Monthly Archives: October 2012

Caesar’s story

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Caesar came reluctanly to Youth Alive in Soweto back in the sixtiesat the insistence of his friend Diamond.  He deeply resented whites (and we white missionaries were there) – because of apartheid and what it did to him and all Africans, but even more personally, because he’d lost his leg. A white truck driver hit him while twelve year old Caesar was riding his bike on a country road.  It’s not clear whether the driver drove on or whether he took Caesar to a hospital.  But hospitals were few and far between in the rural areas, and they were unable to save his leg.

Caesar continued to come to Youth Alive, foaming anger and resentment, but as he heard the Word of God he accepted Christ.  One time my husband Al found him sitting outside his house trying to find a way to improve the way his crude prosthesis fit.  Al helped him fit  it more comfortably and that was the beginning of a long friendship.

Caesar was still argumentative and defensive, and he and Al spent many hours discussing the racial issues. Caesar became a strong leader in the high school club, an evangelist in the local high schools,  and in 1970 was chosen as one of four young men to travel with a quartette to the United States.  While there he was offered opportunities for education, and returned to South Africa  in 1976 with an MA from Wheaton Graduate School – right into the heat of the riots and “troubles” which eventually led to the change of government and the end of Apartheid.

For eighteen years Caesar led Youth Alive as well as establishing a church in one of the Soweto suburbs.  We would hear from him from time to time, but over the years we began to lose touch.  However, as Al was lying on his deathbed here in Colorado in 2008, Caesar called. Al died knowing that Caesar was still actively serving the Lord.

So one of my desires going to Africa was to see Caesar again.  We had to juggle dates because he was leaving for a speaking tour in Germany in October, right at the time my travelling companion had arranged to leave for Africa.  She re-arranged her schedule and I was able to spend two  and a half days with Caesar and Chumi on their “farmette” outside Johannesburg. His R &R is to feed the gold fish in the pond, convinced that they come when they hear his voiceJ

Here are the surprising things I learned Caesar had been doing since he turned the leadership of Youth Alive over to another leader he’d trained. (And Youth Alive is doing well – just check out their web site!)

For ten years he was chairman of the board of the World YMCA—many of them strongly evangelical in other countries around the world.

He helped his sons plant several churches in the Soweto/Johannesburg area.  I visited two on the Sunday I was there – one of them met IN a Dutch Reformed Church.  Under apartheid blacks  couldn’t even visit  a DRC church(which was the church of the Afrikaners).I was amused to see them load the huge speakers and drums into a van after church – a scene we see often in our transient churches here in America

He has been involved in starting-up fourteen businesses to provide jobs for Africans, especially among his own Bakubung tribal people. He inherited land in the tribal area from his grandfather, but under apartheid no African could own land.  Now he and his brother are developing about ten thousand acres which have been turned over to them.

These businesses involve such things as  grain projects and  raising vegetables to sell to a cooperative. He is currently working with Woolworth’s (a high end department store chain) which also sells groceries. He is hoping to develop a dairy  to provide them with two million litres of milk per month.

Meanwhile Chumi, a leader in her own rights, is active in local women’s projects, helping them to become self sufficient  and volunteering in community needs. She provides for three adult sons still living at home and a husband who seems to be on-call everywhere (he manipulates two cell phones).

I felt honored to stay in their home and to sit out on the verandah having breakfast. One of the purposes of my journey to Africa had been fulfilled.

 

The initial reason for my journey

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My trip to South Africa germinated about a year ago when Esme Bowers, a friend from Cape Town came to visit.  As she and Emily Voorhies, president of Tirzah  International,were talking about plans for networking women leaders in ministry in South Africa, they casually asked, “Why don’t you join us?”

That invitation resonated with what I’d been subconsciously desiring.  One last trip back to South Africa to see the changes and to connect with people I’d known so many years ago. At my age I felt I shouldn’t travel alone internationally.  But this would enable me to travel with  my good friend, Emily. I felt the Lord had put this desire in my heart, and then opened the door without my even pushing it!

So a year later I found myself actually on this long journey. When we arrived in Johannesburg after two over- night flights and a day layover in Frankfurt, we parted ways.  She met up with Esme, and Caesar, the man who took over Youth Alive in 1976, picked me up and took me to his home.

A week later I reconnected with Emily  at a retreat center near the O. R. Tambo airport—a new state of the art complex.  Esme had invited a small group of women leaders from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia to meet each other and share experiences. This was the initial purpose for my trip.  I was asked to share my life’s journey and God’s faithfulness,  and to encourage the women to know how to “pass the baton.” We spent one session studying how to use my book, Lessons in  Leadership,  which Emily had given to each participant.

Whenever I’m with international women I’m impressed with their courage and persistence in following God’s call on their lives.  For example, Maria belongs to a mission minded church which sends teams to prayer walk in the Middle East.  Maria has been to Iran, Iraq and Yemen where she and a partner have knocked on doors offering to pray for women.This is but one example of the growing mission interest among South Africans today.

One young woman brought  a power-point presentation of  the media ministry she and her husband are involved in.  She gave each woman a packet of beautiful designed books for teachers to use discussing problems youth face in today’s culture.  Remember, eighteen years ago , under apartheid, there was no opportunity for an African, least of all an African woman, to learn how to use computers, much less produce 21st century media!

Nqobile was our youngest participant—only twenty. By the time she was twelve, she’d lost both her parents and cared for herself in abject poverty. A social worker threatened to put her in an orphanage, but she maintained her independence, working weekends and persisted in her schooling.  When her stepmother (who had not taken her in) died, “Q” as we called her, suddenlyfound herself with full responsibility for a five- year-old half-sister.  But under God’s providence, an Afrikaans women “adopted” Q, who is now studying part time at UNISA (University of South Africa) and working as a teacher’s aide.  We saw tremendous potential in this young woman. It was a special delight to have Annejie, her adoptive white mother, participate in our program. Another major change since apartheid

Elisina originally came from Zimbabwe .  After  earning her Ph. D. in theology she came to South Africa to teach at the South African Theological Seminary in Pieternmaritsburg. (One of our keen Youth Alivers, Moshe Rajwili, was president of the seminary until he was hit by a car and killed  a year ago.)Elisina has designed African based curriciulum which is accredited, but she does not want to leave behind any woman who is willing to study.  She has written some courses which grant a certificate enabling those women to be recognized in ministry.Her desire is to see the historical abuse of women corrected.  But she says it won’t happen over night.  She encouraged  the younger women to be patient . In their eagerness to use their gifts they must be careful not to destroy the church.

Even the oppportunity for sharing in a multi-generational setting is a change. As I witnessed the desire for unity, the giftedness and the wisdom portrayed in this group , it was evident that African women are carrying the baton to the next generation.

Strikes accelerate in South Africa

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When our news reported the murder of 34 miners at the Markana platinum mine in South Africa several weeks ago they forgot to mention a few other important facts.  Miners had been refusing to go work for a number of weeks demanding higher wages. They work under shocking conditions , earning about $500 a month while I’m told by trusted sources that top executives earn as much as $175k per month. Miners walked out to demonstrate, congregating at the top of a hill outside the mine.

One night they killed six above ground workers who had refused to walk out with them.  They then attacked two policemen in squad cars (African policemen) and hacked them to death.  They mutilated them and cut off certain parts of their bodies to take to a sangoma (witchdoctor), who worked his magic and assured them that the bullets of the police would not hurt them.

The next day hundreds of miners became violent and In the ensuing  fray the police killed 34 miners. As a result, the platinum mine acceded to the miners’ demands to double their wages, but the heads of the gold mines have refused to follow suit.  In the following weeks a spate of strikes have followed across the country. And as of this writing have gotten worse, other mine workers and truckers have stopped work, and several more miners have been killed.

Sunday’s Wall Street Journal  declared SOUTH AFRICA FALTERS AS UNREST SPREADS—AFTER APARTHEID, SOUTH AFRICA LEAVES MANY BLACKS BEHIND.

 

Observation:  The press does not always report both sides of the story – an understatement?

Witchcraft and superstition are still powerful in this 21st century society.

The unrest is based on economic not racial equality.

 

 

Changes in eighteen years

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I’m home after 31 hours of travel.

If you’ve followed political developments in South Africa with the rise of the Mandela-led government, or if you’ve read The Soweto Legacy (Amazon kindle ebooks) you know that the country has turned upside down racially in the past eighteen years..

I met with a small group of former Youth Alivers on my sifirst Sunday in South Africa. I learned about former Youth Aliver swho  hold positions today which  Africans were not permitted to hold under apartheid:

Doctor – head of large hospital

Director of radio station

Owns a media production house

Serves as third highest exec of Department of Labor

Sr. Mgr. of ESCOM (national electric supply)

Represents Hospital Christian Fellowship internationally

Directs ministry– Society of Albinos (appeared twice on TV while I was there)

Commander in the Army

Venture Capitalist (has helped to start 14 countries helping to found jobs)

. . . and these are but a few that God has raised up from their humble beginnings in Soweto, through training and encouragement at Youth Alive more than forty years ago.

You can imagine  how gratifying it was to meet these men and women who came through our youth program, survived the “troubles” and are contributing to build a “new South Africa.” Praise God!

Sad to leave SA

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Tomorrow I leave South Africa. As I write I  sit in a friend’s living room looking out over the the Atlantic ocean as the sun sets. Spring in the Cape has been late this year and I’m wearing three sweaters.

But the flowers – the proteas of all ilks, pelargonium, daisies, and hundreds of others popping up in the sandy soil  and clinging to rocks don’t know that.  The beauty cannot be described.

I’ve either been so busy or have not had wi-fi available hence no additions to the blog.  In the days ahead I  will be writing more of my impressions, but here are a few of  overall observations:

Soweto has paved roads, lots of new looking cars  and many houses painted and surrounded by   tended gardens.

I met whites and blacks involved in volunteering—crafts and sewing projects, community development, primary health clinics, university students helping register foreign residents. There’s a new vitality, especially in Johannesburg.

Mixed couples! I never thought I’d see the day.  Black and white children attending school together. Africans anchoring the evening news in English. An African pilot and flight attendants.

Attitudes?  That depends on where you are and who you are talking with. I feel there has been a giant leap forward in trying to live together as one nation. Perhaps the Bafanbafana team and the world cup has something to do with that.

An Afrikaans woman told me enthusiastically, “we are a nation in progress.”