You know I used to think great adventures involved overseas trips, cruises, mountain hiking, deep sea diving or pursuing a meaningful career, but last night's trip around the city visiting the poor, lost, lonely, hungry and cold, was really exciting and purposeful...
Yesterday was not only the "funnest", coldest and most snowy day in the year, but also saw the end of the filming and interviewing of the Branken family for the programme "Issues of Faith", this particular episode highlighting the plight of foreigners and refugees entering South Africa today. We were able to tell some of our story and reason for moving to Hillbrow as well as add to the story line of this feature which is being produced by Michael Chomse, local film director and producer, and now... friend. It should air in about 3 weeks time on SABC 2 on a Sunday morning at 9am.
Michael Chomse standing in the very first snow of 7 Aug 2012
It was a meaningful evening handing out blankets, jerseys, clothing and bread to the many freezing homeless of our city this evening. We, however, did hear the sad news of a young 21 year old man named Lucas who died of the cold in the park last night. Other related news was that the Joburg Metro Police conducted their raids on Hillbrow's homeless last night and took away all their blankets.
What I do not understand about this is that the city has enough money to enforce bylaws to remove undesirable blankets, but not enough money to get
Paulos, Robert and Johannes will sleep warmer tonighta regular rubbish removal service to remove the trash which piles up on our Hillbrow's streets daily. It seems like the values are all upside down.
We also heard that there are not enough shelters for the homeless in the city and many charge fees to stay there for a night. The one shelter requires you have a South African ID to stay there.I am glad we could be there tonight to support these precious people, but come on Joburg, we really can do better!!!
Quotes from our combined facebook pages today read as follows:
"Let's DO this...one last blast into winter giving, to people who might die on the streets tonight..." (Trish)
"It's snowıng ın Hıllbrow... I thınk we should hand out blankets and jerseys and beanıes tonıght (7 Aug 2012). We wıll meet at 6:30 and leave at 6:45 from the BP garage, corner Empıre and Joubert , you can meet us to drop off donatıons or come along. Share thıs wıth all your Jozı frıends! Lets love our cıty tonıght!" (Nigel)
Well, tonight's giving to the homeless and street workers in and around our suburb was alot of FUN for our family and 2 volunteers who happily squashed into our car, and possibly LIFE-SAVING for those we were able to give to on the street...a 21-year old guy called Lukas died last night while sleeping in a park close to our flat...we only had 14 blankets to give out, which was difficult to share among the groups of people we came across...also 2 black bags of warm tops and jackets, 11 beanies and a few loaves of bread. Many reached out for love as well and we prayed for those who asked for prayer.
Most meaningful to me was the POLITENESS and SELF-CONTROL of the people on the receiving end, also the giving of ONE WARM BLANKET to a man who literally had none while he tried to sleep curled up in a busy street corner. It felt good too to tuck him in and put a beanie on his head.
According to Mandla - our "field guide" in the area, and friend not only to us but many of the street people we encountered tonight(!) - this man has lived on the streets in Hillbrow since 1992!! I was very glad to get back to the warmth and comfortable beds of our flat...and also very aware of the suffering (and strength of character) we were leaving behind...
We may do some more blanket/clothing drives this week.
Temperature Readings for this Week...!!!
Snow in Joubert Park!
While handing out food on the streets today, with a group of volunteers, we met a young man who had been addicted to heroine for 12 years. He was desperate to be free and to have his relationships and life restored. We prayed with him as he asked God to forgive him and to help free him. He longed for a restoration of his relationships and to get his life back but just did not know how. He has a long hard road to walk. Most other men we spoke to also mentioned a longing to have family relationships restored. It was evident that these guys don't get many people paying attention to them. All people need to be loved and when you show love, people open up to you and share with you. Being here means we can regularly go out and encourage these men and show them love. Looking forward to more tomorrow and the day after and the day after and ...
Interesting day spent with a group of overseas volunteers who listened to all our stories, saw our new volunteers' flat, and walked the streets with us handing out food and praying for people. Wildly inspired by a Canadian lady, Tina, who not only showed me how to use the sewing machine we have been given for our Inner City work(!), but also demonstrated how to use a plastic cool drink packet to make a very unique and completely recycled wallet. She also makes other bags of various kinds using these unrecyclable materials, which 2 schools and many friends collect for her...
This led to me experimenting with a denim bag for Rachel and a wallet for Daniel, which I machine-sewed from fabric offcuts...which got me thinking how easy it would be to teach these skills to others in the area, women and children alike, to make similar saleable items. This really "kills 3 birds with one stone":
Praying on the streets with the team...
Check out this video we made of our visits today to look at some rooftop gardens...
Here we are standing in what will become a much CLEANER(!) and very functional outdoor area for the community that lives in our block! We are also so excited about all the renovations soon to take place inside what will be a 2-bedroom flat, with a large lounge area which will be used as a learning facility for kids and maybe adults. Of course we will now have a place for people to stay overnight, for a weekend, for a week, for a month, or for however long they want to volunteer into the community with us!
Interesting volunteering day yesterday at the Hillbrow Music School: taught 2 recorder pupils again, after trying out 4 donated Casio keyboards to make sure they worked, then our whole family joined up with a team of people from various places to take 3 enormous plastic drums of a very delicious soup with endless loaves of bread to 3 different venues around Joburg CBD. The night was cold and most of them (about 200 in all) were going to sleep under one blanket...
Here are just a few superb quotes from the book by Shane Claiborne...
“I asked participants who claimed to be "strong followers of Jesus" whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time wit the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”
“When we truly discover how to love our neighbor as our self, Capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary.”
“So if the world hates us, we take courage that it hated Jesus first. If you're wondering whether you'll be safe, just look at what they did to Jesus and those who followed him. There are safer ways to live than by being a Christian.”
“I wondered if there were other restless people asking the question with me: What if Jesus meant the stuff he said?.”
“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. Usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of my favorite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: "Don't call us saints; we don't want to be dismissed that easily”