I have to admit, I was never really familiar with apartheid. Sure, I had heard the word and even heard about Nelson Mandela, but it was something far in my rearview mirror. I am not sure why. It is probably the closest thing to Nazis Germany and the Holocaust that my generation has seen. Maybe it is due to distance that it was never on my radar. Perhaps, it is a lack of understanding of South African history that I did not care about apartheid. Whatever it was, I can tell you it is not there any longer.
After reading and pondering the difficult story by Mark Mathabane’s, The Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, it is hard to ignore the evil that happened to South Africa’s blacks. Mathabane takes his readers on his epic journey and does his best to help the reader visualize the pain, fear and even forgiveness he experienced in his life. Mathabane allows the reader to walk a mile in his shoes which is at times painful and horrifying but also enlightening.
Many Americans are insulated from the pain experienced around the world. We are oblivious to the suffering that happens outside of our boarders. Now, I believe Americans are compassionate and kind, but we are in many ways ignorant from a global perspective. This ignorance goes on to shape our politics. Because we cannot “walk a mile” in the shoes of the suffering, we come up with empty platitudes and our compassion is snuffed out. Mathabane confronts this ignorance. His work is radically important because it shines a light on the pain and hatred that many within the world experience outside of the insulated American experience. Because of Mathabane’s work and many other works we have read on this journey, it is shaped me as a pastor. I believe that part of my role in leading my church is to force them to come face to face with this suffering. I do not do this because I think those in my congregation are heartless. Quite the contrary, I do it because I believe that they have the means to change the world, but the change can only come through systematic knowledge. Now, this shift in me did not happen without the experiences within LGP 6.
Reading The Kaffir Boy is a microcosm of the past two years of the LGP program. Throughout the last twenty-four months, I believe that God has reshaped my thinking. My horizon has broadened because I no longer have a narrow perspective. My world has been forever expanded and my thoughts have shifted due to this experience. Every book has forced me to look at the world through a different lens. Every conversation or advance has made me look hard at my beliefs. At times I did not like what I saw, but I believe this was part of God’s shaping process and he used LGP 6 to accomplish his will in my life.