Lockdown in South Africa has birthed all sorts of ways for individuals and families to keep busy and productive. One common activity seems to be “spring cleaning”.
We often say we don’t have the time for so many things, but all of a sudden we have too much time on our hands and keeping busy along with enough rest is good for mental health in these unprecedented times.
Interesting timing in that we find ourselves with Easter just around the corner too. There are certain Jewish customs and rules that involve preparing and cleaning for Passover. Dust isn’t chametz (leaven) and the purpose of cleaning and searching for chametz is to remove any of it that one may come to inadvertently eat or derive benefit from during Passover. The key focus area for cleaning is the kitchen or anywhere else where food is prepared or eaten. It is a very intense process and taken very seriously – even books that could have cookie crumbs on them from eating while reading need to be shaken off and cleaned!
Families will often buy everything new and keep everything packed away to bring out for use at Passover.
I realise that spring-cleaning, firstly, normally occurs near spring, and secondly, is not the same as getting ready for Passover; however, I do want to recognise a parallel in the purpose of cleaning.
As a result of COVID-19 we currently have emergency shelters going up all over South Africa for homeless people to be able to comply with our lockdown restrictions and to have access to sanitisers, food and a place to sleep. These people own very few things because they live on the streets and have no place for storage. People around our country, and certainly here in Port Elizabeth, have opened their hearts in a big way to these people who have so little. Their “spring-cleaning” has suddenly gained a purpose as they have been moved by the huge need on their doorsteps. The shelters have been inundated with donations of blankets, clothing, shoes, toiletries, games and more.
We have also had an army of volunteers working on the frontlines and many behind the scenes in their homes connecting people so that things could be collected safely from donors and delivered safely to the shelters. Many people who are normally actively involved in helping the vulnerable in our city have felt like their hands are tied because lockdown has meant that fewer people are involved.
We are mandated in God’s word to look after the poor and vulnerable in society. I think it has shocked people to see how many people live on the streets of our city and country. It has caused people to ask questions like, “What is going to happen after lockdown? Do we just close up the shelters and send people back to the streets and not think of them again because they are out of sight?” We know that we would find Jesus at such shelters and with poor people anywhere, so where does that leave us as Christ followers?
I imagine that God asks more from us when it comes to homeless and destitute people. A Bible verse commonly quoted by people called into missions is Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. I believe that those words are for each and every one of us. Thinking of the future, I trust that the purpose of sharing what we have will not be lost amid a huge crisis of an infectious virus. I trust we will be continually moved to “see” the poor and needy among us as precious people made in the image of God, no less than ourselves, and to share from our abundance with those in need. And that we will connect with recognised NPOs and charities in our areas so that we can channel our donations through trusted sources.
I also feel very strongly that we don’t just give things and leave people where they are but that we inspire them with hope to dream about the future too. We are called to “proclaim good news to the poor”. Things do not need to remain the same. I realise that when someone is destitute it can seem almost impossible to think of a brighter future, but I know with God, things can turn around. We often have connections with people and places that could help others upskill themselves and where they could be put in line to find a job. Let’s be hopeful ourselves and pray that hope will arise in those around us. Let’s ask God to use us as His channels to help people beyond just giving them a sandwich for a day.
Another avenue of helping the poor is the many charity shops around our cities and towns, all of which had to close their doors because of the lockdown. Please keep these places in mind with the rest of your “spring-cleaning” donations that you have not yet given to the needy at shelters. Some charity shops are connected directly with an NPO that they support and others support a variety of different charities and needs. Giving to these places is a great ongoing method of supporting the poor. Why not find one that you can regularly donate to and shop at – they often have fantastic items for sale. The lockdown will eventually be lifted!
Let’s give generously with cheerful hearts and bring honour and glory to our God.
If you need help with where to give your spring cleaning donations, here are a few people you can approach:
Cape Town – You could join the ‘Cape Town Together ‘ Facebook group and then set up your own Community Action Network (CAN) group from that.
Durban – Grace Family Church (Dave/Rose/Dimitra) — firstname.lastname@example.org; Kim Griffith Jones — email@example.com;
Johannesburg – Alta McMaster — +27 82 940 6230
Port Elizabeth – Debbie Hemmens — firstname.lastname@example.org