I don’t like to ask for help.
Call it determination or plain stubbornness, but if someone tries to help me, or offer advice, my hasty reply is “I can do it myself thank you”.
It’s simple really. Independence means you are strong and self-sufficient; leaning on other people means you can’t do things for yourself, and is in itself a weakness.
This is how I viewed my mission to South Africa. I was going to help people, I would see what needs doing and do it, and I would somehow have a lasting impact on the community. By myself.
Pretty ambitious for two weeks!
I had set my goals for Durban, but still had some fears running through my head:
How would I begin to relate to the people I meet who are in need? People who are dependent on others for food, clothes, everything. I wanted to genuinely care, but how would I be able to do that when we are so unalike? There’s a superiority that creeps into my head and a hardness of heart that stops me from caring because I don’t want to face something so different to how I live. I don’t want it to rub off on me.
I was also, deep down, scared that I wouldn’t be able to help. What if I am not needed? What if I am not enough and instead of making a difference I am just a spare part?
I needn’t have worried.
Through going to South Africa God used these people who I thought were less and dependent to humble me and turn my attitude inside out. Isn’t that just how God works? He takes what we think is not worth much and uses it to show His glory.
The story of Zandele taught me the most.
Zandele lives in a house with red doors and shutters in a little cluster of homes at LIV. She cares for three adopted children and her own child. The village provides everything she needs to live, and she looks after the children. We were going to her house for lunch on Sunday afternoon, and I was expecting the afternoon to be awkward. What would we have to say to each other? But spending time at the house with the red doors and shutters changed me. I found out Zandele was not dependent or weak but a strong and steadfast woman of faith.
Hearing her journey to LIV and all that she gave up astounded me. As the afternoon passed by and the children played outside, I kept asking question after question about her life. She didn’t need my help, in fact, I was the one learning from her! The more we talked, the more I admired her. She didn’t have her own independent life like mine, instead she had joy and peace and a steadfast strength which overflowed into the lives of her children. I asked her where her strength came from and her smiling response was “Trust. The children can be hard and I don’t know what to do but we will pray with the mothers and trust the LORD knows what to do”.
Zandele was everything I wasn’t. Instead of trying to do things herself she knew where to turn:
To God and to each other.
In the week that followed I saw countless examples of the LIV staff and villagers living this way – Titch and Joan did not set up the village by themselves, they needed staff, builders and God at the centre planning the journey. They had not built a village to house children, but a community to share God’s love.
Trying to help by myself will never work. My “Save the World” approach to poverty will always leave me feeling guilty that I haven’t done enough. It is important to know that I am not enough and to turn to the powerful God who knows the great scale of poverty better than I do.
And He will use me to make an impact and a change.
All in all from my trip to South Africa I would say I learnt:
Nobody is more or less. Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses. God doesn’t want us to live separately or to do things for others in order to make ourselves feel stronger. We are meant for community, we are meant to be weak, to trust each other, to lean on each other. Most of all we are meant to trust Him.
The bible puts it better than I do:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:30-31