God gave me a wonderful gift this week. It has been an exceptionally busy couple of months with my work at 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption', Unashamedly Ethical and the University. Between travel, meetings, conference calls, speaking engagements, writing and supervision I hardly felt like I was touching sides.
The busyness of life has a way of drawing me away from what matters most. I begin to adopt a functional, rather than a reflective, orientation towards life. My days are spent on tasks rather than prayer and people. This can quickly lead to disconnection from God and God's wonderful world, and the people in it.
Last week was no different. We had a great contact week with our Master of Theology students who are doing the course in missional spirituality. Rev Trevor Hudson and Prof Robert Vosloo came and did the input sessions with our students. I sat in on most of the lectures, and also spent time with the individual students and the group helping them to work towards their research tasks and assignments. At the end of the week the examinations began for the group of students from last year's MTh course. In all 12 students had an opportunity to give a defence of their Masters research projects. This is an exciting time where the students present their ideas and the faculty (lecturers) get to engage with them. Whilst it is an exam, it is also a great time of learning and sharing.
On Monday afternoon one of my Masters students did his defence and did a great job. He has passed and will get his degree. It felt good to celebrate this significant milestone with him! However, as I left the University to rush home in order to go onto a conference call with colleagues in the UK for EXPOSED my mind was already focussed on tasks.
I drove out of Stellenbosch and as I passed Stellenbosch square I saw two people on the side of the road, a young boy and his mother. The mother was clearly very drunk. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not stand or walk without stumbling. She was dangerously close to the moving cars and her little son was applying all of his weight to try and pull her out of the road. My heart was touched. Seeing a little 6 year old boy struggling to help his mother in this situation left me very bruised. So, I turned my car around to the other side of the road and stopped to pick them up.
God had given me the gift of Franco and Sophie. Franco is six years old and has just started school. Sophie is his mother. Her husband died of HIV/AIDS a while ago and she has a drinking problem. Franco was trying to help his mother home.
After I had put Sophie in the front seat of the car, and get Franco securely fastened in the back (in Liam's 'booster seat') I took them home. I discovered that Franco has a brother - he is 9 years old. How sad it is that these two boys bear the responsibility of caring for themselves and their mother. Of course this event touched a very tender part of my own life and brought back memories from my early childhood.
I couldn't do too much for them. After getting Sophie and Franco safely home we talked for a while. I first spoke with Sophie about her life and her struggles. I encouraged her to seek help and prayed with her. It was a hopelessly inadequate response to this very serious situation. I then spent some time with Franco. I told him how beautiful and brave he is. I reminded him that God had made him a very special boy and that God has a wonderful plan for his life! I reminded him that he is loved and that God had sent me to collect him and his mom that afternoon. All that I had in the car to give him was an apple, a banana and one of Liam's story books. He was over the moon with the book.
Franco and Sophie have been living in my heart and mind all of this week. As I go to meetings, as I meet people, as I speak at events, as I plan, as I write, as I pray... God has given me a gift. It is a sad gift, but it is important.
The Bible says "Learn to do what is right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1.17)
Please can I ask you to pray for Franco, Sophie and Franco's little brother? Please ask God to care for them. Please pray that Sophie will find the help that she needs, and the Franco and his brother will be spared from neglect or abuse. Please pray that they may reach the beauty of potential that God has placed in them. Please don't make the mistake that I make and get so busy that you neglect the opportunity to be wounded by suffering.