Seeing The Shanty Towns of South Africa For The First Time

Poor American = Rich African

The experience of seeing the shanty towns in South Africa for the first time. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) “Stop the car” I yelled out to pastor Malvory as we drove down a steep hill in East London, South Africa. He pulled over to the side of the road wondering what was wrong. It’s been said that a picture speaks a thousand words and did this one ever! I didn’t want to miss this one. Quickly, I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car to click one of the most profound pictures I had even taken in my life. There, sitting on the top of a hill, was a beautiful church shining in all her glory. Surrounding the perimeter of the church grounds was a huge block wall that must have been at least 10 feet tall. On the other side of the wall was some of the worst abject poverty that I had ever seen. Jesus said that a city set on a hill cannot be hid; likewise, it was obvious that this church was not hid from this community. The ultimate question I had…was the community hid from this church? A fence or a wall conveys the message “say out!” It says, “We’re here and you’re there. You stay on your side and we’ll stay on our side.” As I pondered the immense perplexity of the scene, I couldn’t help but wonder what was that church doing to reach the multitudes on the other side of this wall? Were they proactive and reaching out to a lost and hurting world on the other side of the wall or were they an island unto themselves? Were they impacting these needy people or were they now an isolated, insulated, inoculated institution completely oblivious from the obvious plight of the hurting outside and below them. I still wonder to this day. The reaction cannot be described adequately with words when a person sees the poverty of Africa for the first time. As a westerner, one realizes very quickly that the poorest of poor in America is wealthy in comparison to the majority of Africans. I remember driving down a road in Malawi with pastor Malvory years ago. I had an empty 2 liter bottle as trash so I asked pastor Malvory what I should do with it; he simply replied, “Throw it out the window my brother, they can use it!” Although I was puzzled, I threw the bottle out the window. The bottle had hardly hit the pavement before someone rushed over and grabbed it. I was amazed to say the least. What we count as trash in the western world, they count as treasure and utilize almost everything. We complain about having to get up from the table to get a glass of water; yet many Africans don’t complain about walking miles to get contaminated water. It’s been said that the greatest crime in the Sahara Desert is to know where the water is and not to tell. I believe that the greatest crime in modern Christendom is to know where the “Living Water” is and not to tell. May we cross the street to the other side and rescue the perishing; care for the dying!