(IsiXhosa) – Indlela eya empumelelweni (Afrikaans) – ’nBrug vir versoeni

(IsiXhosa) – Indlela eya empumelelweni (Afrikaans) – ’nBrug vir versoeni

Jon and Dawn Barnes – South Africa

Jon and Dawn Barnes – South Africa

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Apartheid was a system of government based on separating peoples.  In fact, the word “apartheid” is Afrikaans for separateness.  The Apartheid Regime ruled South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990’s. There were over forty years of segregation between people living in this country, some with special privileges and others with literally none.  Apartheid was based on a system of racial classifications.  In the Eastern Cape, where we live and work, there were three main classifications.

To be classified a Xhosa during the apartheid years meant several things. It meant one was born into a family with a rich culture. The color of one’s skin was black. During Apartheid black Africans had virtually no privileges. In school, one was forced to learn and speak Afrikaans and English. One was forced to live in a particular area of the country and could not leave this designated area without a special pass book and a good reason. One was not allowed to obtain a higher education level. One was expected to do as (s)he was told and nothing more.

To be born a “coloured” during the Apartheid years also meant several things. It meant that one was designated as a person of “mixed racial descent”. During Apartheid the coloured person had more privileges than the black Xhosa but less than the white population. The home language was Afrikaans or English. Coloured peoples also lived in areas designated by the government and they, too, could not travel without a passbook and good reason. Some coloureds were given a bit more education than those classified as black, but far less than those classified as whites.

To be born a white South African during Apartheid meant that you held all the privileges. Afrikaans or English was the home language. One’s skin color was the one accepted as the norm and standard by which all others were judged. One could live, travel and study as s(he) pleased. One was taught that s(he) was the favored race, according the Bible and to the South African government. The white population of South Africa had the highest standard of living in the world during the Apartheid years.

Although Apartheid as a political system has been dismantled and we now live in the “new” South Africa, the social systems and ways in which people relate to one another that existed then are still very much in place.  People such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu made (and continue to make) incredible contributions to the cause of creating a non-racial democracy where all enjoy freedom, but there are still many wounds that need to be healed and there are still many bridges to be crossed in the years to come.  This reconciliation has to take place in individuals, in communities, in government, and even in the churches.

Here in the Eastern Cape we work with twenty churches of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). These twenty churches are divided between black Xhosa speaking churches and “coloured” Afrikaans speaking churches. 

We have witnessed and felt the tension that can still arise between these two groups. Although we are one church, one denomination, there is still reconciling to be done.

We recently witnessed another step in that reconciliation. The Reverend Mzimkulu Leonard Kakaza was ordained into Christian ministry on Saturday, 27 January 2007. He is Xhosa and his name, Mzimkulu, means “a large family.” He is a principal in a local school but on this Saturday he was ordained into the ministry of the UCCSA. What makes this ordination so special?  In all of the churches of our region, each black church is served by a black minister and in the coloured church only coloured ministers serve…..that is until now. Mzimkulu is the first black minister in our region to serve at a coloured church! Rev. Kakaza has taken the challenge to be a bridge to heal the hurts, the wounds and divisiveness of the past and bring about reconciliation.

Rev. Kakaza’s ordination service was truly a time of worship for the UCCSA.  Hymns and prayers were in isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and English and elements from all of the cultures and worship styles were blended beautifully into the service.  Ministers from many different backgrounds and denominations were present and took part in the service.  The church secretary told of how the church and Rev. Kakaza have learned more about each other and themselves through learning each other’s language and culture. Rev. Kakaza and others like him are a new hope for South Africa. He is a bridge of reconciliation for the future. And from his example we carry on working towards building bridges of reconciliation.

We leave you with a poem that the presiding minister read at the conclusion of the charge to Rev. Kakaza. May we all take this to heart as we reconcile ourselves, our lives and our future to God.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy over night; build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough; give the world the best anyway.
You see in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

Revs. Jon and Dawn Barnes

Jonathan and Dawn Barnes are missionaries with the Kei Regional Council of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, South Africa.  They serve as development officers in the Kei region of the Eastern Cape of South Africa.