m about to tell you something important, so listen in. Jesus doesn’t care. Jesus doesn’t care about your flag, about your national anthem, about your fourth of July parades, about your pledge of allegiance. He has no room for that in His Kingdom.  We cannot serve both an empire and Jesus, it doesn’t work like that. You see, being born again, being a follower of Jesus, it radically dissolves national borders. There are none. In other words, no one is illegal. Everyone is your family. If you are waging war on someone in Iraq, you are waging war on your own family, your own blood. So when we hold up this flag and put it above the cross, and when we continue to support the killings of thousands, we are separating ourselves from Christ. It shouldn’t matter who is an American and who isn’t. Shane Claiborne puts it beautifully when he says “Maybe it would have been better if the church had taught politics that EVERYBODY is made in God’s image, no matter what lines are drawn in the sand.” If your church has an American flag in it, hang the Iraqi or Afghan flag beside it to remember everyone suffering from the horrors of war and terrorism.

On January 9, 1945, President Truman spoke after dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He said, “Having found the atomic bomb, we have used it.  We shall continue to use it…It is an awful responsibility which has come to us. We thank God that the atomic bomb has come to us instead of to our enemies and we pray that he may guide us to use it in his ways and for his purposes.”

For some reason, all throughout history Presidents who have waged wars have done them in the name of God. Shane Claiborne writes “These prayers are usually understood to be Christian prayers.  But Christian prayers are made to or in the name of Jesus, who loved, prayed for, and forgave his enemies and who instructed his followers to do likewise.” Waging wars in the name of God, calling people our “enemies”…but to them, aren’t we their enemies? Aren’t we their terrorists? These are important questions to ask ourselves everyday. I cannot begin to stress how important it is to put yourself in the shoes of a man or woman who is on the opposite side of Americans.  When you do that, you might begin to see why he/she is on the opposite side, and this whole following Jesus thing begins to make a lot more sense.

Now referring back to the article, I’m not 100% sure (and either is Joe) on why the inmates were destroying the flag. But from my stand point, I applaud them. I applaud them because they no longer will let a flag rule over them. They no longer will worship a flag or what it stands for. What if maybe, just maybe, (and this is a long stretch but it’s possible) these people got a glimpse of what it truly means to follow Jesus? What if they defied the symbol of “American freedom” because they found a greater freedom in Jesus? What if they left the Roman Empire in their minds (America) and became a citizen of the Kingdom of God, where everyone of all nationalities is welcomed? What if that’s the point they’re making, guys. And what if, as followers of Jesus, we are called to make that same exact point.  And what if maybe, just maybe, we need to stop asking God to just bless America, and start asking God to bless the whole world. One Kingdom, one nation, one people.

“Maybe it’s time for Christians all over the world to lay down the flags of their nations and together raise the banner of God.  The Christian icon is not the Stars and Stripes, but a cross-flag, and it’s emblem is not a donkey, an elephant, or an eagle, but a slaughtered lamb.” – Shane Claiborne

It’s Time To Stop Asking God To Bless America

Death, Where Is Your Sting?

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I am not afraid to die.

A bold (and rather strange) statement to open up a blog post with, but I feel like if I type it out, it will be more real to me.  Because if we’re being honest here, our human self IS afraid, in some degree, to die.  It’s a natural instinct to keep our bodies alive.  We are designed for survival; we will do anything to survive.  It is incredibly humbling and difficult to be able to voice fearlessness in dying. But this past week, I have been hit in the face with death.  It has been looming in every thought I have.  I get on Facebook, and I feel like almost every other day, someone is passing away.  I can’t stop thinking about death; it is depressing me, it is scaring me, and I feel like it is creeping up on me.  Sometimes I feel so sick to my stomach because I can’t help but think, “Who’s next?  Who will death win over next?”  I have never felt this way before in my life, and I’m not even sure how to express it.

But this week, I have grasped the reality of dying.  And let me tell you this…it is beautiful.

I believe that the Kingdom of heaven and earth are intertwined.  I believe that the Kingdom of God is with the poor and with the homeless and with the people living in poverty and in the places where the rich dare not enter.  That is where the Kingdom of God is.  Right now.  Right this very second.  And when we live alongside those people, we see that.  We see the Kingdom of God.  And when we die, we see the same thing, but in a new way.  Whatever passion you love to do that brings about social justice, restoration, reconciliation, peace, harmony, love, etc. is what you will CONTINUE to do in heaven.  It doesn’t end here on earth, guys.  There was a young woman who passed away a few days ago from cystic fibrosis.  She was a missionary in Uganda with one of the biggest hearts for Christ I have ever witnessed.  She loved children more than anyone I have ever heard about.  Her family wanted her to come home earlier for treatment, but she said she couldn’t because she felt like she wasn’t done with what God wanted her to do there.  When she was finished, she went home.  A few days later, she passed away.  And you want to know what I think she’s doing right now in the Kingdom of heaven?  Playing with children and holding them and laughing with them.  She is carrying them around and running in beautiful fields that are endless.  She is dancing with them and feeding them never ending food.

You see, her passion never ended when she left this earth.  It continued in greater amounts than we can ever think possible.  The kingdom of heaven and earth are intertwined.  The people who are working about to bring restoration and social justice, and who are working to end racism, and who are living with the poor, and who are rescuing children out of armies, and who are putting an end to human trafficking, and who are doing everything they can to bring peace in the midst of violence and war, and the people who are feeding those who need fed, and to the people who are giving the homeless a home, those people will continue to do that passion in heaven because IT DOES NOT END HERE.

We have a tendency to think that when we die, it’s all over.  There’s nothing left for us.  I’m here to tell you that we were wrong, guys.  When we die, it’s not over.  It is just the beginning.

But before we can come to this understanding, we have to embrace the fact that one day, we are going to die.  And we must not be afraid of death, because it is not something to fear.

My prayer for you is that you figure out the fearlessness in death, and that when your time comes, you die in the Kingdom, for there is no greater honorable death.

 

 

 

Thank you, Alicia Halpenny, for inspiring me through your love and passion for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom in Uganda.  You touched more people’s lives than you know.  Until we meet one day in heaven.

 

 

Salakahle, Mzansi y Afrika.

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Hi there.

I’ve been holding this off for too long, so I decided that today is the day. Now’s the time. Now or never. Here we go. Wow, I’m procrastinating with words. This sucks.

This will be my last blog post in South Africa.

To some, you might be thinking, “Who cares?” But to me, this is the biggest deal since…since ever. Okay, maybe not since ever. But definitely since Abbie Livella showed me that Justin Bieber came out with an acoustic album. (Kidding. Kind of.)

Darrell Gascho, the amazingly talented “boss”of Radical Journey sent us all an e-mail which entitled creative ways to challenge us in saying goodbye to our friends and family we’ve made during our time in our immersion locations. He sent that about a month ago. I have not thought of one creative way to say goodbye. Probably because I’m in denial and don’t want to accept the fact that I’m leaving.

It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, you know? You go to a country that is completely foreign to you. You feel uncomfortable, awkward, and unnatural. Months go by, and you realize you’re slowly starting to feel more comfortable here. Things make sense, your mind and heart are being opened, and you deal with the fact that you’ll be taking bucket baths for the next year. Friends become family and nights turn into mornings. You do crazy things, go on crazy adventures, and even get chased by an elephant during a game drive. You drive past certain areas of town that remind you of memories you’ve made, and you dance to awesome music in a kombi. You spend countless hours with children who have now shaped the way you view the world, and you cry with your new friends in the realization that you might never see them again. You’ve made a life for yourself here. And now, after all of that, you’re expected to pick up and leave it all here to return to your home culture; the culture you thoroughly do not understand anymore. I just can’t wrap my mind around it all.

And maybe that’s the point. Maybe I’ll never be able to fully wrap my mind around leaving. I am deeply saddened that this chapter of my life is over, but I am deeply moved by the fact that when I come home, I’ll be attending Eastern Mennonite University to pursue a passion that was developed during the time I spent here. A piece of Africa will always remain with me. This will always be my home.

So, my friends, this is to say thank you, and goodbye. Maybe you’ve been following up on me since the day I left on August 26th, or maybe you’ve recently heard about me and check my Facebook page every once in awhile, or maybe you’re an avid blog follower, or maybe you just happened to stumble across this post in your newsfeed and it’s the first one you’ve ever read. Despite what category you fall under, I want to thank you. Thank you for sending me letters, encouraging me, challenging me, praying for me, supporting me financially throughout the year (thanks a billion, mom and dad.), reading one blog or all 26 of my blogs, for checking my Facebook every so often, for sending me encouraging messages, and for being apart of a movement that changed my life forever. If you’re wondering if what you’ve done impacted my life in any way, I’m here to tell you it has. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Before I close, I would like to end with this: Don’t sit back and watch me do these things. Get out and do them yourself. You can support NGO’s and phenomenal organizations for the rest of your life, but absolutely NOTHING will ever be able to come close to the experience of leaving the comfort of your home, culture, friends, and family, and having the courage to place yourself in an incredibly uncomfortable and awkward position of complete and total surrender. Switchfoot said it well when they spoke the words, I dare you to move.

May the peace of God be with you now and forevermore, and may you strive to find justice in the places where the rich dare not enter.

Goodbye.

 

 

 

Freedom in Peace, and Peace in Freedom.

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I was taught in school that the United States is the greatest country in the world due to the freedom that we have, and how we wouldn’t have that freedom if men and women wouldn’t have died fighting for it. I put my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance to the flag every morning. I was taught that war, although wasn’t considered a “nice” thing, was something that needed to happen so our country would be safe. In the 2nd grade when I was 7 years old, I watched on TV two towers in New York get hit by airplanes, and I watched one airplane crash in a field 45 minutes away from my home. At the age of 7, although I may not have fully understood, I heard with my own ears George W. Bush declare war. From then on, the media portrayed Muslims as terrorists, and I was taught that war was necessary. I believed all of this until the age of 18.
 
When Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed about a year ago, I watched on TV thousands of Americans cheering and rallying and celebrating his death. I went to school, hearing and seeing pupils and teachers joining in the celebration of his death. I knew as an American that I should be celebrating as well; this should be a joyous event for all of the United States, right? This is what needed to happen, right? We’ve been looking for this man for YEARS. But I found that I was really struggling in being happy over someone’s death. My heart was feeling so conflicted. And as I watched thousands of Americans on TV rejoicing over the death of this man, I remember I started to cry. If this is what freedom meant, if it means hate and revenge are the only answer, if it means justice is death, then I want absolutely nothing to do with this freedom.
 
When Jesus was brought before the Romans, it was because he was upsetting the authority. Jesus was claiming He was King. But there was already a king of a kingdom, and there was only one king. So when Jesus came in and said He was King of a different kind of kingdom, it made people mad. That’s like someone coming in and saying, “No, Obama isn’t the president. This dude is!” It would cause controversy; an outrageous uproar. And that’s exactly what Jesus caused. 
 
Jesus talked about living in solidarity with people; if you are above another person, you lower yourself to be on the same level as them. He talked about peace; always respond in love. He talked about revolutionary subordination. He talked about the kingdom being with the poor. He took down the flag and put up a cross. He talked about this type of freedom that cannot be obtained through war and militaristic fighting, but through loving those who we’ve been taught should be our enemies. He talked about this insane, upside down kingdom that is here and now, and how we are all invited to take part in it. This kingdom isn’t like anything you’ve EVER heard of before. It’s backwards, upside down, the poor are at the front, people are living in solidarity with others, the sword has been laid down, and freedom is no longer defined by your military; for you have always been and always will be free in this kingdom because knowing what true freedom really is is knowing peace.
 
During my time in Cape Town, I had a chance to get to know my surf instructor, William, who soon became a close friend. One evening at the hostel we were staying at, William and I had a deep conversation about the United States and war. He said something I will never forget:
“Abby, tell me this. For a country that claims it is so free, how can it be free when it’s always at war? How can you be free if you do not know peace?”  
Freedom is peace.
Peace is freedom.
 
My great grandfather served in the military, as well as my grandfather, my cousin, and a few of my very good friends. The people who are fighting or who have fought are doing what they feel or felt was best for our country, and I respect that. But as for me, I don’t belong to this. 
 
Maybe I’m unpatriotic, or maybe I am “un-American.” But I’ve come to find that I belong to a greater kingdom; one that we’ve all been invited to participate in. I’ve come to find that the freedom this kingdom offers is greater than the type of freedom I’ve been taught in school.
 
I will not participate in or support war or any act of militaristic violence. I will not own a gun for my own “safety” or “protection.”  I will not pledge allegiance to a flag or a country. I will participate in the kingdom that is here and now. I will live in solidarity with the poor. I will love in all circumstances. And I will pledge allegiance to the cross, because I have found true and absolute freedom in knowing and living out the peace Jesus talks about.
 

Uncovering Poverty.

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Out of all the African countries, South Africa is the most developed country. When I heard that, I was like “Whoah. Seriously?” It’s a pretty intense statistic. With that being said, SA is still filled with poverty. I walk across the street and right down below me is a squatter camp, which is basically a small settlement of houses made out of mud, tin roofs, sticks, and rocks. They don’t have electricity or running water. I live next door to people in poverty.
Ever since apartheid, blacks, coloreds, and Indians were all divided into different townships. These townships still exist to this day. I live in an Indian township and I work in a Zulu township called Mphopomeni. Mphopomeni’s population is about 33,000 people (which is a huge amount for this small township.) and I would say that over half of those 33,000 people live in poverty. SA is a 1st and 3rd world country all in one. It took me a few months to understand, and it wasn’t easy. I live in the 1st world part and I go work in the 3rd world part. I wish I would be living in the 3rd world part too. I want to feel what they feel.
I was coming back from a run in Northdale (the Indian township where I live.) and as I was about to turn onto my street, I noticed 3 young girls and their granny carrying jugs up from the squatter camp. I paused for a second as I watched them. The granny looked really tired. So I walked over to them and asked them if I could help them in Zulu. They were floored. As they should be for many reasons, which ill touch on in a second. They looked at each other as if trying to make approval of me wanting to help, and then they said yes. So we made our way up to a house that gives these people water to fill their jugs. After all 4 jugs were filled, we started walking back down. We reached the entrance of the squatter camp, and I started to walk down. The young girls said “Wait! You’re going down there? With us?” For a second, I was shocked that they even asked that question. “Uh…yeah?” Was my reply. They laughed, and we helped each other carry the 4 jugs down the steep, grassy hill. As we reached the bottom, Apiwhe (one of the young girls.) asked me if I would help her carry the jugs of water into her house. Without hesitation, we started walking towards her home. I’m going to pause this story right here and say that before this incident, my greatest fear was happening to me. The fear that I would become numb to the racism and poverty around me was happening. And I had prayed the night before that God would break my heart for what breaks His; that He would knock down the walls that were allowing me to become numb to the things I see everyday. It happened. As I entered Apiwhe’s home, I was seeing firsthand the way people in poverty live. They don’t know where their next meal is going to come from…they don’t even know if they’ll eat that day. I saw things that break my heart to even talk about. I can’t explain exactly what I saw that day, but I wish I could. I remember just stopping at the entrance of her home and thinking “90% of the world lives like this. 90%. And we are turning a blind eye to it all.” I realized it was starting to get pretty dark, so I said goodbye to the young girls and walked back up the hill to my 1st world life. As I walked back home, I was just sobbing. That night, God broke my heart for what breaks His.
What I did that night defied everything I was taught. Squatter Camps are very dangerous places to be. I cannot stress that enough. You do not enter them, especially if you’re a white female. It’s almost like asking for trouble. I’m about to tell you another sad statistic: I’m white, so even though apartheid ended 15 years ago, the fact that the white person still holds superiority is fresh in a lot of people’s minds. White people don’t help the blacks or the Indians or the coloreds. White people don’t work alongside those types of people. White people just don’t do those things here. That night, I went against the normality of the system of South Africa. That’s why those girls were FLOORED when I offered to help them and then enter into the place where they lived. If we’re being honest here, they know their home is a dangerous place. And they knew I knew that. So they couldn’t wrap their mind around why I wanted to go down there and basically put my life on the line. But to be honest, I wasn’t scared that night. In fact, the danger of what I was about to do didn’t even cross my mind. I wanted to be on the same level as these people. I wanted to show them that yes, my skin may be white, but you guys are the kingdom come. And if we spend forever building the kingdom in places where it’s our comfort, we are missing out on the actual kingdom that is being built in poverty, in the places where people feel there is no hope. That is where we need to be building the kingdom. And a lot of Christians are not realizing that.
There is enough food in the world for everyone to have, so why are people still living in poverty? I believe there are 2 reasons for this.
1.) We’re doing an awful job at distributing food equally.
And 2.) We’re not moving.
There’s a verse in Matthew where it talks about how if God cares and looks after the sparrows and makes sure they are fed, He will surely look after you because you mean more to Him than the sparrows of the ground. But in a lot of cases, this doesn’t sound very true, does it. If that verse is all you read, I think you’d have a pretty good case to say that that verse is a lie. A flat out lie. But let’s take this one step further. Jesus was preaching to thousands of people. As lunch time approached, the disciples realize that the people are going to get hungry. They didn’t want them to leave, so they told Jesus that these people need fed. Jesus looked at them and said 3 words that changed the course of history: “You do it.” As you can expect, the disciples were baffled. They probably said things along the line of “But Jesus…we’re not you!” or “I can’t do miracles!” And that’s where the little boy comes in with his 5 loaves and 2 fish. But check out the meaning of this story: Jesus told his disciples to do it; to feed those people. So lets think about this for one second: if we go back to that verse in Matthew, maybe, just maybe, God is supposed to be using us to feed the poor, to give the homeless a home, to clothe the clothe-less. We get so wrapped up in thinking that poverty has nothing to do with us. (us being the people who have a house and drive a car.) poverty will NEVER be solved until we realize that that is where the kingdom is being built.
I want to make one thing clear. Americans have a tendency to pity those who have less than them when in reality, the people who are living simply are so happy…happier than we ever could be. We need to find that fine line between relative poverty and absolute poverty. It’s very undignified to put pity on people who don’t want pity. It’s degrading and disrespectful. I see relative poverty and absolute poverty everyday. Don’t go in with the mind set that you’re going to change the world, because you’re not. Go in with the mind set that the people who live in poverty are the world. We will never end poverty. But we can feed the ones who need fed. The choice is yours: stay put, or move.