CONTENT ALERT: The following article touches on some subjects of a sensitive nature. Use discretion, please.
With June now upon us, we are coming up on one year until the 2010 World Cup commences in South Africa. The events will be held in different venues all over the country, culminating in the final match to be held in Johannesburg on July 11, 2010. For the last several years South Africa has been preparing to host this international athletic event that is second only to the Olympics. Excitement here is already at a fever pitch.
Just this past Saturday we had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the soccer mania that exists here. A good friend of ours, Judson K. Pietsch, has spent the last couple weeks here at The Pines. As he was on the soccer team at our college and now is coaching high school soccer, we thought it would be a great chance to combine his skills and knowledge with a bit of our ministry. When it comes to coordination, I'm a bit lacking, so it was a huge benefit to have Judd there to run things. The boys from our Bible Study gathered 28 of their friends and we held a soccer clinic at the school. Judd ran a few drills, then we held a competition complete with prizes. After that I had the chance to share the Gospel with all the boys, and finally we ended with a tournament. Soccer really is king here and it was a great chance for an open door to the message of salvation. Everyone is excited about the World Cup. You see billboards with the message "Bring it on, we can't wait" and one can frequently hear street vendors quoting the mantra "2010 is coming."
However, the preparations have not been without controversy. As many of you know, the problems in this country run much deeper than economic hardship. The heart of the problem goes back several thousand years, to when Adam & Eve chose to rebel against God’s command and choose their own way. The results of the sinful choices made down through the ages are very evident in the culture here. Government corruption, theft, murder, rape, drunkenness, substance abuse and any number of other vices can be observed all over the country.
South Africa has been criticized on numerous occasions, both internally and internationally, for its seeming intentional ignorance to the problems faced by its people. While millions are spent on upgrading the infrastructure, stadiums, and other facilities related to the World Cup, the people of this country continue to suffer. It is not the responsibility of government to solve societies problems, however, many of the choices made only serve to enhance the problems already here.
One significant problem that I have been concerned about for some time in relation to the World Cup seems now to be coming to the forefront. In 2006 the World Cup was held in Germany, admittedly a more advanced and educated culture. The German government expected over 50,000 prostitutes to frequent the venues of the event. In anticipation of this happening, they chose to legalize prostitution. In order to prevent these women and the lifestyles that accompany them from infiltrating portions of cities where they would not be welcome, the government actually developed temporary cities or red-light districts for this behavior to be propagated. Now, the South African government appears poised to do the same.
The reasons given for the legalization of prostitution are many. They claim it will allow the industry to be regulated which will make it safer for the women engaging in the trade (as if the government has a fabulous track record of regulating things). If it is regulated they think they will be able to keep it isolated to specific areas and that it will lower instances of rape. It is pointed out that it was a very popular decision in Germany so therefore it should be okay here. Legally recognizing this profession makes it a taxable industry and I think this is the true reason for the strength behind the movement. The people in government see it as a financial opportunity.
Consider for a minute the social ramifications of a decision of this nature, not only locally, but internationally. South Africa has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. According to the latest statistics 33% of women in their 20’s are HIV+ (http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm). Doctors in our area say that it is more likely that 50% of the population in this demographic are HIV+. It would be safe to assume that women who engage in this kind of behavior have a significantly higher rate of infection.
When you take into account the global nature of soccer and the popularity of the World Cup, you will understand that people will be coming from all over the planet to participate in the festivities. People who may become infected will likely take it back to their own countries and spread it to their own families and beyond. I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but with the levels of immorality in this culture and the possibility of hundreds of thousands of foreigners participating in the “world’s oldest profession”, this could be a vehicle by which the HIV pandemic continues to spread from it’s heart in Africa to all parts of the world.
Already some at The Pines have been personally affected by some of these events. A granddaughter of one of the staff members recently ran away from home. When she went to the social workers she was told that they no longer even look for girls that disappear over the age of 15. For the past year already, in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup, organizations have begun recruiting young girls for training to become prostitutes. Whether it is voluntary or under compulsion, many young people are entering work that will endanger their lives and significantly shorten their life expectancy. Two years in advance of this exciting event there are people who are making plans to profit through the exploitation of young women. Fortunately, the granddaughter has since returned, but how many other girls have disappeared with no hope of return?
Many people are attempting to paint prostitution as an economic decision for these women. That may be true in a few cases, but the portrait painted speaks more to the moral depravity of humankind, and the enormous failure of the family unit. God’s primary institution of society is the family. When fathers disappear, when mothers sleep with any man that give attention, when the structure that God has ordained to provide guidance, discipline, and instruction breaks down it is inevitable that all kinds of corruption will naturally follow.
This is the culture we live in. This is the life that our children have come from and in most cases has led to the situation that causes the need for them to be here. The goal of The Pines is to break this cycle of licentiousness that leads to death. It is so clear that the immoral lifestyle practiced here leads to physical death.
What so many people fail to understand is that each and every person, no matter how moral they think they are, are destined to the same fate. James 2 tells us that whoever keeps the entire law, yet breaks it only in one small point, that person is guilty of breaking it all. The payment of sin is death. Where HIV is concerned it is physical death. Where God’s law is concerned it is spiritual death. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God has provided the antidote for our sickness of sin. Jesus Christ died and in so doing took the payment of our sin on His own shoulders. By His wounds we are healed. Just as a person with HIV cannot heal themselves, so a sinner cannot heal himself. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from our sin. While it is so easy to see the consequences in this culture, please don’t miss the consequences of sin in your own life. It must be paid for, and can only be paid for by Jesus Christ. Come in faith to Him and know the blessing of peace with God and confidence of eternal life.