If you'd asked me 24hrs ago what kind of people I thought lived in Hillbrow I would've said: foreigners, drug lords, crooks, thieves, uneducated, hopeless & desperate souls. I don't doubt that there are aspects of truth to the above but after what I saw and experienced last night, I am utterly embarrassed by my northern suburbs misjudgments. I met a group of people (most living in and around Hillbrow) who were passionate, well spoken, educated, and overall decent human beings. All coming together for the same purpose - to live out a Christ-like love to their neighbors.
In that room last night nobody cared about what I did for a living, what car I drove or what model of the iPhone I held in my hand. Not that I'm saying this happens in the North, but when did we get so weighed down by our possessions? Our constant striving and toils seem to only leave us more & more in debt and building our own mini kingdoms. I'm not fingerpointing here (please don't take offense), there's as much a log in my own eye! Its just that there's got to be more to life then ourselves. Jesus didn't die on a cross so that we could live for me. No, when we give our lives to Christ, we die, we lay down our lives and take up Him. He becomes the thing we life for, our purpose, our call, our everything. This life we have right now pales in comparison to what lies ahead of us. We're only here for a short time, lets make it count!
Right mini-rant done. The reason why we met was to make peanut butter and jam sandwiches and to hit the streets of Hillbrow in search of people needing Jesus. (If my mother knew I was walking the streets of Hillbrow she'd have my head off! It's safe mom I swear!) We stopped at 2 sites during the course of the evening. The first was a tiny park, enclosed by palisade fencing. We met some homeless guys settling in for the evening. It was a warm night out so a lot of them were yet to 'come home'. What I learnt was that a lot of these guys are car guards and beggars during the day time. They try and earn cash and are mostly harmless (with the odd exception of course). The police often harass and beat them, chasing them from these informal living quarters. I understand why they wouldn't want to encourage these spaces but I don't accept or appreciate their often unnecessary brutality towards these people. Where else are these guys supposed to go?
Site 2, left me a little more speechless. Rows of people stacked up along 2 sides of a building almost like sardines. It was here that I actually had to put my own faith into action, I met a girl by the name of Gugu. A 22 year old that looks about 35. She comes from the Eastern Cape, has up until Grade 11 education and she's been on the streets for about 5 years. I watched her consume what must've been more than half a loaf of bread before my very eyes. Her arms like rakes. She seemed hopeless and defeated. No way out. No end in sight. I don't know what lead her to leave school, or to choose Hillbrow of all places to look for work. There wasn't much I could do but pray. Pray to a God that can do infinitely more than we can dare to imagine. A God that can soften her heart, heal her brokenness & make her new, whole. That prayer broke me, I realised just how much He loves her, He has as much a hope and a future for her as what He does for me. All is not lost for Googoo, it never was. But she needs your prayers, they all do. Sandwiches will fill their tummies but it won't sustain them for very long! Jesus said "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (Matt 6:35 - read the whole section though 6:25-59)
Am I ready to sell all my possessions and live with the poor? Realistically I don't think so (Sorry Nigel) not at this moment in time anyway. Am I challenged to live a life of less? Absolutely. Wants and needs will definitely be reassessed. Is Hillbrow the only place where I can pray for the lost? Of course not, everyday we are faced with opportunities to spread the gospel, we need to shift our thinking from us-minded to kingdom-minded. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few! What can you do? You can start by making sandwiches! Pull in! It was really great, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I felt safe and never questioned whether I'd make it home or not! If the thought of Hillbrow and its inhabitants still irks you out too much that's ok, baby steps, you can always donate some peanut butter, jam or any kind of sandwich spread really