I love history. It inspires me and challenges me to break free from the norm, the status quo. One of my favorite people in history to learn and read about as a young boy was Martin Luther King Jr. His determination and courage changed the course of the United States of America and consequently changed my life forever.
MLK inspired a generation of men and women to come to grips with the truth about equality for every person in the human race. He sought justice and freedom in their purest form.
Around the same time and a few thousand miles away, Nelson Mandela was in a race struggle of his own. Mandela's story and resolve is both heart-warming and personal to me.
I had the opportunity to spend time in South Africa in 2010 and the people are wonderful in every way. Their story is one of freedom and forgiveness, but it wasn't always this way. Check out this mini-documentary on the life of Mandela:
The clutches of Apartheid reigned over South Africa for far too long. Although things have changed, the scars still remain, lest we forget.
Apartheid, the state of being apart, reigned from 1948-1994. Enforced racial segregation through legislation brought with it internal turmoil and countless struggles. However, the determination and resilience of Nelson Mandela brought a nation together as he sought to remove the divide.
As a white man working in a Zulu area in 2010, I had the privilege to hear story after story from so many incredible people. I had the opportunity to spend my time working on an orphanage and helping in any way possible.
The reality of the situation didn't hit me until a few weeks after I had arrived.
One day as I was digging a hole for a new sewage tank, a group of older women came by chuckling and shaking their heads with the sneakiest of grins. I smiled although I knew they were talking about me and after a few moments I asked my Zulu friends why they were laughing so cheekily. He responded, "They have never seen a white man dig a hole!"
The reality of Apartheid hit me that day.
The nation had been separated into two parts.
There was no crossover, there was no help.
There was not even someone willing to dig a hole for a neighbor.
This understanding brought to my attention why there are so many people living in poverty and with HIV/AIDS. My heart was in a constant state of brokenness and my conscious shaken by the things I saw in the land of the Zulus and my respect and admiration for people like Nelson Mandela grew to greater heights as I thought more about the obstacles he had to overcome to bring about change in such a desperate place.
We need more men and women of great renown to wake up and do something.
Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.
Every person deserves to be free.
Mandela knew this as a young boy and realized that outside of his control his freedom and rights had already been stripped from him. From that point forward he hungered for this freedom that he rightfully deserved. His life and work have been given to creating a free South Africa.
A free South Africa for anyone and everyone, no matter the color of one's skin.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
This fight for freedom and its true essence was never far from the forefront in the lives of the first century believers either. Jesus had come to give them life and life in abundance. They knew this well and Paul encouraged believers by saying this:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
There have been some incredible stories of forgiveness and freedom since Apartheid was overthrown. The widespread account is the story of Invictus.
Rugby, which had so many close ties to Apartheid was the conduit which Mandela sought to unite the people of South Africa and give them something to be proud of together, as one nation. If you haven't seen the film, you really should.
A trickle down story from Invictus happened when I was in South Africa in 2010.
The story didn't make the headlines right away because of the colossal media focused on the World Cup, but in the build up to the World Cup in South Africa, rugby teams were uprooted for the sake of football/soccer teams who had come to train and prepare for the prestigious tournament.
This left many rugby games in need of rescheduling. Sure enough, a team made up of predominately white rugby players from Pretoria called the Bulls were rescheduled to play a match in Soweto, a notorious urban area in Johannesburg that kicked off the protests during the reign of Apartheid. As the Bulls approached Soweto that day they had no idea the reaction they were about to receive.
Their bus slowly pulled up and lurched to a stop. They couldn't believe their eyes and their doubts and skepticism were turned to utter jubilation as the people of Soweto lined the roads and cheered the Bulls down the streets and into the stadium!
It was like a massive parade as thousands of people filled the streets and gave the best pre-match welcome the Bulls had ever seen. The vuvuzelas blew non-stop and people waved until the bus was out of sight. Soweto had embraced their freedom and enhanced the lives of their fellow South Africans.
Despite all the past had done to keep these people apart, they found a way come together and enjoy life side by side with one another, even in a rugby stadium!
I have a dream
As we look at so many fantastic men and women who have gone before us and dared to dream, this article begs the questions for you. What inspires you? Has anything moved you to action? Do you dare step out for something you believe in?
Why not get involved and share your heart?
Mandela started by tugging at the tiny branches of a tree, and after enough tugging, the entire forest came crashing down. His life's work resulted in the freedom of millions, a freedom that was their God given right, not just something for which one hungered. Give a thought to your freedom today, and take some time to ponder what it is that God might be calling you to do.