South African blacks refer to the 70s and 80s as the time of the “troubles.” During these years many gave their lives to wrest freedom from the hands of the white apartheid rulers (though praise God the land was spared a full scale civil war). Though we didn’t leave South Africa until the end of the 70s we were naively ignorant of the price some of our Youth Alivers paid.
It was a youth movement– a demonstration by high schoolers who began the public resistance. But even years before, Steven Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and others were risking their lives for freedom.
We didn’t realize how close to home this resistance had become. I wonder how we would have felt had we known at the time that more than 17 of our young people had secretly fled the country to resist arrest by the secret police; that several were killed on the border of Mozambique; that the Youth Alive building itself was sometimes used as a hiding place until a safe escape could be arranged?
The latter information only surfaced on the night I met with a group of former Youth Alivers (many from the days of the “trouble”). Rapitse, now, among other things, a commander in the army, gave testimony to his faith, but also to “confess” that he and his “comrades” had used the little office up under the eaves to hide Youth Alivers fleeing the police. He told of how they photo-copied ANC (African National Congress—now in power) leaflets on the office copier.
On one hand it was brash and dangerous. Had the police discovered these actions Youth Alive’s doors would have been closed. Even Caesar Molebatsi, who had completed his MA in the USA and returned to lead Youth alive after we left, knew very little about these activities.
But I’m really proud that these Christian young people had developed stamina and foresight, and were willing to risk their lives to bring an end to unrighteousness.
I wonder if we could have done more to help? But perhaps we did what we could – to train them to be young men and women who knew they were created in the image of God—the Imago Dei—who had the courage to fulfill their destiny.