Making a Difference
We all underestimate what we can and do achieve in our own small
the globe. Because of this we often feel helpless and inadequate in the
of the monumental problems and issues that the world puts in front of
One person in my own experience stands out as an example of what we
each of us do, to impact our world.
He was a skinny, pimple faced kid of about 14 years of age when he
came to our notice. The secular, material community in which we lived
not have given him the time of day but we recognized a deep commitment
his faith and personal determination to make a difference.
We had a problem - the leader of the student group we were dealing with
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
made him chairman.
After a rocky start he made a good leader and the group grew in numbers
in effectiveness under his leadership. After 4 years he left school and
his parents insistence he went to Cape Town University where he
BA and then an LLB. As soon as he had qualified as a lawyer - he left
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
start of the Afrikaner as an African tribe in the early days of Dutch
Huguenot settlers in the Cape.
While living in Zimbabwe she made a significant contribution to the
movement of Women's Clubs. She also raised her three boys and ran a
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
1980, they decided to move back to South Africa and they emigrated to
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.
skinny kid, now a graduate and a lawyer, immediately left his job and
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
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
and took us through to the lounge where we had tea together. There she
us - unforgettable to us - how her son had loved her back to life and
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
through again what I have experienced since my stroke, to find Christ
experience the love and care of my son, I would gladly make the
She was a magnificent woman - well educated, caring and warm, the
of a mother and a wife. Even after the stroke, struggling to walk and
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
to live in the Township because he was white. He supervised 6 Churches,
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
off to work every day, not knowing if he would return. His view was
simple - the future of South Africa would be decided in Soweto - and
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
kind of South African who has made a difference - first in himself,
overcoming personal disadvantages and a stammer, then in his family
showed himself to be all that a mother could want from a son. Then in
own family and now in his Church and the Community he lives in. He is
superman - just someone who has made and is making a real difference in
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
not seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed that South
could go through the process it did from 1989 to 1994. To emerge from
transition from apartheid to democracy with a government based on
for the rule of law, democracy and freedoms of speech and association
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
with a clear concept of who they are and what they can do to change
If I was to take myself back to 1987 when I was struggling with the
Corridor project and we had thousands of troops protecting the railway,
and pipeline systems linking Zimbabwe to the sea from South African
and funded destabilization. If I had lived in Soweto in those difficult
and looked up at the mountain that was Afrikaner nationalism and
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,
right things happen and things change.
You can make a difference in Zimbabwe, perhaps not a dramatic
a real one. Be an agent of change in your family; love and care for
hold them together. You can be an agent of change in our society by
against what is evil here and helping others to do the same. You can
Zimbabwe become another miracle country - still with problems, but
out of the morass we are in and looking forward to a more hopeful
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.
Bulawayo, 31st March 2006.