It’s dangerous to leave your gate unlocked in South Africa, or is it?
Here in South Africa we lock everything, all the time. It’s simply dangerous not to. Melissa and I have locks on our garage door, we lock both of our driveway gates, we lock the gate to our yard and we never go out or go to bed without locking our doors. Every night I do a perimeter check of all our doors to ensure they are, locked. Locks are simply non-negotiable. Today however, Grace locked our front gate in a way that changed all of that for us. It’s a bit of a story how this happened, but in the end I learned something big.
To start the day off I experienced a strange string of events causing me to go from having 80 rand in my wallet to having exactly one 100 rand bill (less than $10). These events included purchasing a washing machine for the Ubuntu Academy House, buying “cool drinks” (a name they use for anything that’s not coffee, tea or water here in South Africa) for a co-worker and buying snacks for our 3 three kids after training to tide them over while I cooked dinner. At this point you may be thinking, “How did you end up with more money in your wallet at the end of the day? You were just spending money.” Let me just leave it as, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and I don’t have the patience to type it all out. What’s important is that it’s weird, it happened and it should not have happened. Well maybe not.
In addition to my monetary weirdness, while fetching (another South Africanism, “to fetch” is to pick up anything in a vehicle) the washing machine I saw a sign across the road that I had to take a picture of. Unfortunately we were pretty far from it, but I figured I could blow it up and use snapseed to make a great Instagram post (note: missionaries spend a lot of time on Instagram, especially if they can’t afford real TV, like us). This picture was of a hand painted sign that read, “PERSISTENT FAITH PRAYER PATIENCE & PERSEVERANCE” with rainbow colors in the background of each word. The truly interesting part about the sign is that it is hung in a place called “Lavender Hill”. What a beautiful name right? Yes and no. Lavender Hill is a township full of serious gangster activity, prostitution, destitution and all-around-Godlessness. It’s also the home of one of our boys, “Zari” or Nazario, who refuses to let me drop him off at his house. Instead he has me let him out on the main road, and he walks in. He even did this after sustaining a serious injury to his ankle and was on crutches. He was honestly worried about my safety. Whenever we drive by the boys tell me about how a field next to the road is called the “killing field” because that’s where the gangs fight. Beautiful eh? So a colorful sign about faith and prayer really caught my attention. On the rest of the ride back I worked on the picture by blowing it up, focusing it and lightening the dark parts. I got it just right, but didn’t finish my Instagram. I saved it for later. Later when I had time to think about it more, what it meant.
After training that night the kids and I were alone for dinner because “The Enforcer” was called to duty at the Academy House. Melissa was there to set some standards for the boys that we had been working on. Go figure that we have to explain how drinking coffee after 9pm, taking food back to their bed and running around naked are not acceptable behaviors? Anyway, while Melissa was laying down the law the rest of halls4hope went through all the normal evening routines with me giving each of the kids tasks. Vusumzi did his homework, Jax helped make dinner (doing his best Food Network show host impersonation, too funny and worthy of another post sometime) and Grace walked Tessa. I cooked (re: browned and slightly burned) the chicken, kept Chef Jax from cutting off a finger, reminded Grace to lock the gate when she came back from waking Tessa and worked on my Instagram post from the morning. When I pulled up the picture I had taken earlier though, I saw something completely new. In the foreground of the picture I noticed a crosswalk sign with a red man, “Do Not Walk”. This helped my Instagram take on a whole new message, “Do we choose to walk with Jesus?” or “Choose to walk when called” or “When the world says ‘Don’t Walk’ what do we do?”. Now my message was surprisingly clever (for me that is). Feeling pretty happy with the newly penned message and how it all came about, I put some finishing touches on it and clicked “SHARE->”. Instagram for the day, DONE. Kids fed, DONE. Tessa walked, DONE. Kids ready for bed, DONE. I’m awesome and I’m DONE, or so I thought.
Here my day took a bit of a turn. On our front porch I suddenly heard what sounded like a small child. What? A small child is on my porch, inside my locked gate at almost 9pm? Is he drinking coffee or taking food to his bed? No, no coffee or food but yes, there was a small child attached to the hip of a middle aged woman holding the hand of another young boy on my porch. What about the lock?
Now locks can be tricky sometimes. Especially if your are managing an overzealous and fluffy Tessa who is hot after a walk and wants a drink of water. Sometimes you lock the gate shut. Sometimes you lock the gate open. Grace, totally by mistake and trying to do the right thing had locked the open. However, she locked it open. In fact, the way she had locked it one could not even close the gate fully. So now I had visitors and my DONE day was no longer DONE. Frustrating.
If you’ve followed halls4hope for long you may know the name “Rasheed”. We have helped, prayed with and to be honest been a bit annoyed and troubled by Rasheed and his family over the last year. They are colored muslims who live in Ocean View, and 12 months ago Rasheed’s brother burned down their house (re: shack or shanty) with everything in it. Rasheed found us one day looking for food to feed his family. This is the world we live in. Anyway, as my “DONE” evening was now interrupted by someone inside my seemingly locked security gate, I was not a happy camper. As I turned on the porch light and stepped outside I’m positive that Rasheed’s wife was a bit concerned with her choice to come to our house. I noted in her eyes that she figured this was a mistake, but that was behind something else. She had a reason for being here and she immediately began to spill that reason out in broken english along with the type of fearful tears I don’t see very often, but recognize clearly. Beyond her words, the tears she wiped from her cheeks told me, “I have no other options and as scared as I am of you right now, I fear more for my family.” Basically they had fallen on hard times again and tonight they were kicked out of their rental (re: shack or shanty they pay for weekly), she had nowhere to go and Rasheed was nowhere to be found. Ocean View is not a place to be out on the street, especially at night. As her words and tears rolled onto the porch she asked me for a loan of 100 rand to get back into their rental. 100 Rand, less than $10. My hard exterior shattered, and I as a stepped back into the house I had to turn away quickly. My shame at my attitude and my unwillingness to let her see my weakness took over. I had come so close to “choosing NOT to walk,” and SO close to ignoring a clear message of the Old Testament and New Testament alike. The very same message God had spoken to me during my day.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” – Deuteronomy 15:11
“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – Isaiah 58:7
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” – 1 John 3:17
“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” - Matthew 5:42
A few minutes later Rasheed’s wife and children walked out of our security gate to make their way back to Ocean View. With a 100 rand bill tightly wrapped in her fingers she looked over her shoulder and said, “Lock your gate. Dangerous to keep open.” I thought to my self, “Yes, but tonight it was locked, just for you.”
Trying to Follow Jesus with Wild Abandon…