[Click on the clip to listen to the soundtrack for this post, by Bethel Music – This is amazing grace]
Today, the N1 is my dragon. The traffic snarls and stops. Snarls and huffs. I can’t plan around it. The chaos comes at me and I can’t control it but I have Bethel Live in the car to keep me calm and they’re singing it for me and for the traffic –
Who brings our chaos back into order? … The King of Glory, the King above all kings.
I make it just fine to Urban Life Church in Midrand. Michelle meets me and shows me around Botshabelo’s Babies Home and my dragons melt meek and mild like so much pink candyfloss because these small somebodies lying quiet in cots – they’ve faced the dragons of abandonment and neglect and undeserved disease and I’ve still got it stuck on repeat –
Who makes the orphan a son or daughter? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.
We head to Urban Kids, which birthed the preschool teacher training programme, to meet up with Andy. Michelle is Andy’s daughter and she jokes that all her mom ever wanted was a white picket fence but God had other plans because her dad planted a church and things have been a little busy since then. A white picket fence around the preschool playground contains the lidless energy of the kids so they tease her that, well, she got her dream.
We drive a few kilometres through pure paradox because this scorched blue happy sky hangs bright and heavy with grace over estates of the walled and wealthy, over broken fences and filth. The clouds build in the heat and there’ll be rain across all the divides and Bethel keeps singing it in my head –
Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder? Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.
Who rules the nations with truth and justice? Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.
This year, Botshabelo is training teachers in 16 early childhood development centres in Olievenhoutbosch. We visit four of them. Andy chats to the teachers. Asks. Reminds. Checks files. Praises and cajoles and balances what’s planned and practical with a subtle capacity to inspire a love of learning.
Across the street from one of the preschools is a sign with a cell phone number – on a dustbin – Safe and Pain-Free Abortions. On a dustbin. There’s dirt in these streets just like there’s dirt in my heart and you, me and everyone, we need to stand in the grace rain and get ourselves uncomplicatedly drenched. My heart thuds sore but I keep playing the soundtrack –
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness? Whose love is mighty and so much stronger? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.
We drive to the next school and meet a teacher whose eyes shine hope. She’s doing this thing because someone flicked a switch in her soul and she’s loving on the little ones on this concrete floor, thirsty for truth to pour lavish on their lives. This, I think, is the glory of God – right here – and I keep singing it –
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for all that You’ve done for me
Still, it can crush me if I think too hard about all this – all that needs to change. It can crush me and I can want to give up but I think about what Andy said to me the night of my book launch when it was announced that half the proceeds of every sale of Dragons and Dirt would go to Botshabelo’s teacher training programme. I told her I had no idea how much I’d be donating. No idea how many books we’d sell. She said to me:
‘Your drop is our ocean.’
And Nkosi Johnson – the AIDS activist who died in Jo’burg in 2001 at the age of 12 – said this:
‘Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are.’
So, if this is something that breaks your heart a little bit – the fact that there’s a generation of kids who don’t have everything going for them – would you pray with me?
- Pray that the roll out of the Grade R / Grade 0 CAPS curriculum in the preschools involved in the programme would be smooth and effective, so that the learners will be well prepared for the literacy and numeracy demands of Grade 1 and beyond.
- Pray for the teachers, that God would ignite in them a love of learning; that they would pass this on to the children in their care; that they would be effectively up-skilled in terms of administration, life skills, critical thinking and management of resources; and that God would provide for them financially. (At best, a preschool teacher in Olivienhoutbosch is earning R1200 / $100 per month.)
- Pray for the Botshabelo staff and volunteers who train teachers and monitor their progress in the classroom – that God would help them to recognise schools and teachers with passion and potential, that they wouldn’t lose heart, and that God would provide for all their physical and financial needs.
- Pray that the preschools involved in the programme would navigate wisely the regulations of the Preschools’ Forum of Olievenhoutbosch (a union of sorts).
You can donate to Botshabelo by buying Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires. (*nudge* *see what I did there?*). Better still, donate to them directly, right here.
. . .
Thanks so much that I could share all this… And THANK YOU so very much to those who have been part of this journey.