LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DLGP

Old and New in Cape Town, South Africa

Written by: on August 26, 2018

 My Personal Interests

At the Advance in Cape Town I was interested in seeing how life is for South Africans since apartheid was declared illegal in the 1990’s. It was interesting to compare the situation to the United States. I am old enough to remember the segregation of the mid 20th century. How are the two countries alike? How are they different?

New Knowledge and Synthesis

We had help in preparing for this experience in South Africa by reading from several books – Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy; Matthew Michael’s Christian Theology & African Traditions, and David Welsh’s The Rise and Fall of Apartheid.

I felt better prepared to understand the poverty and remaining apartheid in South Africa.

The experience in Cape Town South Africa turned the ‘book knowledge’ into real life. The encounters with African leaders helped to shape my thinking in the area of justice. In South Africa as in the United States, those in power have an obligation to care for the less fortunate.


My focus of study in the Leadership & Global Perspectives course is on justice for women. In South Africa I found that the practice of hierarchy among those in power is the same whether it is hierarchy over other ethnic groups, the “weaker sex”, or the poor. Interestingly these are the three groups that Paul addresses as he admonishes the church in Galatia on human relations. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I am currently putting this insight into my writing. My task now is to answer God’s call on my life to minister the Gospel of forgiveness, hope, and peace to all others, no matter what their ethnic background, gender, or economic status.


Several key points were made on the Advance that have helped me to be less judgmental or condescending. Meeting people who lived through the tragic days of murder and torture made me realize that these are real lives that were affected. Most of these people were not bitter, but forgiving, demonstrating genuine Christianity.

At the Learn to Earn ministry, it was pointed out that “relief outside of a crisis is not good”. Though I may feel compassion and desire to give charity, I must be careful how I do it.

A strong emphasis on family values is credited with why some blacks choose to live in the slums. Family members dying of HIV/Aids need their care. Why aren’t more hospitals being built for the black people? Perhaps they are afraid of being isolated and forgotten by those who love them most.

My heart was also grieved when black women were dismissed as they tried to express their feelings of marginalization. I try to be understanding, but I know since I have never been told I can’t do something because of my skin color I can only empathize as best as I can.


For the ethnography aspect I used a slide show of photographs that I took in South Africa. The photographs will reflect what life is like in South Africa today. Those old enough to remember may spot the similarities and differences between South Africa and the United States.

The photos reflect presentations and field trips. The music you hear is “Oh, Happy Day” sung by the famous South African-  Soweto Gospel Choir.[1]

Here is the link to my project – https://youtu.be/FV9BwgFjl9o



He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?            Micah 6:8

As a small girl I witnessed our own ‘apartheid’ in the United States. We called it ‘segregation’. I remember signs over bathrooms that read ‘whites only’ or ‘colored only’. I remember when Rosa Parks courageously refused to move to the back of the bus. I remember hearing our own “Nelson Mandela”, Martin Luther King Jr. fight against injustice in a peaceful way.

Currently I am at Portland Seminary studying for a Doctor of Ministry degree in Leadership & Global Perspectives. To follow Jesus in His footsteps as leaders we must practice justice, mercy, kindness, and understanding with others.

This semester we studied about apartheid. Our trip to Cape Town, South Africa gave us first hand experience in seeing how well justice has been done for the black people since apartheid was declared illegal in the 1990’s. It is a mixed bag in comparison to the United States.

For example – the slums in Guguletho remind me of the old ghettos in Chicago. Today the Chicago ghettos have been cleaned up.

But that brings up another more important comparison – many of the blacks remain in those slums to care for family members that are dying of HIV/Aids. In the United States we have hospitals, but how many visit the dying? Christian values seem more overt in South Africa.

In South Africa families were moved away from their homes in District 6 to supposedly ‘nicer’ homes. But family ties and traditions are more important. Here in the US we had ‘integration’ forcing children to leave their neighborhoods and go to strange schools.

In the US the laws protecting against racial discrimination, though still imperfect, have some teeth in them. South Africans are struggling to enforce the laws. In Cape Town we saw many blacks working in jobs and enjoying many things that they would not have in the 1970’s. But 87% of the land and wealth of the country is in the hands of 13% of the people, mostly whites.

Both countries had charismatic leaders who gave hope to the people – Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But today corruption in government is stalling justice for the people.

How will South Africa look in the next generation?

[1] You can purchase their CD’s directly from them:

http://www.sowetogospelchoir.com/cd/blessed/  They have a CD that focuses on apartheid. There is a tribute to Nelson Mandela and also the African National Anthem.



About the Author

Mary Walker

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