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dreaming in the dark

Keeping up with this trip has been hit and miss. Connecting to the internet here is quite the adventure and not the least difficult thing I have ever done. When I finally get a connection it is remarkable. To read email is a miracle. To send email or post a blog is, well, arduous.

Nevertheless, here I am writing again about the adventure. The days go by with rapidity too much for me to comprehend. I get up with the dawn, go to bed way too late and things race by in between those two poles.

In fact, I cannot remember my last post here, so if I repeat I apologize.

The week just passed was full of grace and goodness. Monday and Tuesday were days to see the lights come on in leaders’ eyes and hearts. In fact, the ancient writer, Paul, who I referred to earlier in this adventure, said it best when he penned the words to this prayer…

“I pray the eyes of your understanding are enlightened so that you can know the hope of your calling.”

In a culture of tradition and angst, there are always the dreamers. Here, amongst apartheid, the dreamer was Nelson Mandela. His rise from prison to power is a story for the ages. Still, thirteen years after the repeal of the Apartheid rule in South Africa, segregation reigns supreme. It is the tradition.

In the home I am staying there are servants. They are paid employees, to be sure, but indentured still. One of the ladies will not even look at me because of the ingrained cultural DNA of the society. They come more than four hours to work and stay for days in a small brick enclosure behind the house that is immensely better accommodations than their personal home.

Sophie is the older of two sisters working here. Rose is the younger. Sophie’s husband is 74 and works as a security guard at night to provide food. Sophie and Rose usually are just home on the weekends. This week some of our house guests gave Sophie a gift of money. This will enable Sophie and her husband to put a roof on the new home they are building. Their new home is made of concrete block with a concrete floor. It will replace a corrugated tin lean-to with a dirt floor that is the present home. The size of the new place? Two 10 x 10 rooms. No bathroom or kitchen, just two rooms.

Poor blacks here have lived for ages in a very different world. Now that the government is black, reflecting the majority of the national population things are changing, but you cannot wave a magic wand and liberate centuries of poverty and living off the land.

We pass by black settlements daily where you see literally thousands of homes stuck together. They are made of concrete, tin, trash, junk, cardboard, wood scraps or whatever can be put together to fashion a residence. The whites live behind cages, bars, bricks and mortar in relative comfort but relative fear. In a culture of such inequity crime is rampant.

So, where is the church in this entire milieu? At a crossroads. Yes, many churches are integrated, but more are not. The white culture, predominantly Afrikaans, speaks their own language which is not spoken by blacks. Hence, the church stays separate. One large church which hosted my conference this week has a separate service for blacks. In that denomination this next week will be a critical week as the Synod decides whether to pay black pastors the same as white pastors. Until now there is great disparity.

Again, my trip is a catalyst. The leaders I am coming to know are the dreamers. The people want to make a difference. They are the recipients of all of our prayers for enlightened eyes, hope, calling and the breadth, depth, height and fullness of God’s love. Pray for them. Pray for me. Pray for justice, equality and grace to make up the great gap that exists to this day.

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