I Am an Immigrant

 

I made it a policy not to talk about politics—South African or American—on this blog, but I cannot keep silent by the recent events in the USA, concerning immigration.

Yesterday in chapel, we had a Thanksgiving Eucharist for the 10th-anniversary of Growing the Church (GtC), the organisation with whom my husband and I serve on the field. In lieu of a homily, staff members shared some of their favourite stories about GtC, especially those that displayed God’s provision. When it was my turn to share, I broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe how emotional I became. I talked about my first encounters with the GtC staff and my earliest days at GtC, about how everyone had welcomed me with opened arms.

You see; I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to leave one’s beloved family, country, and culture and move half away across the world. I know what it feels like to quit a good job and head into the unknown of financial security. I know what it’s like to completely uproot, to sell one’s possessions and to arrive in a new country, carrying only three suitcases and two carry-on bags.

I am a foreigner. I know what it’s like to learn how to grocery shop again, learning new foods, how to read labels, new terminology, a new system of weight and volume. I know what’s like to learn to drive on the left side of the road and to learn different rules of the road. I know what it’s like to struggle to communicate, to understand people and for them to understand me. I know what it’s like to feel so homesick at times that the feeling feels almost like physical pain.

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Within a month of my arrival in Cape Town, I was in George, helping out with a Rooted in Jesus training. We were in an Afrikaans-speaking community, and all the parishioners, including the ones in this group, welcomed me with opened arms.

I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to be welcomed with opened arms and with love, for people to be happy that I am here, for people to have me over for dinners and braais and to take me for walks on the beach. I know what it feels like to receive needful help and advise and guidance from opening a bank account, to cooking, to where to get the best bargains for clothes, to which neighbourhoods to be cautious of, to which doctors to go to for medical help. I know what it’s like for people to be patient with me, as I struggle to communicate in their language. I know what it’s like for people to live out Leviticus 19:34a, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” This has been my experience in South Africa, and I can never thank my friends, family, colleagues, parish family, and all the countless churches, parishioners, priests, bishops, students and other individuals who have welcomed and loved me as one of their own.

 

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Universities in Turmoil

If you live outside of South Africa, you are probably not aware of the crisis at our universities. A little more than a year ago, university students started to protest, demanding no increase (or a very slight increase at worse) for the 2017 academic school year. Their rallying cry was #feesmustfall. At first, the protests were peaceful and limited to a handful of universities, but then some troublemakers got involved. A few months down the line, the protests turned violent. Now there are protests at all of the major universities in the country and at many of our minor ones. The students are demanding free tertiary education. Their protests have turned incredibly violent over the past few months and have escalated during the past two-three weeks. University buildings, including resident halls (dormitories), have been burned down; classes have been canceled; faculty cars have been set alight. Last week, at one of our universities in Cape Town, three security guards nearly died when the building they were in was set on fire. At another one of our universities, some students took a faculty member hostage. At Wits University in Johannesburg, some of the scenes between students and police/ security guards look like a battle zone. Yesterday, students marched on Parliament in Cape Town. The protest turned violent.student-protest

There are no winners in this crisis. Many people who were sympathetic to the students’ cause are no longer, due to the violent turn of the protests. The situation is complex, and many of the students are demanding more things besides free tertiary education. Personally, I think a lot of their demands and the ethos of their movement have roots in the injustice and racism of the past and of the current times. There are two sides to every story, but I think most South Africans would agree that the protests have gotten out of control. The violence is not justified and is only hurting the students’ cause, education as a whole and the country at large. Everyone living in South Africa is affected. There are no winners.

Wayne and I have several young friends either at university or who are preparing to attend universities who are affected by the turmoil. Please pray for our young friends, and please join us in prayer for the following:

  • All tertiary students and those preparing to begin university in 2017 (The South African academic year runs from January to December.) Please pray for their families as well.
  • Protesting students: For them to protest peacefully and for them to hold accountable those who are not. Please pray for their safety as well.
  • Police and security guards who have been called in. For them not to use excessive force. For their safety as well.
  • Faculty and all staff at the universities: Pray for their safety and welfare and peace of mind. For wisdom about going forward.
  • Prayers for all parties involved, including the government: For them to listen to one another, for wisdom on all sides and for a fair solution to be formed.

At our recent Anglicans Ablaze conference, one of the sessions was “Quo Vadis South Africa?”—meaning, where are you going, South Africa? In many ways, the country is at a crossroads. There are so many major things going on, things to either make or break this country in the future. The student protests are a major player at this crossroads. Prayer changes things. Thank you for joining us in prayer for our students and universities and for all of those who are involved.

#Madagascar4Jesus

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In a few weeks’ time, Wayne, along with five youth leaders, will be traveling to Madagascar on mission. The team will be serving at the Diocese of Toliara’s youth conference in the areas of teaching, speaking, preaching, ministry and cultivating community and fellowship through games.

Each team member brings unique skills and gifts, and it has been a blessing and a joy (and hard work!) to help plan this mission. The team members are Neil Adams, Ryan Baatjies, Zrano Bam, Wayne Curtis, Nkosinathi Landingwe, and Rethabile Mabusela. The mission team has named themselves: #Madagascar4Jesus. The conference theme is Romans 12:1, “To offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” Neil, Zrano and Rethabile will be expounding on the theme each day. Wayne and Nkosinathi will be talking about the “Challenge of Globalisation in Relation to Christianity,” and Ryan will be preaching at the cathedral.

We know that this team is going to a blessing to the young people at the conference and that they will receive numerous blessings as well. I have no doubt that a special bond will be formed between the South African team and the Malagasy youth leaders and youth. I believe it will be a life-changing experience for them all.

The team is eager to serve, and each member has been hard at work over the past few months to raise the support needed to go on this mission trip. For Wayne, we hosted at church two “Movie Nights” in which we showed the movie War Room and sold pizzas. We also hosted “Wayne’s House Party” in which FuzionGrooves (a DJ and singer from church) provided the music. We also teamed up with the Amici de Lumine Youth Choir to hold an afternoon of choral music fundraiser. Wayne and I have been so amazed at the support he has received from church members, friends and family, who truly believe in this mission. God has really provided for us, and we are truly grateful.

The team will be traveling to Toliara, which is the southern part of the country. It consists of one of the poorest and most unreached places on earth. The people of Toliara have numerous struggles, but many of them find hope in the diocese’s holistic ministry of evangelism, education and economic development. We are grateful that Wayne and the other five youth leaders have the opportunity to go be with and to serve their brothers and sisters in Toliara. Please keep the team in your prayers—safe journey, good health, sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit, etc.—as they prepare to leave.

 

The Addict in My Church

As we plan for the International Anglicans Ablaze Conference in October, we are having seminars and consultations that deal with several topics that the conference will cover. One such topic is the scourge of substance abuse, and Wayne and I had the pleasure to attend and help host the consultation on substance abuse that Dr. Graham Bressick’s led on Saturday.

If you live in South Africa, no doubt you are aware of how drug abuse is affecting our communities. There are probably few of us who have not been affected in some way. In Cape Town, drug dealing and gangsterism go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the violence is so bad that schools and hospitals have to close down due to gang violence. Last week in Plumstead, a couple of young men were arrested for selling drugs to primary school children who attend school just off the Main Road. Driving at night through Wynberg one can often see the exchange of drugs. Last year, just outside my office window, I saw a woman doing drugs in her car. Many of the youth with whom we work have parents who are addicts. It is all around us.

I think it’s great that we as the Anglican Church are finally addressing this tough issue. So many families are affected, and they don’t know how to cope. We who are their friends feel powerless to help them.

The major takeaway I took from Saturday’s seminar was what Dr. Bressick’s called the ID-100357963eight strengths of churches. Summarizing from an American minister’s book (unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the book or author), Dr. Bressick said that churches provide these strengths for people:

  • Accompany (companionship)
  • Convene
  • Connect
  • Stories (a place to tell our stories)
  • Sanctuary (a place to be safe)
  • Receive blessing
  • Prayer
  • Endure

Of course, this is the ideal church, the Church at its best, where the addict is welcomed. But I wonder how much our numbers would swell in our individual parishes if we did just that. I wonder how many people—members or newcomers or passersby—actually feel safe in their church. If our churches were truly a safe place where young and old, rich and poor, addict and sober could feel loved and accepted, be offered prayer, feel truly connected and a sense of companionship with friends to endure, I wonder how much that we as the Church could be changing lives and the world.

 

–Art credit: hyena reality, freedigitalphotos.net

Local is Lekker

There is a saying in Cape Town, “local is lekker;” meaning, local is good. Friday night, Wayne and I had the privilege to visit three youth groups. All of these churches are situated on the Cape Flats in communities that are riddled with gang violence, drugs and economic hardship. Since we serve on the provincial level, we oftentimes don’t get to spend quality time with local youth groups unless we are doing a training or an event; so it was great to spend time with these young people, sharing with them about the upcoming Anglicans Ablaze Conference and just being with them.

For our American friends, did you know that most of our youth groups meet on a Friday evening instead of a Sunday afternoon? The youth groups we attended were located in Bonteheuwel, Manenberg and Heideveld. If you want to find out more about the Cape Flats, check out “Overview of the Cape Flats,” which gives a decent account.

 

Humility

Archbishop Justin He washed their feet. Narrow and wide; male and female; shades of brown, black, and white—12 pairs of teenage feet, he washed. The head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, got on his knees, gently taking up a pair of feet to wash. Then he blessed the bearer of the feet.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

I will never forget this day, when I had the absolute honour of overseeing the hosting of Archbishop Welby when he spoke to the youth at Anglicans Ablaze. His talk was real, vulnerable, relatable, encouraging. He spoke about how God used Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement over the young man Mark, who had deserted them on a mission, for good, helping to spread the Good News and how Paul later “re-commissioned” Mark, requesting his help on another mission. The archbishop tied this to our lives today, reminding us how God can use for good the mistakes we have made. Archbishop Welby also talked about how modern-day society, even himself at times, suffers from the “imposter syndrome”—the fear of having people know who we truly are on the inside, warts, fears, jealousies, muck, insecurities, desires, and all. If people really knew us, they wouldn’t like us.

Then, at the end of his talk, the archbishop washed 12 pairs of feet, demonstrating Christ’s love for his church. There was not a dryArchbishop Justin 2 eye in the room. You could feel God’s presence; it was the presence of love, nearly tangible, like a cloud. Archbishop Welby’s action was the act of love and a servant spirit. It was humility incarnate. I could sense God saying to us all, Go and do likewise.

Cathy

Two and a half years ago when we first met, I don’t think the two of us ever dreamed we would be working together in the same community. Worlds and countries apart, we two friends are now working together for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, my friend Cathy for Anglican Aids and I for Growing the Church.

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Tres Amigas–Cathy, Lindsey, and me: Lindsey just returned to the States, and we miss her already.

When I started taking some of the first steps to move to South Africa, I kept hearing from my church friends, “You have to meet this lady named Cathy. She’s from Cape Town.” I kept hearing all of these wonderful things about her. When our paths finally crossed at St. George’s, I felt like we were kindred spirits; it was instant friendship.

It was such a blessing to get to know Cathy while she was studying in Nashville. I loved sharing my city with her. She got to meet my family. We had a ball and our friendship grew. She was a huge help as I prepared to move to Cape Town. She and her family welcomed me with opened arms. Cathy has helped me tremendously as I have adapted to my new life here. Her family and two more families, friends of hers, have become my family on the other side of False Bay.

Last week, Cathy joined us at the Braehead community to become the programmes director of Anglicans Aids. We were like two school girls, thrilled to be working together in the same community. It’s like being in class with your best friend.

God knows no distance and is not bound by nations’ boundaries. It’s amazing how God can literally bring people together from halfway across the world.