The two weeks that we recently spent serving and learning in Mamelodi proved to be two of the most well-spent, most obviously God-ordained weeks of the past year of my life. I was faced with the endearing joy that is so prevalent in the Powerhouse Church, and it made me face the lack of joy and belief in my own life. I got dirty working alongside people who sacrifice quite a bit to love their neighbors. I felt like I was jerked back awake from my tired distractedness in order to remember all of the ways my heart really does long to love those around me. Both our hands and our hearts were kept very busy throughout these two weeks.
For me, the most powerful day spent in the township was our Zimbabwe Day. Zimbabwe has suffered much over the past years, from political tyranny and persecution to the recent collapse of their economy. Many highly-education and qualified Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa to look for work in order to send food and resources home to their families. However, many of them have been met with discrimination and even violence as some in South Africa view them only as more competition for too few jobs.
On Zim Day, the Zimbabwean refugees in the community were invited to spend a day at the Powerhouse praying and sharing their stories as well as receiving food and clothing. We spent the morning sharing stories, praying together, singing together and passing around some of the cutest babies I have ever seen. We had lunch together, and afterward, we had a “thrift shop” of sorts where people could exchange tickets we gave them for clothing for themselves and their families to prepare for the upcoming winter. The Vision Trip team had come with hundreds of pounds of donated clothing and medicine packed in our suitcases, given by many generous people back home. It was a fun day, and it was a joy to be able to meet some very real needs. More dear to my heart, though, were the people I was able to meet and the stories I was able to hear from each of them. This was a day not about an “issue” that we read about on the news, but about our neighbors—our brothers and sisters—and the chance to know them and to love one another.
It is one thing to hear about the Zimbabwean crisis on the news. It is quite another to hear these people’s stories about risking their lives to cross into South Africa, driven by desperation to feed and clothe the children that they had no choice but to leave behind. They shared about struggles to find work and about how much they feel alienated in this new place. We heard over and over how much each of them long to be able to someday return home. I was surprised to be brought to the verge of tears over and over that day as the reality of each different situation sank in.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.—
Yet once again, I was surprised by joy. As we had come to expect in Mamelodi, at the most unassuming moments, the day’s agenda would happily be put on hold as the room erupted into an impromptu singing and dancing celebration, praising God for His goodness and power. You didn’t need to understand their language to know what they were singing. Or to join in and sing along…
Throughout our day together, my mind kept being drawn to the verse in Hebrews (11:13-14) that describes God’s people as aliens and strangers in this world. My heart ached as I got to know these people who had been driven from their homes. And yet I felt a joy and peace much stronger than any of these circumstances, as I witnessed these people who hope in God’s promise of a home where we truly will belong. Every single one of us in that room were equally strangers in a place that is not our home. I was reminded that even when our circumstances and doubts make the path ahead seem almost impossible, there is joy found in God’s promise of an eternity where He will wipe every tear from our eyes, where we will finally know as we are known and where we will truly be at home. And that joy of the Lord will be our strength.
i cry out for this world to be comfortable
to be fair, to be just, to be good
or maybe just to be easy
if You’re real, it would be what it should
this deep ache for mercy makes my heart heavy, heavy
when i’m quiet it makes my heart sing
this reminder that i don’t belong
also promises i will go home
there’s a promise that i will see home.
Megan Clarke is based in Carrboro, NC, with a background in social work, particularly working to combat homelessness. She recently returned from traveling for three months in Asia, exploring and volunteering. She will be beginning a master’s program at UNC Chapel-Hill in August to study Public Health, focusing on Health Behavior and Health Education. You can read more about her travels online at Battered Suitcases. You also can read about her random musings, for better or for worse, at her other blog, Becoming Real…if she would ever find the time to update it.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. (ESV)