Named the poorest village in all of South Africa, Intabazwe is home to 65,000 people of the Basotho (pronounced "ba-soo-too") tribe. Most live in squatter camps, in homes made from scrap metal, tin or mud bricks and a thatch roof (it is winter here & the homes are VERY cold). Every street is covered with children of every age, playing next to trash heaps and burned fields, shoeless and coatless. In fact, 45% of Intabazwe’s population is 14 years old or younger. And did I mention 88% are unemployed and 1 in 3 live with HIV/AIDS???
Intabazwe is also where we’re spending most our time. With so much stacked against them, the Basotho people struggle against prevailing hopelessness. I believe this is a primary reason we are here: To let them know they are loved, to serve them any way we can, and then somewhere in the middle of all that, to make sure they hear the truth that God is crazy about them.
Over the past two days we have done laundry, carried water, swept dirt floors, made porridge, helped construct make-shift homes, and held a children’s club full of songs, games and a whole lot of laughter. Everyone we meet is so gracious, honored that we would come and visit them, overwhelmed that we would be guests in their home. I can’t help but feel the reality is just the opposite: WE are the honored ones, privileged to be allowed to spend some time with them, exchanging our lives over a hot cup of tea.
In many, many ways, the Basotho people excel far beyond us: in relationships, in warmth, in grace and acceptance, in their ability to share their limited food and belongings with guests who are wearing coats worth more money than the contents of their entire home. Whereas we Americans fight against selfishness and greed, they fight to out-give one another.
We may have multi-bedroom homes with running (and clean) water and furnaces which pump out warm air in the winter, but our poverty of heart and spirit is often profound. I can only speak for myself, but any generosity I may display is offered out of my abundance. I doubt I would be so quick to share if I had little or nothing for myself and my family. And I’m somewhat ashamed to have to travel half-way across the world to finally have a clear look in the mirror.
I guess that’s what life exchange is all about–stepping into someone else’s shoes and, hopefully, being different because of it.
We are told to live our lives so that others want to know our God. Who could fail to see your example and want to know what inner light brings you across the globe in service to your fellow humans? I will continue to pray for blessings on your mission and that His will be done through your hands and voices.