We asked a whole group of friends who recently went on a mission trip to Durban, South Africa, to reflect on what they’d learnt, heard God say and how that is affecting them in their life now.
Here are a couple more:
Our trip to Durban was certainly an eye-opening experience. The thing that struck me the most about our time there was the contrast between rich and poor living in such close proximity. As you’re driving down the road, one moment you’re in a prosperous town, and the next you’re surrounded by poverty, where the houses are nothing more than tin shacks. It seemed surreal, and very sobering.
And yet, there’s a sense of hope. We saw areas that now had government-built houses, which had previously only contained shacks, and there’s a genuine heart and effort to see the situation change, although it’s clear that it’s a massive task, that will require dedication for many years.
This dedication and desire to change is clear in the way that the LIV childrens village is set up and run – it’s an amazing place! I was somehow expecting it to be a small orphanage that was struggling to get by, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. LIV is a beautiful village on a hill with colourful, modern houses, great facilities and surrounded by farmland that the village is actively cultivating.
The house mothers (who had up to 6 kids in their house) were truly inspiring – their sacrifice and desire to serve Jesus by giving up their own lives to bring up these children was humbling. For them, this isn’t a short-term mission trip but a commitment for life. My highlight of the trip was getting to spend Sunday lunch with one of the mothers and her adopted family – we ate, talked and prayed together and then spent the afternoon playing with the kids.
One of the things I found most interesting was LIV’s business model. Whilst many charities are sustained entirely by donations, LIV has an unusual mix of church, business and government working together to ensure its success. By farming the land, and hiring workers for their factories, LIV is able to invest the profits from their business arm back into the childrens home, creating a self-sustaining system that isn’t relying entirely on donations. I was very encouraged to see this, and am excited to see how this will help them to grow to hopefully plant more villages in the future.
We pitched in as best we could – I didn’t feel that I personally contributed very much (I think LIV had a bigger impact on me than I had on it!), but being around the village and the volunteers there, and seeing how the childrens lives had been changed makes me want to do something differently. I no longer feel satisfied just going to work every day – I want to get involved and use my life to actually make a difference in this world, even if it’s just in a small way
‘I am not forgotten, I am not forgotten, I am not forgotten, God knows my name’
This comes from a song that the children at LIV Village sung to us many times during our time in South Africa. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I’ve been back in England, not only because it’s a flippin catchy song, but also because the image of these kids singing that they are ‘not forgotten’ with a huge beaming smile on their face acts as a massive challenge to me and the way I live here in Watford. What can I do in my every day life to make sure that these children and others like them are NOT forgotten?
It is all too easy to come back from short term mission trips and return to normal life as if it had been two weeks in the South of France. I know this from my own experience, it’s only been just over two weeks since we landed back in the UK and if I asked myself honestly today ‘what in my life has changed as a result of my time in Durban?’ the list would be fairly short. So what’s the secret? How can our outlook, our giving and our prayer life be transformed by these kind of trips. More and more I’m finding that to make serious life changes and to have your heart truly broken for things comes from a place of thankfulness. The more we are thankful to God for everything he bless us with, the harder it is to live selfishly, the harder it is to not be bothered by injustice, and ultimately the easier it is to be like Jesus. Choosing to be thankful in everything is the key to compassion.
One of the standout experiences of South Africa for me was a morning of outreach we did in a local township called Cottonlands. After a service we offered prayer to anyone who wanted it, and to no surprise most of the crowd did. A few of us prayed for a group of guys, all who needed to find jobs. This wasn’t the kind of thing I was used to praying for during ministry time, usually it’s inner healing of some sort, or praying for equipping, strengthening, but here I had to literally cry out to God for these men to find jobs. It was then that the reality of the situation hit me, in the UK finding a job is relatively easy, and when we don’t have one we have a welfare system that supports us. How often do I stop to thank God for that? And as a result, how often do I pray for those who are unemployed, here and around the world? The more we thank, the more we give.
So that’s what I’m challenging myself with – to choose to tell God how thankful I am every day for the things in my life, and to remember the experiences I had in South Africa and do what I can from that place of gratefulness, whether that be prayer, helping to raise money, or just spreading awareness. God doesn’t ‘forget’ the kids in South Africa, and my prayer is that I won’t either.