Note from GapFill.org’s Founder: I just received Kay and John West’s newsletter and thought I would share it. What a great post on reconciliation as we head into this season of Lent.
And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:20
I am writing this letter in the midst of seeming chaos. Empty and full and half-full boxes have invaded our entire house. Random piles greet me everywhere I look, and the house we’ve called home for three and a half years now is in seeming shambles as we labor to get ready to move to the country of South Africa in less than one week, while simultaneously continuing ministry here in Swaziland. In addition there are still many unanswered questions about work permits, how we’ll afford to live where the costs of living are higher, if we’ll have any problems crossing the border with our belongings, and if the leaks in the ceiling and plumbing in our new home will be fixed when we move in.
Yet we stand firm, knowing God is in charge, and we trust Him. He is a God of order, of peace, and of reconciliation. We know He has a plan!
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:14
Reconciliation to Himself through the cross was and is His master plan, and we are so thankful for this fact that we are committed to pouring out our lives to share this good news!
Lately, though, He has also been placing on our hearts another facet of reconciliation–between people, and specifically between the diverse races and classes that make up the “Rainbow Nation” of South Africa.
We are and will be smack dab in the middle of “Mandela country.” Most of you probably heard that Nelson Mandela died at the end of 2013. It was worldwide news; here, it was a MAJOR event, and a MAJOR time of grief for Swaziland and for South Africa. Whatever you think of the man, his methods, and his motives, there is no denying what he did for his country during a pivotal, violent time. His message of forgiveness and reconciliation has radically impacted the lives and hearts of South Africans and of much of the world.
Sadly, there still exists a huge gap between rich (predominantly the white South Africans) and the poor (predominantly the black South Africans), and between the association of most whites and most blacks. The CIA website explains it in this way. “The first multiracial elections in 1994 brought an end to Apartheid….South Africa since then has struggled to address Apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and healthcare.” The site provides many statistics to back this up. Just a few include 31.3% of the population below the poverty line, and an unemployment rate of 25.1%. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html
We have personally witnessed valiant attempts by both blacks and whites to get along after decades of segregation and mistrust, but we still see a huge amount of fear from both sectors, and definite discrepancies in standards of living. Our friends from SA, both blacks and whites, fear for our safety as we whites venture into “black” neighborhoods. (A caveat here—I have never felt it necessary to distinguish between races and it appalls me to do so now, but the fact is that in SA, racism going both ways is a major issue and pretending it doesn’t exist would be foolhardy.)
We have no idea how God might use us, but we do believe He will, in His plan to reconcile His people in South Africa. We know we find great joy in speaking siSwati to the black South Africans and seeing their astonishment that white people care enough to learn their language. 🙂 We are also committed to learning a decent amount of Afrikaans, another of the 11 official languages in our new country of service and the primary language of the majority of whites there. We know we have so much else to learn as well. But we are willing vessels—stay tuned!
In the meantime, we remain committed to being “ministers of reconciliation” by sharing the Gospel and His love wherever He leads us. We are in awe and delighted that God uses us even in the midst of the mundane and frustrating business of moving to another country.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Cor. 5:17
Before sharing some of those mundane details, I want to share just one story of how God has been working recently in our lives. We had only a few days in Nelspruit, SA, our future home, to find a place to live. It was a discouraging time of many doors being figuratively and literally shut in our faces, and to be honest, we felt like giving up. But, as we shared with our gracious hosts and friends Mitch and Char, even if we couldn’t find the house we thought we needed, we knew that God had a Kingdom plan that might or might not suit our impatience and selfishly-perceived essential conditions.
We are so grateful that He doesn’t give up on us, and uses us in spite of our egocentric desires. On the last day, we met with a potential landlord named Bailey. He’s quite a character, and the house he became willing to rent to us after our interview is rather dilapidated, though roomy, and in a safe neighborhood. The interview itself progressed quickly from formal to informal, and in the course of all his coarse jokes we were told that he has cancer that progressed from his colon to his liver, and that he is afraid. We also discovered that this man has a praying wife. Bailey doesn’t quite yet seem to grasp that God’s grace and mercy are all he needs to cover a life of sin, but we believe he will. We were allowed the privilege of praying for Bailey, right there in the realtor’s office, while tears rolled down his cheeks. We know God is not finished with our intermingled stories—He has woven our lives together for His wondrous purposes. Yes, we signed the lease.
- March 1–move from Swaziland to South Africa
- April 1-4–retreat with other missionaries on our team with whom we will serve the townships, as well as with the local pastors from those areas. The purpose will be to get to know each other and everyone’s roles as we come together to share the Gospel and practical help for those in dire need.
- May—will start “official” ministry with widows and orphans in the townships. But we all know that as we’re surrendered servants, God uses us each and every day!
- The work of reconciliation—to God and amongst people
- Bailey to know the full goodness and peace of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.
- Funding for a new (used) vehicle for us. Driving in rural Africa to far-flung villages is brutal on vehicles, as is transporting carloads of people, food boxes for care points, drinking water, firewood, building supplies, live chickens…
- The fields are ripe for harvest in the South African townships—please pray for open hearts to receive God’s love as He directs us to show it.
John and Kay West are missionaries in South Afraica. Visit the “Items Needed” tab on the GapFill.org website to see how you can help the West Family. To receive GapFill.org’s blog posts automatically via email, enter your email address in the “FOLLOW GAPFILL VIA EMAIL” box on the right-hand side of the blog and click “Follow”.