Living for the Lord; addressing peace and injustices in the world

When my family and I joined the Soweto Vineyard Fellowship in 1997, we found it to be a racially mixed church in the Township. The church was characterized by high levels of poverty, unemployment and vulnerability. At one point in the church you would find the most educated people and the poor sitting side by side, at times sharing food and fellowshipping together. At the church you would find those living with HIV/AIDS, some youngsters who had just been released from jail, the sick and the old.

I found this to be a very interesting church where everyone knew each other, spoke to each other and were able to listen to one another. At this church after every sermon we were allowed a space to discuss the message of the day asking questions about the relevancy of the message in relation to our lives today and what is expected of every Christian. Some would ask questions of clarity while others would seek ways of relating to the massage of the day.

In this church we also found people talking about peace and justice. In the midst of this there was a family--Carl & Caroline Stauffer--that more often spoke about the injustice of Apartheid. They encouraged and comforted people in the community to work for justice and peace at all costs. My interaction with them revealed that they were of a different background from many white South Africans. They lived their lives in Soweto working and living in the midst of poverty. I came to understand that this family came to work in SA for three years, however they ended up staying in SA for 16yrs. They taught peace and living simple lifestyles in the midst of poverty. As a family they also became involved in the ministry of the poor and people living with HIV/AIDS. Through their work the church started an HIV/AIDS program which was funded by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). For me this act of living amongst the poor and the sick, accepting and assisting people to overcome the challenges and the ills of Apartheid, which dehumanized us as black people for a long time, was a show of the love that Christ demonstrated.

I came to know Soweto Vineyard as a church where spaces of dialogue would always be there, even during and after the sermon. We could discuss Christ, the Bible and how it affects our lives today. We also discussed politics without undermining other races where the point of the discussions was focused on what the word of God says. Through all these interactions the objective was to understand how we can all live together as Christians both black and white in peace as the Bible describes.

Over the years my family and the church has welcomed and worked with different groups of Mennonite communities, which have included University students, Meeting house, SALTers, BICs and through all this we learnt that they are people with a mission and their message has been simple, living for the Lord, addressing peace and injustices in the world in many ways.

One of the things that excites me about being part of ANiSA is that we can create spaces for dialogue engaging issues that affect us every day and finding ways of making the Bible practical in our daily lives. It is important for us to walk together so that peace, development, dialogues and simple living as Christ would expect can be sustained.