Today we flew from Cape Town to Durban. We’d like to say a huge thank you to Christiaan and Karen for looking after us while we were in Cape Town. They were so hospitable and we really enjoyed our time with them. Our flight to Durban was uneventful, and we felt the change in heat immediately as we stepped off the plane. Although we have since been told that they are going through a cold patch here in Durban! Durban is very green and beautiful, a tropical climate, and even has a beach named after our beloved city, Sheffield! North of Durban are also many interesting battlefields, ranging from the Zulu wars, to the Boer wars.

We took the longish drive up to Pietermaritzburg with Ant Carr, who we’ll be seeing more of on Friday night when he has us round for a Braai with some of his friends. We had a great chat about what’s going on these parts, what could be happening and the general church situation. It was an encouraging time getting excited about what church could be here in South Africa.

One of the striking things that Ant said was that fear is at the heart of this country, especially among whites. There is fear about crime and safety, jobs and the future. If a middle-aged white man loses his job he is very unlikely to get another one. Many people are emigrating and the recent powercuts have not helped dispell this feeling of doom and gloom. But of course this is exactly what the gospel so powerfully speaks into. Perfect love drives out fear and we know what love truly is! As Ant was saying, there’s a lot of answers being banded around here about how to deal with the issues being faced. But Christians have the answer! Ant wants to see Christians realising this and living it out.

We heard later in the evening of a story of white Christian business men deciding to stay in a much more desperate situation up in Zimbabwe. They have also decided to be distinctly Christian in their approach to business. There is less crime in Zimbabwe, but there is essentially organised crime from the government. So when the government say they’ll tax the businesses 35%, which can be got round by a nicely timed bribe, the business men say they’ll pay the 35% tax. How can they do this? They are trying to survive, but they’ve said if they don’t and they die, well, they’ll be in heaven! They’ve taken seriously what Paul says when he writes that to live is Christ and to die is gain. This has been a challenge to a few of the guys here about the importance of Christians staying in this country and standing firm.

What has been encouraging is to hear about some of the South Africans who are being converted down in London, mainly down at Dundonald in Wimbledon, coming back to South Africa to be involved in the work here. Johan and Tobie, who I wrote about yesterday are two such men. Ant is involved with a smaller group of students whom he is trying to encourage to live out what it means to be God’s people in front of their non-Christian friends.

When we got to Martizburg we met up with Sam Groves. I’ve been talking with Sam for quite a while now, so it was good to finally meet him face to face. Sam filled us in on the situation here a little more. What was interesting while we talked was the similarity between our class-divides in the UK and the race divides here. I was describing how sometimes I feel the fact that I have a degree is a barrier to me reaching people who don’t have a degree as some view me differently as a result. One security guard I was talking to once, just trying to make conversation by asking him about his days in the RAF, deduced that I must be at university because I asked so many questions! Sam pointed out that the way I feel about that divide is exactly how many white South Africans feel in SA. The fact that they are white means that some don’t take them at face value. The answer? It’s got to be long-term and relational, we decided. It needs people committing for the long-haul here, building the relationships, exposing people to relationships that overturn these prejudices. The gospel community, that is radically changed by the barrier defeating death of Jesus has got to be the thing that is displayed for the people here. But to do that churches have got to work hard at putting relationships, built on God’s word, under the Lordship of Christ, at the heart of what it is to be church. I’m sure we’ll be having many more discussions along these lines.