I’m a white girl who grew up in the affluent and extremely privileged suburbs of Pretoria, South Africa. At the height of Apartheid.
I grew up under US sanctions and ate my first McDonalds burger at the age of 18 only because I was traveling abroad. We didn’t have Levi Jeans, Dunkin’ Donuts, or any of the 80s-inspired American fashion (but that last one might just have been our luck).
But we had high schools that were integrated for the first time when I was in tenth grade. Yes, you heard me right. Our schools were all segregated until the early 90s. Makes you catch your breath, doesn’t it?
I grew up with a black maid and gardener and two white parents who prayed and fought against Apartheid but even now they might tell you that they didn’t pray or fight hard enough.
I never thought Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. I believed he was a hero.
But I never set foot outside my comfort zone either.
My life was completely average in all the most spoiled ways.
And then my mom died a week to the day after my eighteenth birthday. There are some things you never recover from.
That is one of them for me.
My dad and my brothers – we’ve all lived that loss in different stories.
And my father? A decade after she died he remarried an Afrikaans woman (you’d know this was a big deal if you knew we grew up an English-only-speaking family) and she? Well she rocked our world in all the best ways.
Together they found themselves wading into the deep waters of orphan care in South Africa. And for those of you who haven’t visited sub-saharan Africa recently, that’s a predominately black area. And we are a very white family.
And my dad will tell you the kinds of looks and comments they get when they’re out at the mall with their three adopted black kids. I can tell you the comments I’ve overheard.
But still, we’re a minority that was in the majority for over a century.
And while I may have black brothers and sisters I rarely have to walk around in their shoes because I live here, in the US. And when I’m home in South Africa we all speak English and Apartheid feels like a history lesson; there’s a rainbow of colors around our dining room table when we sit down for lunch on Sundays in South Africa.
So maybe I’ve felt like I get a pass when it comes to race relations here in the States.
But I have a friend who tells me that the tables we break bread around here online don’t have a lot of color in them. And it’s 2am and I should be in bed because I have a chipper toddler who will want a bottle of milk come 7. But I can’t quit this computer because some things need being said.
My friend Deidra is “going there” when it comes to these kinds of hard conversations. She’s going there in the most gracious, hands-open, inviting way I’ve seen. She’s going there and bringing us with her because this is what a body does. It asks the other parts if they hurt and then why and then, “what can we do?”
And then it listens.
And then it acts.
I believe she’s “going there” because she’s called there. I think maybe we all are, yes?
Called to meet each other in the “wide open spaces” of God’s grace where sisters can talk about just about anything because there is freedom in Christ.
“We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”
Romans 5: 2.
And I’m just a white girl from South Africa who has a lot to learn.
But this I do know.
I’m going with her.
And I don’t know exactly what that looks like. But I do know what happened last year when a couple in our church shared to our small group that they were feeling desperate and frayed and financially stressed because their delivery business relied on having a car and their only car was broken down. And while it was in the shop they couldn’t carry out their deliveries.
And I remember clearly how the instant reaction from the group was to pray for them. And prayer is necessary. But sometimes what you really need is a loaner car. So while people moved forward to pray Janna’s eyes welled up with defeat and Peter told me afterwards that’s when he knew that prayer in action looked like loaning them our second car. So he did.
And in that moment we became a body instead of just a support group.
So what I’m saying is, I don’t know the exact conversation God wants us all to have – you and me and this blog and the online spaces – but I do know that I want to go there together.
I want to talk about the things that ache in other parts of this body that Christ died for. I want to listen well. And I want to invite your questions and I want to learn.
Deidra’s series over here is a good place to start. And I’d love to learn from you in my comments.
And I especially want to go to the parts of the conversation that might make me or you feel uncomfortable – like do our online gatherings and offline events really reflect the whole body of Christ?
Like am I willing to let my life be interrupted regularly by life that looks different from mine? (I’m thinking of Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted, that I am reading slowly, with highlighter in hand).
Like am I participating in justice for the orphans in South Africa as well as the kids in the foster care system here in my community?
Like, what does being cross-cultural look like beyond just the fact that I’m from another country originally? How can I live a cross-cultural life in my suburban, American neighborhood?
And after asking I want to get about doing.
I’d love to eavesdrop in the comments on the places you think of in your own life when you think of “going there.” Just click here to leave a comment.
And really what I most want is to go there together – in a shared car.