Once Were Warriors now just very wounded

David Mansfield
February2012

When the King of Zululand says that there is a threat to his people as potent and frightening as either apartheid or HIV/AIDS, you arouse from your jet-lagged stupor, sit up and take notice.

I am on the third and final leg of my African field trip with Anglican Aid. I am visiting different parts of South Africa. I have flown from Addis Ababa to Zululand where we have a project with the ACSA Diocese of Zululand training some of their ordination students at a local evangelical college.

Kwa-Zulu Natal

It was here on a previous visit, that I went with the Bishop of Zululand, Dino Gabriel, a pure bred Italian (with whom I discovered a shared passion for Italian cheeses but not for Inter Milan), to the opening of the Kwa Zulu Natal legislature. The King of Zululand’s opening address went for about two hours in Zulu.

Mercifully, with a copy of the manuscript in English, I followed along. The script could have been read in 40 minutes. There were many flourishes of rhetoric and fresh ideas that the king wanted us all to hear.

Replete with six wives in the front row (Dino and I were in about row fifty of the 2,000 strong audience) the king pleaded with his subjects to confront the terrifying evil of Whoonga that was decimating the emerging generation of his people.

Whoonga is a crude designer drug, a deadly cocktail of rat poison, soap powder and Anti Retro Viral (ARV) drugs, the latter being used to treat HIV/AIDS sufferers. Sometimes a low-grade heroin is added to the mix. Medical clinics and AIDS patients are the targets of addicts who will rob, assault and kill to get the ARV drugs needed for the recipe. It’s addictiveness is almost instant. It has also created a black market for ARV’s so that sufferers who need the drug sell it to addicts.

This drug affects heart and lung capacity and kills quickly if taken in a concentrated form. A generation of Zulu young people’s lives are being destroyed. There are signs that drugs like it are spreading to other impoverished communities throughout South Africa.

On this current and brief visit to Zululand, I was a guest of the diocese at the installation of their new cathedral dean, Monument Makhanya, and I met some of the students we are supporting. I also had the privilege of preaching for a friend, Grant Retief, the minister of a CESA church in the northern suburbs of Durban, and visit a ‘street kids’ ministry in the heart of Durban.

The Eastern Cape

From Durban I travelled to Port Elizabeth to meet with the ACSA Bishop of Port Elizabeth, Bethlehem Nopece, who was a guest of our diocese and Moore College in 2010. I met with ‘Beth’, some of his clergy, and with CESA clergy.

I also spent some time at a ministry to children with disabilities run by a Swiss/South African couple. Their project is called Timion. It has a workshop (to build furniture for children with special needs) and office in a very little known place south of Port Elizabeth near Humansdorp called Jeffrey’s Bay.

From this cramped facility in an industrial area on the edge of town, Timion reaches out to over 400 extremely needy and poor families throughout the townships and rural areas of the Eastern Cape. Most are single parent families where the mother is left on her own to manage a baby with special needs while also providing for other siblings. Poverty doesn’t punch much harder.

The Western Cape

48 hours in Capetown is never enough time, with many friends there. Two nights and a day enabled me to discuss bursaries and other issues with Dave Seccombe, the principal of the George Whitefield College (GWC).

Precious time was spent with other faculty members. The college was in mourning due to two tragedies that had struck the college community over the Christmas break.

One, a college lecturer and his wife, lost their first child, Lilly, after 38 weeks of a trouble-free pregnancy.

The other, a student about to enter third year, who had come to college from the Johannesburg had drowned in Mozambique. Hope, with six other friends, was having a break at the sea over Christmas. One became distressed in a rip. Hope, with no thought for his own safety, went to his friend’s aid.

Seven joyful young Christian friends set out with all the excitement we feel when leaving for a holiday. Five returned.

Heaven can’t come soon enough.

Over the years Anglican Aid has provided a number of bursaries for black students from poorer parts of South Africa at GWC. Theological education is offered at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and Anglican Aid has been helpful at both levels.

It is hard to overestimate the strategic importance of GWC. A hundred students, half of them black Africans, are drawn from all over sub-Saharan Africa. The founders of GWC were visionary. Dave Seccombe’s leadership has been exemplary. The appointment of his successor is critical. The ongoing support of friends, like Sydney Anglicans and Anglican Aid, is crucial.

Gauteng

I am tapping away on my laptop in my host’s home in Johannesburg. I have a few days of speaking, preaching, a lunch for business people, another lunch for homeless ‘illegals’, workshops, bible studies and endless talk-fests with people in areas of ministry.

I am blinking back the tears as I recall some of the things I have just been writing about. I am trying to make sense of the emotional roller coaster ride of the three weeks I have just spent in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

My mind casts back to Zululand. Last night I read a story from the Anglo-Zulu wars where General McKenzie, a ruthless British Commander, issued an order to annihilate the Zulu warriors backed up against the sea. He told his troops that if anyone took prisoners, they would be fed from his own rations. No prisoners were taken that day.

Once proud warriors once decimated by even prouder colonists with superior military hardware.

Once proud warriors now decimated by HIV/AIDS and the hideous Whoonga.

How the world is brutal and broken, depraved and damaged, sinful and suffering.

How this world needs the hope that is only found in the true man, the true God and man, the Man of Sorrows!

How the world needs the servant heart and sacrificial generosity of the people like Hope.

People who, by God’s grace, have found true hope in their risen King.

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