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Better Together

October 1, 2015

As a zealous, young missionary I seemed to make the same mistake over and over. Now as a veteran, I find the same never-ending truth must remain continually before me.

People are not our projects.

We never set out to do this intentionally. Our mistakes are made in ignorance. Our desire is to do good, to help others, and to bring change.

Even with these godly desires, we must remain ever careful to not walk in superiority and arrogance.

The message “I have something to give you” may be true, but must be balanced out with a healthy dose of humility and a learning spirit.

Because the truth is, we all have something to give each other.

Examine these two statements. Although similar, they can create two completely different perspectives.

“I have walked with so and so for this many years.”

and

“Ongoing Forgiveness is key to the Development of a Nation, Overcoming Horrors of the Past.”

I recently spent some time in Rwanda. Both Rwanda and my home nation of South Africa had history altering events happen twenty years ago.

The Rwandan genocide saw two tribes kill over one million people in just a few short months.

South Africa saw Nelson Mandela released, the end of apartheid, and a new democracy established. The media predicted a war which never came.

  • Both nations experienced historical events.
  • Both nations used forgiveness as a tool to move forward.

Rwanda enacted many laws and engaged in forgiveness-based exercises. They outlawed the use of any “tribe” or “ethnicity” on public documents. Many of the genocide participants reconcile through revealing the location of bodies of their victims to the surviving family members.

 “We are made to be dependent on one another.”

Desmond Tutu said this in a speech made during Leadercast. He spoke live from the Cape Town location and was beamed into 130 plus nations.

Tutu told stories of how Nelson Mandela had valued people on the way to becoming an extraordinary leader.

Nelson Mandela transitioned from an angry man to one who walked in forgiveness. His classroom for this development was 27 years in prison! The man who emerged to lead a nation, displaying no public bitterness or spite.

Mandela would do such things as have tea with the widow of the architect of apartheid. He was known for thanking the cooks in person in the kitchen following official functions. He even did this in Tutu’s home the night before he was “released” from prison officially. In the face of such a historic event, Mandela valued people and knew that we need each other.

As the world, mourns the passing of one of its greatest leaders, this day takes a special tone for me. Nelson Mandela changed my family.

I’ve lived and worked in South Africa for 8 years now, my wife over ten.

When we were considering South Africa as a potential location, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, influenced my decision.

It was not Mandela’s upbringing, his brutal treatment, or his unjust imprisonment.

What moved me was his commitment to grace and forgiveness.

It was never more evident than April 27, 1994.

This is the date of South Africa’s first democratic national elections following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

The world waited with bated breath for the country to descend into chaos, or worse; war.

It did not happen. Grace prevailed.

Apartheid fell and with it the racist, oppressive rule which sought to completely separate the different races.

An ordinary trip to the doctor’s with my family turned special.

As we were walking towards the elevator in an underground parking structure, I saw a small, older gentleman walking towards the elevator. My first thought was, “That looks like Desmond Tutu!” I motioned to my wife and whispered to her, wondering if she would confirm my suspicions

As we entered the elevator together, a nurse saw him, greeting the bishop. It was then he laughed his trademark laugh. I knew.

My wife asked if our boys could shake his hand telling them he was a very special man. The bishop quickly downplayed our compliments, shaking hands with our kids.

“Would you like a picture?” he offered.

Tutu

 

As we turned to leave for our floor, I was able to thank Desmond Tutu for what he had done for South Africa and bless God for Him.