So last week saw our whole family joining the church throngs representing many different congregations, which gathered at the 2012 Equip Conference held at Cornerstone Church in Bedfordview, from Wednesday 3rd to Friday 5th October. Except that this time we joined rich and poor by bringing our 2 special Zimbabwean friends and their daughter and small baby girl( Jethro, Thandiwe, Gugu and Triumph) who live at the end of Eloff Street in Joburg CBD in the old Supa Quick warehouse.
This was the building we moved about 34 families to last year in September when their lives were physically threatened by others living with them at Doornfontein Chambers, which was at the time, very dark, very dirty, and an extremely dangerous place to live (even to visit!) with rats running in and out of every room. Their new accommodation at Supa Quick has electricity, ablutions and is a lot cleaner but the rooms are very small. Thandiwe cooks, sleeps and lives with her family in a 2.5 by 3m room made out of office partitioning and with no ceiling.
So what a joy it was to include them in a church conference of this kind where they could have a break from the very difficult conditions they are used to, and meet people who could become new friends! And, of course, get a rich diet of biblical teaching at the same time! In addition, we were able to reconnect Thandiwe with the occupational therapist from Hillbrow Clinic, Nicole Mattarelli, who was also at Equip, and who has subsequently taken over the clinic care of Thandiwe's 3 month old baby, who has special needs.
Seeing this family in the comfortable surroundings of Cornerstone Church, well-fed and cared for, and Thandiwe in a very well-equipped and even luxurious mother's feeding room, made me appreciate the dignity we were able to give their family, knowing the living space they were returning to each day. It also made me realise again that many people do not choose their poverty but, like Jethro and Thandiwe, are often victims of gross injustice. What has happened in Zimbabwe has literally left millions of precious people, just like you and me, abandoned, living in a foreign country, excluded from access to opportunities.
This week I saw that very small acts of kindness in real friendship with the poor is a key to bringing hope.
In the words of the old 1980's Nashua advert: "Makes you think, doesn't it?!"