We are in a town called Lanseria outside Johannesburg. After a series of flights (Christchurch, Aukland, Perth, and finally Johannesburg) we arrived last Wednesday to a thriving ministry project called Refilwe. It’s a growing “Site,” with multiple outreach programs. A slogan I have seen here reads, “Breaking the cycle of poverty.” There are about 55 orphan children here. So far we have spent the days working on several projects improving the site and attempting to share the life in abundance Jesus promises in John 10:10. Jesus told us to go to the nations and “disciple.” John and I have been having a nightly Bible study with some young guys where we look into the Word to get and give answers to the questions they have about life. This kind of discipleship is like the old saying about teaching a man to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. More and more, I think that was what the Lord meant when he talked about “life to the full.”
The ministry has generated lots of local support. One of the big cell phone companies here called MTN finished what they dubbed “21 days of improvement” all across Africa, so there was a huge production with media, money, and catered meals here for a day. We laid sod by hand for a full sized football field in about 8 hours. I would guess there were over 100 employees and volunteers all together. It was fun to see all the people working at a manic pace to get the work done, but also interesting how things are made to “appear” a certain way when they will be on TV later.
South Africa is in absolute pandemonium over the World Cup. Flags fly everywhere and people wear the yellow and green. Sports unite people in a universal way whether it’s the “All-Blacks” of rugby in New Zealand, the Cubs in Chicago, or this month-long world class “football” shoot-out.
One huge part of Refilwe is the medical and social outreach into the community. Our team of 8 rotates in pairs through different groups. Usually 4 of us will stay at the site and do manual labour, 2 will go out with the community outreach group, and 2 will do data entry to help the nurses conquer the backlog of paperwork in the office.
I went out with a nurse called Gene the other day. We walked from Refilwe out along these dusty African foot trails where we met up with Peggy, Gene’s assistant. We spent the morning walking around dragging this HIV testing kit that rolled on a luggage rack from door to door asking if we could test people. Gene just loves on these people, mostly women telling them to take care of their babies, giving them pamphlets about HIV and condoms and other things to help stop spread the disease. Some want to be tested, some don’t want to know. She says she would rather do this than get paid any amount doing anything. I can see why. These people have absolutely nothing. They know so little. I was listening to a conversation Gene had with a girl and I wondered if the she even connected sex with pregnancy and the resulting baby in her arms. Gene lead her to the Lord and despite my questioning whether the girl even totally understood what she was committing to, (do any of us really?) tears streamed down her face as she repeated the words of the sinner’s prayer. The presence of Jesus is strong in those moments.
This is John Hopkins (one of our students from the UK) and I (in the background) walking through one of Africa’s “Townships” that house literally millions of people. The need is staggering.
The World Cup was going on at that point-hence the flamboyant appearance of John’s costume-representing the UK.