What can you honestly say about South Africa? This trip to Cape Town was my only trip to South Africa with the exception of airport layovers in Johannesburg. I read “The Covenant” by Michener, which probably shapes my understanding as much as anything. I have also read “Long Walk to Freedom” about Nelson Mandela. What a uniquely formed country. I think all would agree that the transition from white rule to a democracy that brought in black rule was a miracle in that it happened without major bloodshed. I remember being a part of a campus group agitating for black South African freedom. We had a film idea of a boxing match between a big, strong Afrikaner and an anemic, sickly black man. I’m not sure what the point would have been, but it seemed like a realistic picture of what would happen unless someone intervened. I think that Someone was God.
I am familiar with the international terminal in Johannesburg. On this trip we left the international terminal and went to the national terminal to catch our flight to Cape Town. Impressions: white, busy, nice deserts. The flight to and from Lusaka from Johannesburg is a black affair. This trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town was a white affair. First impressions in Cape Town: white, busy, with lots of money. I read a newspaper advertisement encouraging those that have left South Africa to return. I remember the President of Mozambique’s advice to Robert Mugabe: “Don’t lose your white people.” Being in Cape Town helps you to understand why.
We have several churches in the Cape Town area. I listened as the pastor in the black area described losing vehicles while having a pistol put to his head. Security in and out of houses was tight, with an accidental alarm bringing immediate response. Before setting out on our tour we were warned to be careful. Careful of what: careful of the black people. Supposedly, the ANC is giving away bus tickets to Cape Town for black folks to help increase their numbers in the area. Yes, the whites control the money and industry, but the blacks control the government and its services. I found myself becoming suspicious of any black people that I saw. That is what was so incredible; they were hard to be seen.
What I did encounter for the first time in my life were groups of people that are referred to as “the brown ones” in Zambia. Coloreds are the majority population in Cape Town. The two churches I preached at were in colored sections of town. It was amazing how quickly I made the adjustment to differentiate between the black one and the colored one. I am assuming that South Africa is the only country in the world that has this heavily demarcated line between black, white and colored.
Before going any further I want to comment on a BBC report on Ohio that I listened to on my way to church yesterday. The bowling alley owner was telling the British reporter that Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday were the league nights for the blacks and Wednesday, Friday and Sunday were the league nights for the whites. Yes, there is a natural tendency to “be birds of a feather that flock together”. I am saying this to prevent anyone form choking out some self-righteous nonsense about how bad this is. It is just the way it is due to the extraordinary events that formed South Africa into the nation and culture that it has today.
The great equalizer is and always has been the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. This is a common faith scripture, yet in actuality Paul is referring to having the ability to be content when he has a lot or he has a little. Poverty is and always will be relative. Having a faith that rises above the circumstances of life is the path to true freedom. I fell into the preaching at the two colored churches with an enjoyment I would hope to always have. One last note. There was a black Zambian attending the second church. It was great to talk with him. In the last year the African television has sponsored two pan-African events. One was a housemate series in which the winner was a Zambian and the other was a talent show in which the winner was a Zambian. I believe that Zambians will have a grace and favor as they go into the world preaching the gospel. Every grouping of people on this earth will hear and respond to the gospel.