It doesn’t matter where you live at the moment or what color your skin is, whether you decided to stay, or whatever your reasons were for leaving. If you are a South African you will always be reminded where you come from. “South Africa” will always be the answer to the first (or second) question people will ask you when they meet you for the first time. If you live overseas you will write it on more forms than you would like to remember.
If you are a “South African”, it doesn’t matter if you think in English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Zulu, Xosa, or any of the other official languages. South Africa will always be a part of who you are. It’s impossible to forget the smell of “braaivleis”, the taste of ‘Rooibos’ tea, or the sound of the “vuvuzela”. The image of the “Big Five” in the Kruger National Park as well as the marvelous views from the top of Table Mountain will be engraved in your memory forever.
Perhaps we all have mixed feelings about the past, present, and future of our rainbow nation including a bit of pride, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, hope, love, joy, and regret. If we could we would blame it all on the history of a nation that was written in black and white with the word “apartheid” stamped all over it in red ink.
And while we are pointing fingers at everyone from Jan van Riebeeck to Jacob Zuma, we somehow fail to realize that our words and actions TODAY will be the history of the future. For it is a simple fact that our children and grandchildren will not be able to change what we do today any more than we are able to change what our forefathers did in the past.
I’m not sure if sitting in another country at the moment makes me more objective, or terribly clueless, about what is really going on. All I know is that it doesn’t make me any less South African. I am simply tired of reading the bad news and negative comments about my homeland.
So, I’m writing this letter because I know beyond a reason of a doubt that there is still hope for South Africa, and there is hope for us….a hope that reaches far beyond the borders of a country and stretches into eternity.
I know that if you were born in South Africa you’ve had access to this hope unlike millions of people living all around me at the moment who have never ever heard the good news of the gospel. The only “hope” they have is to make enough merit in this life to be born again to a better state in their next life.
I also know that hearing the good news is only the first step. Perhaps you’ve heard all about this Good News, but you have never experienced it for yourself. Maybe you have even been hurt by the church or people who called themselves Christians…there are many “wounded lambs” that Jesus is reaching out to today. In South Africa, there is an 80% chance that you are one of those wounded lambs because most South Africans call themselves “Christians” while lacking the love, forgiveness, and power of Jesus Christ in their lives.
It’s also possible to take salvation for granted being born into a “Christian” home, baptized as a baby, and going through all the ceremonies of being a Christian without truly realizing what it is all about. After all, if you manage to make it to church on Sundays and join some kind of study group or church activity, people will be convinced that you are saved regardless of how you live.
The truth is, this hope I’m talking about must be experienced to be understood….This hope that you find only in God is impossible to carry around in your heart without changing you and everything around you. As South Africans we have heard the good news, we simply need to see it. And others need to see Jesus when they look at us.
Having hope is easy, but sometimes living hope is hard - especially in a place like South Africa. It’s impossible to be racist and look like Jesus, to hate our neigbours and call ourselves “saved”, or to drown out the voices of the orphans and the widows by turning our worship music louder.
His way is the way of forgiveness, obedience, sacrifice, truth, faith, hope, love… and yet the burden is light because it has already been carried to the Cross. We simply get to be carriers of a Light that will shine brighter in the darkness. We do not have to be afraid because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
One sure way to be disappointed is to put our hope in the next election, more false promises, better leadership, insurance policies, better security systems, or even moving to another country. Wherever we go, there will be troubles and problems. Being able to rejoice in the midst of trial and tribulations is the breeding ground for hope!
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so , but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:2-5
This hope “maketh not ashamed’: it will never fail us; it has never failed me.
To me South Africa will never be a place I left because I had no hope. It is the place where I found the only hope worth living for.
It doesn’t matter where you live at the moment or what the color of your skin is…I pray that you will become a beacon of hope to those around you, because, at the end of the day, where we are going is much more important than where we come from.