On the surface, Cape Town, South Africa seems to be a user-friendly on ramp for those desiring to serve cross-culturally. But what really exists right below the surface of those on ramps? Julie Rumph, a SSMFI missionary shares a few thoughts about real life in Cape Town.
I find it a little ironic that many Christians feel like coming to Cape Town to “ease into missions”. In fact, some missionaries I was talking with just yesterday told me how they had encountered that same mindset.
With my new role as Volunteer Coordinator at Living Hope it seems we have been discussing the call to missions from God versus the morality pull to “do something” lately.
While serving here is relatively easy from a cultural difference perspective, coming to serve in ministry without a calling would change the equation drastically.
We often joke about the small differences from home, how they sometimes seem so profound.
Things like how little options there are in the stores, the driving, the total lack of customer service, but notice there are stores and driving here.
While all these things contribute to the Westernization of where we live and serve, there are some massive differences and today those differences are pronounced.
The practicalities of the social injustices and the poverty and the need for revelation (not revolution) hit home this week.
Yesterday I noticed a lot of sirens and activity kicking up around the Living Hope offices.
It’s usually not a good sign.
Located just across the main road from us is Masiphumelele, a township no more than ~1/2 square mile with around 40,000 people in a variety of quickly built homes surrounded by informal structures made of wood, cardboard and tin mostly.
In the back of Masi is the wetlands. All informal homes, built closely together in a unending maze and no roads in or out.
This time of year, when the rains start coming in we talk about the flooding in homes. Because it’s built on a sandy marsh of wetlands often the homes have several inches of water.
The fear here is fire, not water, though.
No way to get in to fight them, rigged up electrical wiring, tight quarters and highly flammable materials make a small spark a risk and that is what happened yesterday afternoon.
As smoke billowed in the air, somewhere between 200 and 400 homes were totally lost.
Living Hope jumped in to bring blankets and other basic needs, but it’s just a realization that while none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, some people I interact with daily live with the threat of fire always in the back of their minds.
And how do I, in my relatively safe and dry house, walk alongside you spiritually and psychological at this time?
And the fighting.
It’s not just nature and disasters that affect life here either. With the poverty, drugs, and lack of positive role models and absent fathers, gangs have become a natural predator in our communities.
No different from a lot of areas in the US, violence cycles up and down as the power struggles continue.
From my basic understanding of the situation today, one of our communities seems to be on a big upswing. Let me try to give you some background info.
Taxis here aren’t the yellow cabs you might be used to. They are the 15ish passenger vans that speed around, mostly from one designated drop off to another.
Most are independently owned and then driven by guys who have to pay for their day’s quota before they start earning any money themselves. So speed and reckless behaviors are inherently encouraged.
You pray you don’t end up behind some of them in traffic as the toxic exhaust will choke you out of your closed up car. You may be starting to see why these guys don’t like competition…
So it seems one of the local culture groups mostly worked at taxi rank (taxi stand for the Americans) and another group wanted a piece of the fares coming from there.
Well, it got a little violent, some shooting went down and a driver was killed.
Now the situation has escalated around this community, because, you guessed it, some of the drivers are also gang members–so we not only have taxi wars but gang wars as well.
As of yesterday I learned that Living Hope is temporarily halting kids programs in Capricorn and Overcome Heights because it’s too close and too big a risk to ask the children to be out in the late afternoon.
We also want to keep our staff safe.
So here I went down the rabbit trail of thinking:
–Taxi drivers struggling to make ends meet.
–Kids joining gangs maybe because they don’t have a good family.
–Families are broken because of addictions.
Most the addictions we see are the result of generations of poverty and the effects it’s had on the communal psyche.
Does it all come back to money?
If there was enough money or materials to go around would both these problems be solved?
I don’t think the answer is that simple.
Money would help build better houses for sure, but there’s also more going on below the surface there.
Money would help the desperation and maybe alleviate some violence, but it wouldn’t fix the families.
It might cure the addictions.
It wouldn’t help the gangs that are fueled by drug lords. It may make that situation even worse actually.
What will fix it?
Time, a lot of time: People: Relationships: Discipleship: Education.
Sowing a feeling of worth into the communities and each person who lives there.
Worth that only comes in knowing you are a child of God.
And knowing that your neighbor has that same level of worth in God’s eyes.
What can you do today?
Pray. Pray for God to move.
–For violence to cease.
–For children to be able to be kids.
–For families to be healed.
–For the immediate safety of the people who live in these areas, many of whom are working with Living Hope.