Seeking Wealth in Poverty

(I wrote this over the summer while visiting South Africa. Now that I am teaching Africa in my class, I’ve been reminded of my time there, and realizing how quickly I have forgotten what I learned. Here’s a refresher. Maybe it will sink in the second time.)

We will work out hope and justice, for the sick, the lame, the lost, for the widow and the orphan, bringing help at any cost.

Mo Leverett from the song “Pushing Back the Dark with Light”

On our first morning in Pretoria, Allan (the team leader) gave us an overview of Africa Revolution’s vision, mission, and ethos. What stands out to me about this organization is the careful paradoxes they balance.
Allan spoke of “holistic redemption” in the community; which means not just sharing Christ and not just meeting physical needs of the grandmothers, the orphans, the hungry, but recognizing that we are called to BOTH, as Jesus worked out both in his ministry. It broadens the meaning of healing.
They also seek to be intentional while leaving space for spontaneity, something that personally challenges my scheduled existence. As he sent us out to work on homes, Nate reminded us that “relational interactions are productive.” O that I could live that out…
Our first interactions with the people in the church were overwhelmingly wonderful.  They each took time to individually greet us and welcome us into their home. As I think about the way I invite people to enter into my world, church, life, I was humbled by their simple acceptance and genuine desire for us to be a part of them. While I selfishly wait to see what people can offer me, they welcomed us with no pretense. I know this just as I know how little I have to offer.
On our first night, several church members hosted a dinner for us that culminated in a spontaneous dance party, singing, and prayer. About their prayer: The Christians here do it before and after everything (convicting), as well as out loud all at once (uncomfortable, beautiful, powerful).  It felt chaotic, but to visualize, think about the feeling of peace you get when someone prays for you…imagine that rushing over you in constant waves. It’s like blitzkrieg prayer!  When they taught us a “worshipping song,” it sounded like the African singers on Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” Seriously. Is it possible that everyone in Africa can sing? Although I still can’t really get the words right, it sent chills up my spine trying to linger in the moment. Another line from “Pushing Back the Dark with Light” came to mind, “seeking wealth in poverty.” There was true wealth in that place, although an outside observer would have seen only poverty.

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