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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tales from a Township - Standing Up for Your Sister

We just started a new Bible study with the guys.  It will be based on Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes.  As I’ve started the process of putting together a study booklet, I’ve begun to realize more and more how much emphasis the Bible places on self-discipline within a Christian’s life.  Specifically, how important godly men are to a culture.

South Africa is desperately missing men who will stand up for what is right; men who will commit to being faithful husbands and godly fathers.  We hope with this study to refresh ourselves in the call to godliness, as well as instill in the young men here a commitment to becoming godly leaders within their community and families.

Of course, we all know that when it comes to self-discipline, it is easier said than done.  Righteous living is easy to talk about, but much harder to practice.

The other day I was transporting a DJ and Bridge from Thabong back into town.  The topic of young women came up, specifically some of the young girls they know and their willingness to go with any guy that gives her attention.  In a culture so decimated by HIV/AIDS, and in spite of the fact that these girls are well aware of the potential dangers, they live a life of promiscuity – spending lots of time at local taverns, going home with whichever young man invites them, living with a guy who says he loves her yet treats her like a rented mule.

After observing this culture, I realize the US is not all that far behind.  Being back this past year opened my eyes to the glaring holes left by men who refuse to stand up and take responsibility for their wives and children.  You hear of school-aged girls “cutting” themselves, using razors and knives to mutilate their arms and legs.  The temptations that have been put in front of my younger brothers, things that would have seemed shocking 10 years ago, now seem commonplace.  The US is not much different than South Africa, only there exists more of a safety net…for now.  These girls are craving a man to care for them, to love them, to make them feel beautiful and wanted.  If godly men don’t step up and do it, some scumbag will.

Here are a couple stories the boys shared with me:

DJ has a sister who is in her early 20’s.  Just recently her mother and father (who are divorced, with the father living 2 hours away) were approached by a young man who wanted to pay the dowry and marry this girl.  While still part of the culture, dowrys and marriage have become quite rare – most of the time young people just shack up together.

DJ’s sister knew and liked this guy, and the parent’s knew he had a job to support her, so they agreed.  Unfortunately, the job this guy would be supporting her with is illegal.  He is an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe who engages in illegal mining (see this link for more on the Ghost Miners).  After initially agreeing, DJ’s mom began to have second thoughts.  Where would her daughter go once this guy eventually gets caught, killed, or if he decided to return to Zimbabwe?  The girl’s father also began to have second thoughts – because the guy only paid half the agreed upon amount.  Because of this disagreement, the daughter just left and began living with the guy without ever completing the marriage process.

This all took place a couple months ago.  This guy and DJ’s sister live maybe half a mile away from them, so they knew she was getting on ok.  That is, until a couple weeks back.  While the Zimbabwean guy was down in the mines someone tipped the police off.  They raided the house to find DJ’s sister alone there with over 29,000 Rand.  When you consider that a day’s wage for an average laborer is about 50 Rand, this amount comes to about 2 years salary - all in cash.

Obviously she had no reasonable explanation for why she would have this much cash sitting around the house.  Of course, it all came from the gold this guy had mined and sold to the buyers at the famous G Hostel.  This is where the illegal miners, gangsters, and buyers have their headquarters.  It has been written about in the London Times and is a place that is the crime center in this town.  We pass it nearly every time we enter Thabong, and there are stories every week in the paper about crimes that directly or indirectly trace back to this location.  The boys tell stories of buyers who have entire rooms stacked with crates of cash for purchasing the illegally mined gold – there is good money in it, and at times it is hard to fault the people who engage in the practice, given the bleak alternatives here.

Because she had no explanation for the cash, she was immediately hauled off to jail.  DJ’s mom was able to get her out a couple days later, since there was really no way that this young girl had been the one to obtain this wealth.  The boyfriend had dropped out of sight to avoid the police, but he called the girl and told her to ask for the cash.  When she did she was told that she would have to return the next day to collect it.  When she did return a day later, the cash was nowhere to be found – big shocker there.

Now this girl is left with nowhere to turn but to go back home.  Fortunately, there are no children involved, but this story is repeated over and over.  It is no surprise that there are kids running the streets with no one to look after them, no one equipped to care for them.

DJ knew from the beginning that the whole situation should be avoided, but since the parents initially agreed, there was nothing he could do.  We discussed him having conversations starting now with his 7 year old sister and 2 year old sister that they would have to come to him for permission to date anyone.  This may sound harsh, or unreasonable to an American observer, but when the reality of life is that babies are being made by children who are scarecely grown themselves, and that almost 50% of the local population is HIV+, it is time that someone takes responsibility and shows some real love.

Real love is not giving someone whatever they want.  It is giving them what is best for them….which brings me to my second story.

Brilliant shared the same sentiments that it is difficult to watch out for your sisters, cousins, friends, because they will say “my mom knows and she doesn’t care.”  Brilliant has a 14 year old sister.  She is actually his niece, but because his eldest sister, who passed away last year due to illness, gave birth to this girl when she was 14, Bridge’s family has raised her as their own.

One day she was due home from a friend’s house and was a bit late.  Bridge began to worry and went over to the friend’s house, only to learn that she had left with a boy not long before.  He found out where the boy lived and went immediately to see what was happening.  On the way to the boy’s house, he saw to young people off in the distance in a huge empty lot.  As he drew nearer, he saw that it was his sister with a boy about 15 or 16 years old. 

As soon as the boy saw Bridge, he took off running, with Brilliant in hot pursuit.  Since the boy was only wearing flip-flops, he kicked them off to run faster.  Bridge stopped and picked up the shoes, knowing that the kid would have to come get them back.  Then he took his sister and headed for home.  When they turned to go down their own street, Brilliant saw this guy following them out of the corner of his eye.  He stopped and called for the boy to come, and the boy said “Give me my shoes back.”  Bridge told the boy to come get them, and when he got close Bridge grabbed the boy and gave him a lesson in noble intentions.  The kid kept saying he would go home and get his brother, so Bridge grabbed a stick and together with the boy and his two sisters headed to the boy’s house to make sure this was settled and wouldn’t be an ongoing problem.  When he arrived at the boy’s house he found no one was home, so together with his sisters he headed back home. 

On the way, they found themselves blocked off by a gang of about 8 tsoties (gangsters, thugs).  He said he knew he had to buy some time for his sisters to run away, but time it just right so he wouldn’t be caught himself.  The girls turned and ran, and when the gang came for him he had to run too.  As he was running he came to a fence about 7 feet high.  He said they would have caught him there, but when he grabbed the top to vault it, the fence gave way enough to allow him to roll over and keep running.  It then sprang back enough to block and slow his pursuers.

He said from that whole situation his sister learned her lesson.  Of course, that is until the next guy comes along to give her some attention.  These are the kinds of situations that our young men find themselves in.  Please pray that they will have the strength and grace to stand up for what is right in a culture riddled with decay.

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