Every once in a while someone comes along who has a vision. Yesterday I met Stephan de Beer, who has been working with the poorest of the poor in the inner city for some 20 years. Incredibly he has not been discouraged but, rather, inspired by the experience. Remember Martin Luther King Junior’s inspirational words: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
Stephan recently began lecturing in the Theology Department of our local University. He commented on the strange contrast between the lack of hope he found among his relatively affluent students compared with the hope beyond hope that thrives among the disadvantaged in the inner city.
Arguably, “all” the people of the inner city have to do is wait – wait for a hand-out. Those of us who have not experienced human trafficking, hunger, addiction, poverty, homelessness – we who have the so-called power to make decisions, feel the futility of trying to make a difference against all odds.
Is it futile? Mother Teresa said “Alone I cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples”. This is Stephan’s definition of faith: not comfort but commitment; not safety but sacrifice. When we take this step, the miracle begins.
Look beyond the discouraging headlines, the bad news, and you will find communities of hope: the Potter’s House, Lerato House, Akanani, CUT, Inkululeko Community Centre, the School of Creative Arts, Rivoningo, Gilead, where people are living out God’s vision of the inner city as it could be. Despite “finite disappointment” they continue to generate “infinite hope”.
You don’t have to be the president of America. To quote Martin Luther King Junior again: “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”