June 21, 2016
Written by Karen & Phil Dubert
Karen & Phil moved to South Africa in 2012 to live in the EM community and serve as members of EM full-time staff.
We are in the middle of Summit and if there is one thing we want to do, it's feed our interns well. They have an over-flowing schedule, plenty of studying, ministry commitments, and adventures to go on. So, we feel it is necessary to provide adequate nutrition.
But on a Saturday night three weeks into the journey, they each came to the dinner table with a small coloured square which was placed before them. If they had a blue square, they received a plate of pap (stiff corn meal), a large spoonful of beans, half a boiled carrot, and a spoon to eat with. If they had a yellow square, they received a plate with a quarter loaf of brown bread, a spoonful of jam, the other half of someone's boiled carrot and a helping of those same beans. They all drank black, terrible coffee, the blue squares had one spoonful of sugar, the yellows had two.
There were no seconds and no desserts. It didn't take long to finish the unappetising meal, but they did finish it. They had had a long day and were ready to eat. This dinner was the wrap up of a pilgrimage to Robben Island which started at 9 am on a boat trip to the famous prison in Cape Town's Table Bay. The blue squares received the standard ration of the Black prisoners and the yellow squares received the diet designated for Asian and Coloured prisoners. Although the interns made the best of it, it was hardly a jolly meal.
Robben Island's most renowned prisoner was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 years as a prisoner there. Our interns rode in a bus around the island seeing: the house of isolation where Robert Sobukwe was kept, the large rooms which housed 60 prisoners who slept on two mats with four thin blankets, the quarry where the prisoners broke rock, the cave where the educated prisoners secretly taught the illiterates, and the cell where Mandela lived, slept, and wrote his "Long Walk to Freedom". They took in more than history.
They saw a new depth of human spirit, that God-breathed part of each person.
They turned cold inside from the horror of what people could do to one another, and they were warmed by the resilience of people to respond to evil in gracious ways. Mandela's legacy is strong there. We listened to a guide who had been incarcerated in 1986, sentenced to 14 years for "acts of subversion." When our intern, KeKe, asked him how he felt when he first
walked into the cell he would share with 59 others, Ndoza said he had hope because he knew he had 14 years, then could walk free. He knew the Rivonia Trialists (Mandela and other leaders) were serving life sentences. He lived in the hope that one day he would walk free. Now he proudly shows tourists his prison and tells his story.
This journey is one of the experiences we hope will make our interns more aware of history and the reality of human nature. We pray it brings all our hearts and eyes into alignment with how God's heart feels and His eyes see this world we desire to serve.
As Mandela said: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Enhancing the lives of others is essential in Kingdom life.