Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Kaffir Boy

Written by: on June 23, 2017

What an inspirational story. From the slums of a South African township to a college scholarship. From abject poverty and apartheid to academia and America. This is a story of redemption and hope out of a seemingly hopeless hovel of an existence. Some of the things that stood out to me as I read the book:


  • The power of a matriarch’s love. The sacrificial love and devotion of the author’s mother and grandmother shine throughout the book as they believe in something better for their children than they themselves have experienced and do everything in their power to make it happen.
  • The difference made by a few people in opening the doors of opportunity for Johannes/Mark. There are characters throughout this story who go the extra mile, show kindness and consideration, and sometimes expose themselves to risk to help the young Johannes progress and experience freedom and success.
  • The evil injustice of the apartheid system and its wicked subjugation of the blacks and the importance of standing up against such injustices wherever they are perpetrated..
  • The power of ideas and education to enable people to realise their potential and gain freedom. The love of reading and knowledge and learning threads throughout the book, from the joy of discovering Treasure Island to the discovery of classical music – the contrast with the grinding poverty of the slums is stark and the final denouement as Johannes is awarded a scholarship in the States is joyous.
  • As I read the book, I was reminded of The Queen of Katwe, a movie that was released last year about a young girl in the slums of Kampala who discovered chess and became a champion player, taking her to places all over the world and releasing her from the trap of poverty.
  • We visited Katwe as a church team with Compassion several years ago and we met a young man who had been sponsored as a child by an American family and had passed through Compassion’s leadership development programme. He told his story over dinner one night, how he had begged and stolen bread to survive and how he was now a lawyer, fighting the injustice of his childhood.
  • A small amount of resources can sometimes make a massive difference in the life of a child.


This was a great book and an inspirational read. I now want to read the follow-up book of what happened next as he arrived in America!


About the Author

Geoff Lee

6 responses to “Kaffir Boy”

  1. Mary says:

    What a tribute to a young man who overcame overwhelming adversity to rise above his circumstances and strive for a better life.
    You mentioned how much credit Johannes/Mark gave to his grandmother and mother. He also wrote a book called “African Women: Three Generations” a tribute to the remarkable women in his life and “Miriam’s Song” about his sister. I’m thinking of getting them – they must be as inspirational as “Kaffir Boy”.

  2. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Geoff, although inspiration was not one of the take aways I took from the book per se, I do believe that education and knowledge give way to power. Education and knowledge are an equalizer which is why the quality of education for all, atleast in America, has been a challenge. To grant quality education to every person no matter where they live or what race they are gives everyone access to opportunities that build economic advancement and growth. Fortunately for Mark, he was able to do so. Unfortunately for many people of color that same opportunities are not afforded to them.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    I agree with Christal about education being so important. Today I had an interesting encounter. I walked into a 711 and the 20 year old cashier came up to me and said “Can I ask you something? Are you Mrs. Cocanougher’s husband?” I said yes, wondering if this young African American woman was one of my daughters former classmates. She told me that my wife was her teacher over 7 years ago. She somehow recognized me (I dropped by her class several time that year). She went on and on about how much she loved having my wife as a teacher (she also gave me a free Slurpee to give to her).

    When I shared this with Jana, I told her that she will never know the impact that she has made on so many young lives.

    I have said many of times, “do you want to serve God, become a public school teacher.”

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      I agree Stu! Many of our ministry friends shake their head in disappointment when they learn my husband is no longer a worship leader. I tell them that, although he was a gifted worship leader, he is doing more “ministry” in his classrooms than he ever did in the church.

  4. Kristin Hamilton says:

    I want to read the next book as well, Geoff. I also ordered one of his novels to read this summer.
    I love that your first “takeaway” is the power of a matriarch’s love. The matriarchs in my life speak to me daily despite most of them being gone for so long. Their stories and blessings and lessons in my memories make it feel as if they are standing over my shoulder, reminding me of their love and encouragement. I felt that same sense of presence in Mark’s descriptions of his mother and grandmother. When he didn’t have courage or strength or hope, they gave him theirs. That’s the kind of matriarch I want to be, not only to my own children, but to any I encounter.

  5. Geoff,
    I too was struck by the power of maternal love shown in this (and so many other stories – especially on this 20th anniversary of the publishing of Harry Potter) In stories both real and fictional, we are drawn to the power of love.
    And the gospels – and those that have lived out the self-giving truth of the gospels throughout history have proved that power.
    Thanks for lifting that up!

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