It’s now been 4 weeks since I moved to Muizenberg and started my adventure with Justice ACTS International, and the time has just flown by. The atmosphere within the organization is wonderful. I’ve never met people that are willing to invest so much into those that they work with to help them grow. I am already learning so much about myself and how I fit in with the rest of the team. We are currently working on profiles of different countries that we hope to visit in the near future, which is keeping the researcher inside of me very happy, as well as running local outreaches and planning events to raise awareness of human trafficking. The amazingly hectic international schedule that the team keeps means that my plans for the next few months are constantly changing, but I am loving the challenge that it presents. At the moment, I’m not too worried about what is coming up. God knows exactly where He wants me, and that’s good enough for me, whether it be in France, America, England, or right here in Cape Town.
Despite all of the busyness, I am currently experiencing the strange sensation of having to rediscover myself and my place within a city that I have already lived in for a year, due to the amazingly alienating force known as the absence of a car. I have good friends in this city, people that have become brothers and sisters to me over the last year, but suddenly a 40 minute drive has separated us as effectively as oceans and continents.
In a way, this is good. For a start, it is forcing me to engage with those around me and settle properly into life in Muizenberg, rather than just running away to the familiar surroundings of the Northern Suburbs all the time. Settling in is not all that easy to do at the moment, as I’m living in temporary accommodation, but I’m hoping to be able to get my life properly sorted out as of next week. I am also learning just how wonderful and indispensable an invention Skype is. Being able to talk with my family and actually see their faces is an enormous blessing. I don’t think I would have made it through the last few weeks without it, or them.
At least the scenery here is good for the soul, even if you are spending more time alone than is usual. It really is stunningly beautiful here.
The natural beauty and lure of this seaside town, with it’s quirky coffee shops and rank upon rank of surfboards lining the seafront is now contrasted so starkly in my mind with the abject poverty that I have experienced in the townships on the other side of the road. Geographically, one main road separates 2 townships from the beautiful and peaceful suburbs of Muizenberg, yet in people’s minds it may as well be a huge gulf. I have been told by so many people to be careful after dark, to not walk the main road on my own and to not stop at the lights if I’m driving after dark. There is a great sense of fear when people think of the townships, a sense of inevitability and not being able to change things, and of not being welcome there.
I am glad to say that this has not been my experience at all. Yes, the local townships are in the middle of an age old form of gang warfare. Yes, the houses are, at best cinder block structures that barely have running water and electricity. And yes, there are huge problems with violence, poverty and prostitution, most of which are linked to high rates of Tik addiction (a local variant of crystal meth). But there is hope too. My experience of the townships will probably not be the norm, as I went with people that have taken the time to form relationships with people that live there, and to maintain them. We were greeted with shouts of joy, welcomed into peoples homes and treated like old friends, even though some of us were new faces. We spoke with people who have experienced more pain than I can ever know, yet were happy to spend time with us, and told us that things were well with them. I cannot honestly say that if I was in the same situation as them, I would be able to say that things were well with me.
I have a lot to learn from them.
I can’t wait to go back and start working more closely with the people there, teaching them how to be followers of Jesus, and that they have a value far above anything on this earth. To show them that following Jesus is about more than just saving souls, and that God loves them just as they are, whether they be gangsters, pimps, prostitutes or drug dealers. We have all been made in the image and likeness of God, and have all been redeemed by the same Saviour. We are all worth more than we can ever realise, and nothing we can do can change that. A diamond is still a diamond, even if it’s buried deep in the ground.