Making a Difference

We all underestimate what we can and do achieve in our own small corners of the globe. Because of this we often feel helpless and inadequate in the face of the monumental problems and issues that the world puts in front of us each day.

One person in my own experience stands out as an example of what we can, each of us do, to impact our world. He was a skinny, pimple faced kid of about 14 years of age when he first came to our notice. The secular, material community in which we lived would not have given him the time of day but we recognized a deep commitment to his faith and personal determination to make a difference.

We had a problem - the leader of the student group we were dealing with had got one of the members pregnant and had to be replaced and expelled. Although the group was quite mature - most members were older than our skinny kid, we felt that he was the only one with the qualities to lead. We made him chairman.

After a rocky start he made a good leader and the group grew in numbers and in effectiveness under his leadership. After 4 years he left school and at his parents insistence he went to Cape Town University where he obtained a BA and then an LLB. As soon as he had qualified as a lawyer - he left for the United States where he took a degree in Theology.

His mother was a superb woman - a real example of the biblical wife and mother. With three sons and an academic husband she came from heartland Afrikaner stock in South Africa. In fact her roots went back to the very start of the Afrikaner as an African tribe in the early days of Dutch and Huguenot settlers in the Cape.

While living in Zimbabwe she made a significant contribution to the growing movement of Women's Clubs. She also raised her three boys and ran a home that was always welcoming. Not a Christian at the time, she allowed her youngest son to follow his heart in matters of faith. At Independence in 1980, they decided to move back to South Africa and they emigrated to Bloemfontein.

After some time in South Africa tragedy struck, his mother had a severe stroke that left her unable to speak or walk, or even bathe herself. Our skinny kid, now a graduate and a lawyer, immediately left his job and moved to Bloemfontein to care for his mother. For over a year he gave her his undivided attention, teaching her how to speak again and helping her to walk with the aid of a walking stick.

Some time later my wife and I were passing through Bloemfontein and we decided to pop in and see her. She met us at the door on her walking sticks and took us through to the lounge where we had tea together. There she told us - unforgettable to us - how her son had loved her back to life and then through his love, she had come to know the love of Christ. In a moving testimony she said, mixing up her English and Afrikaans, 'If I had to go through again what I have experienced since my stroke, to find Christ and to experience the love and care of my son, I would gladly make the sacrifice.'

She was a magnificent woman - well educated, caring and warm, the epiphany of a mother and a wife. Even after the stroke, struggling to walk and speak her character shone through.

Our skinny kid was not finished - he abandoned law and went into the Ministry. Soon he was living on the outskirts of Soweto - he was not allowed to live in the Township because he was white. He supervised 6 Churches, a training school for lay leaders and the work of the CU in several local Universities. He was shot at and threatened several times. His wife sent him off to work every day, not knowing if he would return. His view was quite simple - the future of South Africa would be decided in Soweto - and that was where he had to be.

He is now the Bishop of Johannesburg with responsibility for over 100 Churches, a large congregation at Mid Rand and two schools, three universities and the training school for lay leaders in Soweto He is the kind of South African who has made a difference - first in himself, overcoming personal disadvantages and a stammer, then in his family where he showed himself to be all that a mother could want from a son. Then in his own family and now in his Church and the Community he lives in. He is no superman - just someone who has made and is making a real difference in a hard place.

I am just reading a book about South Africa in the bad old days of apartheid. I am again appalled at what went on during those days. If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed that South Africa could go through the process it did from 1989 to 1994. To emerge from that transition from apartheid to democracy with a government based on respect for the rule of law, democracy and freedoms of speech and association to me is an ongoing miracle. But perhaps it was not a miracle in the biblical sense - perhaps it was just the combined effort of hundreds of skinny kids with a clear concept of who they are and what they can do to change things and people.

If I was to take myself back to 1987 when I was struggling with the Beira Corridor project and we had thousands of troops protecting the railway, road and pipeline systems linking Zimbabwe to the sea from South African inspired and funded destabilization. If I had lived in Soweto in those difficult days and looked up at the mountain that was Afrikaner nationalism and apartheid, I would have felt hopeless and full of despair. But life goes on - not always for the better, but eventually, if enough of us push and pull, the right things happen and things change.

You can make a difference in Zimbabwe, perhaps not a dramatic difference but a real one. Be an agent of change in your family; love and care for them, hold them together. You can be an agent of change in our society by working against what is evil here and helping others to do the same. You can help Zimbabwe become another miracle country - still with problems, but coming out of the morass we are in and looking forward to a more hopeful future by just doing what you can where you are with what you have got.

Believe me - we can make a difference and find real fulfillment and accomplishment in what we have done together.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 31st March 2006.