But then I remembered that I too am implicated, that I benefit from an economic system that separates us into “haves" and “have nots," into those who have access to medicine and those who do not. I realized that because I have more than I need, others have less. I felt rather like the prophet of Isaiah who cried out, “Woe is me. For I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips."
Each of our encounters with the suffering of our sisters and brothers convicted us both of our numbness to the pain of others and of our complicity in the injustices that cause suffering. Each of us was saddened when we reflected on how numb and complicit the Church in America, which we love so dearly, has been to this pain. But while these stories of suffering convict us of our ever-present need to encounter Christ, South Africa is also a place filled with stories of joy and hope, stories that remind us that God's grace is indeed sufficient.
Rose raised four sons as a single mother. Two years ago, when her oldest son died of AIDS, people from Calvary Methodist Church reached out to Rose, loved her, cared for her, and listened to her story of pain. As Rose experienced the love of Christ in these people, she found healing and transformation.
Rose is able to find work cleaning houses one or two days per week. During the rest of the week, though, she volunteers as an AIDS caregiver, providing the same ministry that she received when her son was dying.
“I feel so happy to show people the love that was shown me," said Rose. She is a living example that those who have deeply experienced the love of Christ are eager to share that same love.
South Africa is a place of incredible hospitality. People with very little offered all they had to us. I visited a group of elderly women for a Bible study in an informal settlement. The leader of the study introduced me as Umfundisi, which is Zulu for “minister, preacher.”
The ladies all made much fuss over me, and I was honored to bear the title. We asked the women to stand and share their needs. The host stood and welcomed us, and in part Zulu, part English began to speak about the significance of our visit. She recalled the story of Zaccheus, and how Jesus had told him to come down out of the tree so that they could meet. She thanked me for coming to her home.
She spoke of how Jesus had fellowship with Zaccheus in his home, and said, “If I was buried today, I could die happy because Umfundisi has visited."
I am not often speechless, but I have no words to respond to such amazing hospitality.
-Chris Furr D'06
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