Lakeside Lodge Entabeni. That’s where we are tonight. We traveled half a day out of Johannesburg to get here. The safari jeeps met us at the edge of the land preserve and we said goodbye to our coach bus. We spent the second half of our day on safari. Yes, church pastors on a game drive. We’ve been looking forward to shooting big game armed only with iPhones, tablets, go-pro cameras on sticks and long range lenses. (Please note the last part of that sentence, dear speed reader.)
After 10 days of intense study the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program is concluding our trip with this rich gift of land and wild life.
Our hopes were high that we would see the “big five,” lions, elephants, rhinoceros, leopard, and buffalo.
Our first ten minutes in we came across five adults and two young giraffes, and that was just on the way to our quarters.
On our sunset drive we were grateful for the new, 4-wheel drive, diesel Toyota jeep that took us on a 55 degree decline/incline along the escapement on the reserve (read: really big, really old geological drop off of rocky mountain to valley). We appreciated hippo from a distance, could have thrown a cell phone at a rhino, and were told by a female elephant that we were invading her personal space. She picked up sticks and threw them at our jeep while facing us head on. That pack of elephants had ten altogether.
We saw the rarely observed aardvark, always first in the yellow pages; one of the three cheetahs on the reserve, wildebeests, zebras, more giraffes, and lots of Impala and kudu.
I’m humbled to be a part of God’s creation here in the heartland of creation.
The view from atop Table Mountain
I know we think of the Fertile Crescent as the Cradle of Civilization but this southern tip of the continent we still get the rarest of biodiversity in the plant world and among the human languages spoken, the native Xhosa carries the heritage of the most ancient speech. Table Mountain is 280 million year old. I call it the Mountain in the Cradle. The majestic view of Cape Town and the meeting of two oceans 3,000 feet below is breathtaking. The prehistoric rock top is like traversing an alien landscape. It is almost a counterpoint to all that I have witnessed so far here in South Africa.
Yet being atop is akin to standing on the metaphorical “balcony” overlooking the “dance floor” in Ron Heifetz adaptive leadership teachings. The overhead view allows for time to reflect and take stock, or take a look at the long view of the challenging experiences in prior days.
I’m beginning to see how the work of healing needs to be done in my own town. I’m beginning to see just how long and the quality of sacrificial service it takes to make a difference. These are things I know in my head, but I understand in better in my heart here on the mountain in the cradle.
Khayelitsha is an informal Township outside of Cape Town. One of the locals near my hotel tells me it’s not the worst, there are actually worse places in South Africa, and he names a few off the top of his head. I try to wrap my head around how it could be any worse. Recalling our visit there today, my heart breaks that any human beings must live in such desperate and impoverished conditions. Trash piles and waste border every dirt pathway through make shift, one room homes. A one year old sits in the road and dips a plastic spoon in a used, smashed soda bottle caked in dirt. A pack of slightly better dressed, teenage boys take on a threatening gaze as we pass by, the innocence of their childhood long gone. 500,000 urban poor crowd Khayelitsha. We met with the Social Justice Coalition to learn about the problems of sanitation in this Township. The SJC is made of volunteers and many come right from this community. They are trying to make headway with the local and state governments to get a plan for the toilets in this settlement. People were moved here under Apartheid to desperate blacks out of the city. 50 years later, and even under democracy, little has changed.
I left with a broken heart and thoughts for how I could help. The truth is, when I arrive back in South Bend, Indiana, I don’t need to look far to find Khayelitsha in my own back yard.
People need help here. People need our love and attention at home as well. My heart is softened and engaged from this trip to live the calling to help and heal where The Lord has planted me.
Basic ethics asks that I look at what I’m doing and multiply that by everyone in the room and see if it’s sustainable. Could everyone live like me? Rev Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town says we would need two planets to sustain the lifestyle of the average white westerner for all 7.2 billion brothers and sisters on this planet. Worse, those who are living a privileged and comfortable lifestyle must be served by an impoverished majority to maintain the luxuries we have. As Christians we are challenged to look at our addiction to materialism, consumerism, stuff. This is not new to those who are attempting to live the Bible’s oldest teachings. Leviticus 25 calls for a Jubilee every 50 years to free those in debt, give back taken land and free the enslaved. Just as Americans look back at our barbaric practices of slavery of 200 years ago, future Americans may look at us 200 years from now and see barbaric practices of consumerism. What is our responsibility today to proclaim such inequality, injustice; our unethical and unsustainable addiction to stuff?
Perhaps a page from AA and NA can help. We start by admitting we’re broken. We cannot fix this by ourselves, but by Grace and humility we may discover a new way to love and live free, each of us.
Rev Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town
Rainbow over Cape Town, brought out by the last of the spring rains, like a promise at the end of our day
The flora of South Africa is more diversified than any other part of our planet. It is part of the beauty of this land. Diversification is one of its strengths. So often we talk about tolerating the differences in others or “being in dialogue” to learn about other beliefs, faiths, or thought. Yesterday we learned that the JL Zwane Presbyterian Church in Gugulethu Township celebrates diversity, even and especially when it makes them uncomfortable. They were the first church in Cape Town to take on a ministry to confront HIV/AIDS, and were much maligned for doing so early on. They have learned to be in relationship and partnership with other churches and organizations that they otherwise would not have aligned with. In doing so, they have discovered a rich and thriving ministry. Their openness to diversity has been strength in building the kingdom of God.
Scripture continues to point us in the direction of being in relationship with “other.” Even unto the Holy Other in God. This is the gift of diversity worth celebrating.