We made it. The Riley family flew the 16 hours to Cape Town, South Africa. We left England Tuesday night, flew through the night and landed at Cape Town International Airport Wednesday afternoon. From there a local ministry started by YWAMers, Mary Mytting and Annette of the Boost Africa Foundation, picked us up and provided us a place to stay overnight. Since we are having some problems with internet access and emails, everyone who has wondered if we made it and when they would hear from us- this is it for now! We are safe.
The next morning after arrival (Thursday, 19 June) we toured the township of Dinoon, in Cape Town, looking at ministry opportunities there. Can I just say that most people in America would not believe the opportunities to minister in Jesus’ name in a place like this? First, this was one of the townships hit by the xenophobic violence. One Somali man was killed there and all other foreign families were expelled forcibly. Second, the reason for this xenophobic terror is because of the lack of food. As more people flood into the area fleeing the oppression of their own nations, the local people fear they will have even less food. Unemployment is high in such areas and many children go to school without food. The schools only provide a small bit of food for children up to grade 3 and thereafter they simply go hungry. As a result, many children don’t bother with going to school and the poverty continues. We saw first hand the “kitchen” for the primary school. There were two pots on burners, each with samp and a few beans in it. It was probably enough for about 200 kids at the most. The school has 800 students. Samp looks a little like hominy.
We met one grade 6 young man, probably about 12, who had recently been found in the school toilet trying to commit suicide. He was very handsome. His father is dead, from AIDS, his mother is out of work, and he has no food at home. We met him because Mary, our host for the day with the Boost Africa Foundation, was going to take in his family to feed them. His story is the story of 1000s of young people in the communities known in South Africa as “Black” and “Coloured.” Although Apartheid is over, economically the communities are still very divided and the segregation continues via economics.
The hardest part of our time in Cape Town was meeting Patricia, a mother who began a creche in the middle of Dinoon simply to begin ministering to those in need. Her teenage daughter died of AIDS shortly after she became a Christian. At first, as she said, she was simply “not right” and took about a year to recover from her daughter’s death. But, as God ministered to her, she realized she wanted to help others. She told us about what she does and I asked her “Where are the churches?” And she began to tell me about how once her own church learned that her daughter had AIDS they pulled away from them. I could not help the tears that came to my eyes and I simply hugged her. Many of the churches isolate themselves from the communities rather than being a source of light, food, strength, etc. to the communities. So, she stands up and does what she can.
Even while we were there a family of two sisters and two brothers were there simply because they had no where else to go. Their parents are dead from AIDS and their oldest sister, their caretaker, had just died from AIDS. In the winter, when the evenings get down close to freezing, and there is either no heat or no electricity at all, many of those inflicted with HIV contract pneumonia and other illnesses and pass away because of their low immunities. We learned that houses that have tents over them are houses where someone has recently died.
In a word, culture shock seems insignificant to describe the feeling. The spiritual feeling of oppression and control and domination is overwhelming. The hopelessness is high. We are not only in the southern hemisphere for the first time, in Africa for the first time, but also we are experiencing an economic separation, cultural separation, and linguistic separation we have never seen. There are 11 official languages here in South Africa. A very wealthy neighborhood may be just a couple of miles from tin shacks.
All of that was just in our first day. We then made the trip to Worcester, to the YWAM base there, and stayed overnight. Today we toured much of the ministry areas we will be working in in Worcester. The number of families affected by HIV is staggering. There is more to be done than any group can do, but praise God His purpose always prevails, Proverbs 19:21, and that He has a plan for us and for Worcester and all of South Africa.
Please pray for us. This is hard. We are struggling already. There is much in front of us. And we are just here trying to prepare the way for the rest of our team. On Tuesday and Wednesday of next week we will have 37 more people joining us from The King’s Lodge and across England and Belgium, and we must be ready for their arrival.
We must prepare our accommodations (an old youth hostel in the middle of one of our ministry communities), determine how to borrow a refrigerator and cooking materials, meet several people from the local churches who have begun preparing our way for us, and so much more. As it turns out, the hostel is not ready for us (broken windows, work that was supposed to be done isn’t), and we will likely have to move into a college first for a couple of weeks and then into the hostel. This requires more logistical planning and time taken in moving and relocating.
Pray that God gives us wisdom as we determine the best way to use our resources over the next 9 weeks. There are more opportunities to serve than anything our group of 60 or so people can manage, clearly. But we know God can multiply our efforts for years to come. We hope to minister into Worcester, Durban, Cape Town, and perhaps even up into the Kalahari Desert, but we also know that we must follow God’s plan for us and not simply jump at every opportunity. Pray that we also have strength and endurance and health. Pray that the right doors are open to us and that God will bring us the connections (people) we need to accomplish everything He has planned. Finally, pray that we truly have a ministry of reconciliation and unity in Christ to the churches and to the ministries in this area. May the Body of Christ unite to fight the plans of the enemy in South Africa.