Shining in Africa
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3NIV).
My country, South Africa, has a dark past of racism and oppression. This year we celebrate twenty years of democracy. Even though much has changed and improved, overcoming the deep scars of Apartheid has proven more difficult than we could have imagined. Our politics are fraught with corruption. Trade unions incite drawn-out labour strikes that bring our economy to its knees for weeks or months at a time. One in ten people is HIV positive. The potent mix of poor education, chronic unemployment, and drugs, has led to the dubious ‘honour’ of having one of the highest crime rates in the world.
South Africa often feels like a rather dark place.
At times I have struggled with whether this is a good country in which to raise my daughters. Yet, over the years, God keeps reaffirming that this is just where He wants our family to be. For where there is much darkness, I believe God often provides the greatest light.
We know that Jesus called Himself the ‘light of the world’ (John 8:12 NIV) and rightly so. Yet I find it amazing that He called us—His followers—the light of the world, too (Matthew 5:14). With His Holy Spirit in us, we are to shine whether we are on the tip of Africa, an island in the Pacific Ocean, or a town in America’s mid-west. No matter where He has placed us, we are there for one purpose—to shine out His love and grace. How we do this will be as unique as He created each of us to be. Yet, led by His Spirit and driven by love, we are to reach out and care for those still lost in the dark.
In my own life, I have found two things that keep me from fulfilling this purpose.
The first is discouragement. This can set in as I listen to news reports highlighting the suffering and anguish around me. How easy sometimes to believe that darkness has the upper hand! The second is indifference. As I see yet another beggar at yet another traffic light, a cool numbness can easily replace compassion.
It is when I sense these two attitudes creeping in that I have to run once more to the feet of my Father. It is only as His light falls afresh into my own heart that I can let it shine again in my city and my beloved country.
Joan Campbell lives in Johannesburg and is the mom of two teenage daughters. She has written for various publications including The Upper Room and Scripture Union, and co-authored WIP’s The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt. She is releasing her book Encounters in November 2014. Joan leads writing workshops for the ministry MAI and she blogs on the topics of creativity, self-worth and faith. Download her e-book “10 Keys to Creative Living” when you subscribe to the blog.