Recently our church, the Storehouse, ran a preaching series called “Living Well in SA”. In the first preach we were told that ‘Africa is not for sissies’. Indeed, we heard that we who live in South Africa need much more courage to get through a day than do our counterparts in Australia, North America and Europe. Our world is filled with crises on every front and is rife with racial tension, simmering violence, injustice . Theirs is orderly and controlled by copious rules and regulations. Bland.
South Africa is not for sissies, we heard. But it’s awesome! It is where God has placed us to live for His purposes. God never intended for us to live average lives, and here in South Africa we are invited to live on the front foot! Using Nehemiah 7 as his text the preacher, Richard Preston, compared the Jews’ rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem with our rebuilding efforts in South Africa. At first they built with energy and passion. But when the wall had reached half its height fatigue began to kick in. And an accumulation of rubble got in the way of their building. Failure, fear and intimidation also began to hinder the work. The preacher provided sound Biblical keys to overcoming the hindrances. But it is the hindrance of rubble I want to consider. The negative stories that are shared around braai fires, via emails and sms’s. Don’t share them! Don’t be part of dividing and discouraging people through spreading reports that stereotype people, we were told.
Stories that build faith
It reminds me of one of our God-given assignments on this section of the wall we are building through Gateway News. And that is to share stories that build faith in Jesus Christ, stories that break stereotypes, and stories that are gloriously South African. And so at this juncture, let me recount two stories that meet those criteria. I can only touch on them, but you can click on the links to view the original reports if you are interested.
There is the story of an irritable, racist, white farmer who had no workers because none would put up with his nonsense. Then after he had been running the farm alone for years a coloured labourer arrived and offered his services. He was different and he boldy stated that he had been sent by the Holy Spirit to get the farmer saved. And incredibly, through a miraculous intervention of God, that is what happened. And as the farmer says, today, they are no longer “Baas and Klaas” but brothers in Christ.
And then there is the miraculous transformation of Western Cape taxi bosses who were at war with each other for decades. Innocent people were killed and injured in the spillover and communities were severely disrupted. In March the rival taxi bosses made peace, repented publicly and dedicated their industry to Jesus. The former, apartheid Minister of Police, Adriaan Vlok somehow got involved in the process and on several occasions washed the feet of former taxi bosses, who in turn washed his feet and blessed him. Last night I sent an email to Pastor Bongani Mgayi, who assisted the taxi men in the reconciliation process (and who incidentally is a Gateway News columnist). I asked him if the taxi peace was holding. This is his reply:
“Yes, the peace is still in place.
“A miracle of miracles happened the Easter weekend of 2012. Usually dozens of people die on the strip of road (N1-R61) from Cape Town-Beaufort West-Aberdeen-Cradock, every holiday and especially on Easter weekend. This Easter there were no accidents on the roads – NONE! Even the MEC for Transport in the Western Cape confirmed this at a meeting I had with him. I asked the taxi leaders if this had ever happened. They told me this was the first time in the history of the taxi industry that they had no road accidents or deaths on the road.
“I am still in touch with the taxi leaders and have now become the ‘taxi pastor’. Just this week I had a meeting with the executive and we talked about having a prayer before the December holidays on that strip of road. They’re convinced prayer works!
“There have of course been a few issues – we have had some shootings on one of the routes. At this point no one seems to know who is doing the shooting or why. There are a few theories about this. Some say it is revenge, some say it’s about money. The police have yet to arrest anyone. These latest shootings are in themselves a testimony for our Lord. The taxi guys would usually shoot back and a war would inevitably break out. But this time they are asking for prayers and counsel and have approached the MEC, police and others to help quell the shootings.
“My understanding is that the reason for the shootings is because of the history of blood in the industry – God said Abel’s blood is crying out for justice; we are presenting Yeshua as the only one who can quiet this blood-guiltiness. I also think it has to do with the culture of violence some people are used to – they now need to learn a different way of dealing with their disagreements. They are operating like the Jews of the Old Testament who killed anyone they disagreed with – because that was the lingua franca. In the New Testament they need to learn a new language of love, forgiveness, tolerance and peace.
“We’re praying about this and trusting our Lord for a solution. ” (Bongani expands on the topic of the transforming taxi men in his latest column.)
In the early days of the new South Africa we won the Rugby World Cup, ‘Madiba Magic’ was working, and we were the ‘Rainbow Nation’. In truth our nation transitioned into the new South Africa remarkably peacefully under a mighty covering of prayer. And despite the ever-present crises that we face today we can still thank many faithful intercessors who are standing in the gap — including prisoners in 20 jails who prayed and fasted 24/7 for revival in SA for 50 days from Easter to Pentecost. But the point I wish to make here is that for all the good that they do bring to us, winning sports teams and Madiba are not the power behind the “Rainbow Nation”. Our hope and our destiny as a nation is rooted in Jesus Christ. And because of that we, as Christians, can have an unshakable hope even in the midst of tragedies such as the Marikana shooting near Rustenburg. God’s mighty hand can already be seen moving in that area in the preparations for the “New Beginning” crusade in Rustenburg with Angus Buchan on Saturday, October 20. Organisers say it will be a true Rainbow Nation event. Let’s say “AMEN!” to that.