We are seriously living the dream as American missionaries living in Cape Town, South Africa. We have been here 8 years now and so things aren't 'new' to us anymore and we have learned so many lessons. We live in a 'coloured' (mixed race) township of about 300,000 people called Ocean View and it truly has become home. There is so much to be thankful for, and yet every once in a while things hit too close to home....
In recent times the people of our community grew a great anger and unrest about the state of policing and protection for the innocent in our community. The gang situation has been worsening and it seems our home is a place where people who are running from the law come to hide. This creates violence between the gangs. Most of the times the violence is late at night in the dark corners of the community, but every once in a while it comes out into the open. Recently a young boy was shot and killed as he stood in his own home as his family prepared for a wedding the next day. It was unthinkable and tragic and wrong and the community went in an uproar. Eventually we began to see riots outside the entrances of the community, a common way of protesting in South Africa. People take tires and burn them with oil, they throw rocks at cars, and they chant with signs and shouting about their complaints. It usually starts honest and passionate and can sometimes end violently. Unfortunately this is what we encountered surprisingly one morning.
We were leaving to take the children to school one morning, and had been hearing through the social media conversations that the protests were heating up in the front of the community. We had our children and two teachers in our car and hoped to simply drive out the back of Ocean View. We got to the entrance and immediately the bonfire of tires and gasoline sent chills down my spine. The fire was ominous but was in the middle of the road and so I thought I could simply drive around. As I began to drive, three Rastafarian men suddenly surrounded my car and began angrily shouting at me. "Turn back! Turn around! Go back!!" It all happened so quickly but what I remember clearly was the look in their eyes of mad hate. They were so aggressive and had never met me a moment in their lives. For some reason my first instinct was to roll down my window and calmly and clearly speak with them. I began to tell them that we WERE going through and that we had some place to be. No matter how calm I was, the fact that I wasn't heeding to their anxious instructions only made them more angry and they then began to shake the car and continued to shout. At this point (again I am not sure why this was my response) but I got louder and ordered them to stop, which they did. They quickly (and strangely) calmed down and shyly said I could pass (looking around to make sure no one saw). I said thank you and we drove on.
Only then did I notice that the kids were crying in the backseat and the teachers, both residents of Ocean View, were also very shaken up. We all were in shock. It just happened so fast and I had no idea how I would respond to it outside of the moment. The children quickly calmed down and we talked about it many times afterwards to make sure they weren't traumatized. The teachers debriefed with their staff at school and were fine. For the rest of the day, however, the moments kept playing in my mind over and over again. I knew the outcome, and I knew that I just reacted from my guts in the heat of the moment, but what if it had all escalated? What if they had thrown the rocks at the car (which happened to other cars)? What if they had forced us to get out? Who knows what could have happened to my precious children? What if it had all gone terrifyingly different?
We love living in this community and absolutely love the people of Ocean View, but violence and pain are unfortunately a part of the story as well. We can't always predict what will happen and things like 'safety' are viewed differently by us than most we know. However, when it comes TOO CLOSE TO HOME it can really rock my soul. What am I willing to put out there for this calling? How much risk is too much? How much love is too much? How much of what my children experience and witness is too much? How much of what I experience and witness is too much?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but I am glad that I provide the space to wrestle with them when they simmer to the surface. They do not have concrete answers but they need to be asked. The need to be noted and the questions need to be felt. Once I allow myself to wrestle with them I settle back again into the glaring certainty of our call to Ocean View. I sense again in my soul our family's calling to live among these friends as neighbors and family. Soemtimes the cost may seem too much, but it's not today, and it wasn't on that day. The cost is actually NEVER too much when it's what God has called you too. After the questions and the wrestlings we find a deep peace in knowing our calling and being obedient. And we know God is with us, and that even when it seems too close to home, our home is really in HIM. And we are really good with that.