Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To South Africa With Amor-The Nov. 07 Advance Trip

I can't believe we are less than two months away from undertaking of first official Amor mission trip to South Africa. It seems like just last week that we were in South Africa in November on our first planning trip for the March 2008 trip. I am going to post a several blogs in this series about South Africa, but right now I want to update you on our November 08 trip.

We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on November 6th and spent the first night at a Inn that our host Humphrey had located. It was quite a nice place, feeling very authentic with straw roofs, animal decorations, and other exotic accommodations. We decided to look at some other housing arrangements since this place was nicer and more costly than we needed. We visited a Nazarene Conference Center that had several "rondawels", or round houses with thatched roofs. The Conference center was a perfect place for our team to stay, especially when it only cost $10US a night per person.

Its amazing to know that we were seeing South Africa just 12 years after Apartheid ended and just 12 years since Mandela was released from 27 years of prison. Downtown Johannesburg was a city only occupied by white people up until 1992. Now the blacks have moved back in and are running businesses.

During our week in Joburg (nickname for Johannesburg) we had countless meetings with church leaders, civic leaders, and Christian businessmen. We met with the CFO for the Housing Department to discuss the availability of funding for house building projects, and the various governmental issues we need to deal with. The churches we visited were in or around the Johannesburg area. We had one opportunity to build up to 100 homes on a lot owned by and adjacent to a Church. What we finally landed on was a community located four hours by car, just southwest of Johannesburg. This community is called Kimberley and has a population of over 300,000 people and looks quite similar to the communities we work in Mexico. The land if flat, and rather arrid. Its more rural so the homes located in the slums have a fair amount of land surrounding them; giving us enough room to build a double wide home.

The key factors for us working in Kimberley were the immediate response that the community leaders gave us and the swift invitation to provide some funding to build the homes. We sent a team to Kimberley and met with more than a dozen of their leaders and presented our proposal which include the style and type of homes we build. They were very open to our format and requested a formal proposal from us for them to decide upon. We then toured several of their communities, meeting with people living in the community and personally seeing the circumstances of their poverty. Their homes were so much like those in Mexico is was amazing. Dirt floored shacks, with walls of old metal and wood siding, and metal corrugated roofing or tarps. There was no running water or electricity to their shacks.

We have decided on this trip to focus on building ten homes in Kimberley because the community could quickly support us bringing a team of 100 people from Wales and England. The community is small and could act quickly. There is also the issue that this community is more rural and not densely populated like many urban slums. Kimberley has often been called the "calm city' due to its "out in the country" atmosphere. As a matter of fact, when we drove down Main Street in downtown Kimberly I though for a moment that we were driving down a a Midwestern community in the US.

The needs in South Africa are great with 7 million households living without adequate shelter. It is estimated that 72% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa live in slums and without intervention could rise to some 100% in some states. We count it a privilege to have this opportunity to share God's love and share of ourselves with the people of South Africa.

No comments: