You may have seen the news reports about the violence that has been going on around South Africa, specifically in Gauteng (the province where I'm living). The worst of it is in and around Jo'burg, though there have been some incidents in townships around Pretoria as well. I've received a few emails asking about my safety. As far as things go for me personally, I am safe, and am not really a target for the violence that's been directed towards foreigners. The attacks have been directed at immigrants from other African countries, as poor and marginalized South Africans have grown more and more frustrated with a lack of employment, housing, and other basic necessities. As these basic needs have not been adequately met by the government, frustration has grown, and the blame is now being placed on immigrants for taking jobs and resources away from South Africans. The stories of angry mob violence are heartbreaking, but so is the situation that has led to this kind of violence.
Our community spent time in small groups this evening, looking through newspapers and praying about events both in South Africa and around the world. Two situations in particular were primary in our minds and hearts: the violence spreading in South Africa, and the conditions in Zimbabwe. If you're not familiar with what's going on in Zimbabwe, I encourage you to read the article that's linked here (written by one of the guys here after a visit to Harare last month). It's overwhelming to think of the immense pain and need in both of these situations.
Two weeks ago, during our Friday worship time, we joined together in a time of prayer for Zimbabwe. We each were given a card with "Zimbabwe" written on it, and were encouraged to write scriptures, words, phrases, dreams, and hopes for Zimbabwe on these cards. We shared with the group what we had written on our cards, and dreamed together of ways we could make a difference--reaching out to Zimbabwean refugees around Pretoria, taking people and resources to Zimbabwe, praying for the country and its people, and praying specifically for Robert Mugabe. Looking forward to Pentecost, we prayed for God's Spirit to be poured out on the country of Zimbabwe, for God's presence to be known and felt in that place. This was a powerful time, but difficult for me to really absorb. I'm not very good with broad political situations. Need on such a large scale is hard for me to grasp. It's when it becomes personal that these bigger situations really weigh on my heart.
Tonight in my small group, I had the opportunity to pray with our friend Manasseh, who's a refugee from Zimbabwe. He has a construction job just blocks away from Pangani and has grown to be good friends with Jody, one of the apprentices. Last weekend Manasseh was able to send money to Zimbabwe so that his wife could join him here in South Africa. She arrived on Tuesday, the day that the violent attacks against foreigners really escalated. She has been staying in a township outside Jo'burg, since there isn't a place for her to stay here in Pretoria North. Manasseh is afraid for his wife's safety, as well as his own. As we prayed together tonight, Manasseh broke down into tears. I sat there feeling helpless, with no words to offer other than to join my prayers with his own that God would intervene: to calm this violence, and to keep Manasseh and his family safe--both here in South Africa and back in Zimbabwe. Manasseh will be staying at Pangani for the next couple of weeks, and his wife will join him over the weekend.
Luc, who was on NieuCommunities staff until just a few months ago, is another friend who's on my heart at this time. Luc is a refugee from the Congo. He and his wife Petunia and their two daughters moved to Soshanguve, a nearby township, at the beginning of April. They are pioneering a team there with InnerChange, another division within CRM. Luc and Petunia have felt very strongly that God has called them to Soshanguve and to the people there, but because Luc is a foreigner, they have been afraid for his safety and the safety of their family. But even in this past week of violence, Luc and Petunia have found reassurance and reaffirmation from God as to their calling to Sosh.
Please join me in praying for these friends and their safety. Please also pray for peace and healing to come both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe. It's hard to know what to pray, or to believe that change will even come. But I know that through prayer, God not only changes the world, he also changes me. He changes my perspective and my heart. And perhaps it is that type of heart change that effects the most change in the world, as God uses his people to demonstrate his provision and care for those in need. Pray that I would be faithful in responding to this call.