what does it look like to live on the fringes… to be the ones who are cast aside and who must fight to survive every day?
in masipumaleleh…a packed township of roughly 35,000 people just outside of kommetjie, south africa, people know what it means to live on the fringes. over the past week i have been getting to know this place that will be my ministry setting for the next four and a half months…and to be completely honest, this seems like the most daunting of settings i have ever been placed in. mixed with hurt, pain, abandonment and sickness are poverty, irresponsibility and violence. it is a community that struggles with being on the fringes on a daily basis.
when i think of the word “fringe” i think of an unraveling…a loosening. i picture a rug with the ends that are frayed and worn and often easily pulled out…removed and discarded. this is how i am beginning to see masi. and the result has been an emotional tension like nothing i have felt before. i have not seen this level of poverty…ever. and besides my grappling with the nature of human kind in all of this…or where i could possibly fit in the lives of the men for whom my heart aches…i wonder at just how this loving and merciful God we so humbly serve will make his name great and his Son famous in such a dark and wild place as the streets of masipumaleleh. and yet…even in a week…my God who is faithful to answer prayers has shown himself faithful to me. in fact…he has show me that he has begun this good work even before my stepping foot onto the beautifully rusty dirt of this continent.
yes…he is showing me that his name is already great…and i must simply speak it out. and so on wednesday, danmike and I went with Stephen to sit in with a bunch of ganja smoking rastafarians (think bob marley)…seven of us in all…and sat in a small shack with the top part of the door still open as it rained on the tin roof…while men would periodically come by to pick up their daily dose of marijuana. don’t you think this would be a perfect place to plant a church…i think so. and so we talk about this man jesus who walked the earth faultless and died for us because he and his Father love us so much.
and then there is ali, a muslim from ethiopia who has come from one struggling country to another to open what he has (as our non-christian friends would call it) ironically called the “good hope” shop…a small grocery where people come in and out to buy their daily nourishment or a couple cigarette here or there…and where older men sit and chat with one another. don’t you think this would be a perfect place to talk about jesus and plant a church…i think so. and so jeremiah and i go and visit ali and mohommad and mothusi and say hello and ask them how business is and talk about ali’s dreams to visit the great tourism trap of minneapolis…and we talk about this man jesus who is the only one who can give “good hope” in all things and circumstances.
and if that wasn’t enough for the first week…God says, I’m really going to show you how great I AM and how famous i want my Son to be in this place…on sunday…after he jokingly asked where my tie was, jeremiah and i drove through masi…past all of those dressed in their Sunday best as they walked to their beautiful brick and barred church buildings on mainstreet…to the wetlands…the dirtiest…smelliest...seemingly most God-forsaken area of the whole township…
and we gathered our friends from zimbabwe…henri…who just finished a joint and a beer as we arrived and who is mourning the loss of his three year old son who died four weeks ago in zim and can’t go and be the husband and father his family needs right now because he is trying to provide for them the best he can…washington…a young, educated man who had prospects for work in zim until he had to flee and now can’t find any job nor the motivation to look any longer…mohammodi…another young man who worries about where his next meal will come from and if he will survive to see another day…and several others.
nine of us in all…
we gathered in the fringes of masipumaleleh…in a dark shack with no windows…one light bulb…and a plastic-lined floor…and we decided that it was a perfect place to plant a church…and so that is what we did on sunday…we gathered together…encouraged each other…loved each other…worshipped…sang…and talked about this man named jesus who lived on the fringes and loved those living on the fringes and welcomed those living on the fringes into his kingdom.
and we agreed to continue meeting together in love as it states in hebrews…and we will continue to learn together more about this man named jesus who is making his name famous in the fringes of south africa and around the world.
his heart is for the fringes…i want mine to be like his…