The day I left for Mozambique I opened my email in the morning. In one, a close friend from my small group at church shared that she had been praying for me and had been given the picture of world as seen from space and gave me words of encouragement that she felt God intended my trip to give me a wider perspective on the world. In the same batch of emails, another friend sent me a NASA link to video images of the world taken from outer space! When God co-ordinates two people with the same message – it’s not a bad idea to listen up!
I am indeed gaining a wider perspective on the world and its problems. That my trip was framed by these images at the beginning and affected by the Public Sector Strike at the end has given me real pause for thought. Thank you to the many who prayed for me, my worst fears about long delays and a possible overnight stay in Johannesburg were not realised. The journey home could not have been smoother and at 7am in Heathrow there wasn’t even a queue at passport control.
Now I know that Jeremy Clarkson has been in the news over incredibly crass comments he has made regarding those public sector workers who went on strike and what follows is not a comment on their right to strike, which I wholeheartedly support. It’s merely a reflection on what we see as our needs seen from a bigger perspective.
Here is a man I saw in Beira
When I glimpsed him from the car, it was not just his condition that impacted me. The words on his T shirt read (in Portuguese) ‘we provide opportunities for all’. It’s a poignant image: this man’s opportunities being very clearly limited. As he walked away I quickly took this photo because it spoke so loudly about what life is like for so many in the third world. It’s very unlikely that this man has a pension and he lives in a country where there is not even a free health service. He likely survives by begging or maybe, if he is lucky, he has family and friends to care for him.
I’m not saying that we should not stand up for ‘our rights’ or bring pressure to bear when we are being badly treated, I am saying that when we do so we should also remember the poor, those who have nothing and remember just how rich we are. We live in a country where there is clearly enough disposable income to support the 300 new Starbucks Drive in cafes that were also announced this week. Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee and this investment is great news in terms of job creation but it’s a reminder of just how wealthy we are.
This morning on Radio 4 there was an almost good news story: the number of people giving to charity has remained stable in spite of the economic crisis. The trouble is that, due to inflation, the value of their giving has gone down significantly. But still, 6 out of 10 adults give regularly (good news) and women age 45-60 are the most likely to give to charity, usually a medical research charity (not such great news? it just strikes me as slightly self-serving – by all means let’s search for a cure for cancer but let’s also carry the already available and simple cures for many other life threatening ailments out to those who need them)
On arrival at Johannesburg airport I picked up a book by Desmond Tutu called God Has A Dream, I had read it right through in the six hours I had before take off! It was the opening paragraph that grabbed my attention:
‘Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in our world will never end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed’
Desmond Tutu is a man who radiates hope and has somehow held on to a faith in loving and all powerful God in the face of more horrors, poverty and atrocity than you or I are ever likely to see. His vision of a God who loves us and wants to partner with us to transform the world helped restore my own confidence in the bigger picture. His faith feels contagious. He is warm and fuzzy and will be far too liberal for most conservative evangelicals but I think anyone who has managed to keep faith and hope alive in such difficult times has something worthy to say and deserves to be heard.
If you would like to donate to Casa Re’om, the home for street boys that I went to visit, here is a link that tells you how you can: http://www.stmatthews.org.uk/Articles/289436/m2o_Rugby/Connect/Outreach/Mission/Casa_ReOm/Casa_ReOm_Christmas.aspx