Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Day in the Trenches

During one of our days in South Africa, we joined the folks of Hands of Compassion and Rhema church to build houses (and dig ditches). We partnered with a local organization that brings in large groups and does "blitzes" (build lots of houses farely quickly). A lot of people can get a lot of stuff done in a day. The group works in a township (ghetto) building houses for people they build relationships with. They gave us a lot of facts and figures that were pretty amazing, but I did not write them down, thus I cannot quote them to you.

The highlight of my day was hanging out with Vincent. He's about my age, lives at hands of Compassion and is a pastor in training. We talked at length about a variety of subjects: apartheid, racial justice in current South Africa, rites of passage, the Church, etc.

I was really intrigued talking with him about Rites of Passage. I did study on ROP back in Seminary and even created a project that I now do through Mission Year called PRoP (Pauper's Rite of Passage).

Think about this... When does one become an adult in our society? At the age of 12 one can no longer get the kids meals at the restaurant. At the age of 16 one can drive but they are not old enough to buy a lottery ticket. Once they turn 18 they can finally buy a lottery ticket, but they are not allowed to drink champagne to celebrate, if they win, until they are 21. Even when they are 21, they are still not allowed to rent a 15 passenger van at a car rental place. On top of that, think of all the 25 year olds still living at home with mom and dad! We created a thing in the west called adolescence! That strange gap where someone is not sure if they are a child or an adult. What we need is a rites of passage!

In South Africa, Vincent said that the boys (around the age of 18) would go into the mountains for the ROP. They would be there for about 4-6 weeks (sometime longer). During this time the elders of the village would come and talk to them about what it means to be a man. They would tell them the appropriate way to treat their wives, neighbors, and the poor among them. There are a lot of details and reasons for why they do what they do during a ROP, that I will not go into, but the point I want to make is that these boys come back as men. People in the village now treat them as men. I think our society would do well in empowering our youth with adulthood, rather than leaving them in a state of flux.
One of the reasons I created PRoP, was because I believe the Church is in a state of adolescence at best until she embraces God's heart for the poor. PRoP is not your typical weekend>> one is stripped of their comforts, and rather than serving the poor, they learn from them. It is powerful to see how the participants are challenged by "Lazarus" and are moved to live differently when they return home. For more info on it, just check the website.

Another encouraging discussion we had was about the Church. Vincent told me that many of the pastors in Rwanda dress really nice and seem to think of themselves as better than the "average" person. He told us that he was encouraged by our testimony and lives. Personally I was amazed to hear his stories and to share in his life. One thing I have noticed of this trip is that there is a move of God around the world! People are beginning to move the Church outside of four walls and into the streets, the townships, ghettos, and slums of our world. People are moving beyond personal salvation and seeing they are blessed in order to be a blessing. Vincent encouraged me, because he said our message was truly good news to the poor. I get the feeling that we are living in a very special time in the history of the Church. I am humbled to be a live and to see God at work and look forward to seeing what He does through simple ordinary radicals throughout the world.

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