I have heard it said that South Africa is where first and third worlds meet. Based on my experience today, I found that to be true.
The Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) department, one of the areas where I devote a lot of my time here at DAM, held a retreat for its staff in Joburg. Personally, I was so excited to go into the city and experience something new. However, I was surprisingly affected by the stark differences between my little neighborhood in Soweto and the area of Joburg that we visited.
Here is a shot of a few of our group members and the park
where we spent the afternoon. It was a beautiful place
and a great experience, but it stirred up some interesting
and unexpected emotions.
In one short week, I have become fairly comfortable with the area where I live despite the fact that it is very different from what I am used to at home. It is not filled with mansions and sports cars, but instead with modest homes and wonderful people who have graciously welcomed me into their community. While driving through Joburg and seeing many houses and cars nicer than ones at home in Minnesota, I was surprised and confronted with the income disparity here in SA.
It also hit me that this income disparity is present throughout the world. While the extremity of this phenomenon varies, there are always people in need and people with excess. Many times, these two extremes are living in close proximity geographically, but can be portrayed as being light years away.
As Christians and as citizens of the world, I think our challenge is to recognize these disparities and find creative ways to engage our neighbors, regardless of their situation. Giving money to charity is usually the first thing people think of when considering ways to assist the poor, but I think it is even more important to simply live with and learn from others who are in different economic and social situations. The citizens of the world must learn how to live together in mutuality and respect before any injustices can be solved.
Lord, please give us the strength and courage to engage our neighbors. Help us to live together in mutuality and respect. Let your light shine through anyone and everyone we meet, and help us to recognize that light when it is almost blinding us. Be with the citizens of the world as we learn to live with all of humanity. Amen.