Robin Mark and four thousand men in Belfast (Ireland) sing this song, and one of the stanzas reads,
‘There’s a lot of pain, but a lot more healing
There’s a lot of trouble, but a lot more peace
There’s a lot of hate, but a lot more loving
There’s a lot of sin, but a lot more grace!’
These lyrics trigger for me the evangelist John’s words in his profound prologue to his Gospel: Jn. 1:4-5 (NIV), ‘In him (the Logos, i.e. Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it’ (Gr. ‘understood’ or ‘overcome’).
A month or two ago I wrote to my family members and friends about our annual SCO (Students’ Christian Organisation) camp for children from the township school in Kuyga, a very poor community on the western outskirts of Port Elizabeth. A small team and I have been privileged to share, for about seven years now, the good news through word, deed and life with some of these kidz, ranging from Grade R to Grade 9 [about 7 years ago, after I had left the traditional pastorate, God spoke to me clearly about the fact that approximately 80% of the world is poor and young]. Pupils are encouraged to raise the costs of the camp at R.150 per person, all inclusive. Some of them managed (somehow!) to do that, others just couldn’t – your contributions enabled us to fully sponsor a good number of children who had showed consistent interest in the SCO gatherings over the past year. Now you may recall that most of the families in Kuyga have only one parent, some homes have no parent and children are raised by an older sibling or Gogo (grandmother) or even a caring neighbour. Often the children are emotionally abused, some sexually – it’s an exception for kidz to come from a fully integrated home. I can’t tell you the excitement of these scholars as the camp drew nearer – they simply could not wait for that special moment.
Last weekend, the 4-6th October, we took forty kidz together with the two overseeing teachers to ‘Springs’ camp-site near Uitenhage. We had not been to this venue for two years, and were shocked at the state of the facility – it had degenerated terribly, under obvious mismanagement, over that period. The rooms were dirty and the furnishings and plumbing in a poor state, etc. Nonetheless, these children thought they were in paradise! They revelled in their own bed, a warm shower, three tasty and wholesome meals per day, the camaraderie, the games and sports activities, and so on.
This past Wednesday at our weekly gathering I asked my class for three volunteers to share what they enjoyed most about the camp. The volunteers mentioned the usual things young people enjoy on an outing, but significantly all three commented on the inter-active time of sharing with Siphokazi, as she dealt with the problems plaguing our society today especially in the township ethos. For example, they learned that they are created in God’s image, ‘OK without drugs,’ and the recipients of God’s grace in Jesus. Siphokazi is a mature single mom, a deeply committed believer who has the most amazing passion for children. She is totally energised by holistic ministry to the young. Exhuberant and vibrant, she conveys God’s unconditional love for those she serves in innovative ways. Siphokazi’s and my path crossed a year or two ago, when in a dark valley she phoned me one day (I hardly knew her) and shared her acute pain and depression. To cut a long story short, after intense prayer and helpful medication via a sympathetic Christian medical doctor, she has entered a new dawning of purpose and joy – all this despite being unemployed at this moment and staying with her elderly mother, whose only income is a tiny state pension.
As I write I am close to tears – tears of joy and gratitude, that God should choose to bring together a team such as I have described above, to share Christ’s unquenchable light with a group of young people living in dark places. And YOU, by your financial gifts and intercessions, helped make this possible! And so, on behalf of the staff and students, many many thanks to you all from our hearts to yours!
‘O outrageous grace! O outrageous grace!
Love unfurled by heaven’s hand
O outrageous grace! O outrageous grace!
Through my Jesus I can stand.’
Siphokazi was sharing with me how, driving home (very reluctantly, especially the children) the children in her mini-bus passed a drunken man staggering dangerously along the road. The children immediately, spontaneously and loudly exclaimed their camp slogan, ‘Ke mojo without drugs!’ ‘I am fine without drugs!’ Amid all your busy-ness and the clutter of life, if from time to time this letter or a sentiment in it flashes momentarily through your mind, please remember us in prayer.
May God shine his face on you, wherever you are and whatever your calling, in these momentous times,
in Jesus’ name!