I can’t wait to return to the dusty roads of Soshanguve, one of many township slum areas (think ‘a South African Tijuana’) stationed nearby most major South African cities originally as a forced settlement area for black South Africans to live separate from ‘white’ South Africa, yet be near enough to commute in each morning to work. Since the fall of apartheid in the early 1990’s, these sprawling mega-cities have evolved into the proud home of the majority of black South Africans. ‘Sosh’ is no different, and yet it’s realities are staggering: It is home to at least 1.5 million people, with an unemployment rate likely hovering near 40-50% of the population and an HIV/AIDS rate at least that high, if not higher.
Luc and Petunia Kabongo lead the InnerChange team that lives incarnationally among the poor of Soshanguve. I befriended the Kabongos upon my first visit to Sosh in the summer of 2008, and knew immediately that I had found a kinship among new friends. Among the many holistic ways that they care for the poor in their neighborhood, I have come alongside Petunia and Anna, who are both nurses leading a group of Hospice Care Workers who provide compassionate care for hundreds of families who are dying of complications related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic sweeping through South Africa (South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the whole world!). My job is to provide sustainable care, spiritual direction, and ‘loose’ group therapy for these Care Workers, that they may continue to offer themselves to their neighbors.
Luc and I have become fast friends and partners in a short time this past year. We have begun to meet regularly together for accountability and mutual peer mentoring, as well as to strategize as to how we both can utilize our gifts to transform Soshanguve in holistic ways as God restores this forgotten place. Likely, I will begin leading their growing team in spiritual direction and a process of spiritual formation this year, as well as potentially exploring how we can influence a network of local pastors Luc is involved with in Soshanguve.
I can’t wait to see my friends again!