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American In Soweto: Just Who's Saving Who Here?!

I have not saved Soweto. Nope. Not even close. And I didn't come here to save Soweto, either.

I am fortunate enough to have grown up in the lower echelons of the social/economic strata in a city riddled with violence yet filled to the brim with legacy. East Oakland, California. One would be hard pressed to come from streets like those with a savior complex, although stranger things have been known to happen.

Both cyber space and library shelves are full of westerners – mostly Americans and British of a lighter hue – spewing their stories of rescuing the poor, savage souls of third world countries.

If that's what you're hoping for... Well, sadly you've come to the wrong place.

Yes, I've seen some extraordinary things and known some extraordinary people here in South Africa. And, yes, I have the stories that will give you goosebumps... BUT... For every one story of miraculous healing or a life transformed, I've got ten of disappointment, disillusionment, broken hopes, and what most might call 'failure.'

So, yes, let's just tell the truth for a moment. I have not saved Soweto. In fact, the story is quite the opposite...

I did not come to rescue or be anyone's savior. I came to love and be loved, to build and be built, to know others and be known myself, to do life with people I can one day call family. And see Jesus be glorified and revealed in the process.

So many of us first world westerners, having been saturated with individualism, have learned to measure our ministry by achievement. The things we count worthy of writing home about tell the story of a faith-filled, knowledge-toting, 'expert-on-all-things-God,' who has cornered the market on all the right answers, coming to rescue the poor destitute souls upon whom we've placed the burden of our need to be “successful.”

All the while not realizing that WE are the ones in need of rescuing.

So... although my early years in East Oakland, California, afforded me the priceless gift of knowing want, seeing crime, living and schooling among the destitute, feeling the hopelessness of those who never got out, and knowing that I was not even a blip on the radar of society's concern... Even then, I still grew up in the single most powerful country in the world, the USA, which feeds the illusion of grandeur, and the assumption that if anyone will be rescuing it will be 'us.'

So, if there was any little strand of a savior complex still lingering from the 'American' blood pumping through these veins, well let me tell you... Soweto saved me from it.

Yes, I said what I meant. Soweto. Saved. ME. Not the other way around.

Soweto stripped me of those self-indulged dreams of ministry success built on the backs of the locals. It snatched me out of the well-meaning attempts to live a life worthy of writing home about, and turned me back to living a life worthy of being home for my beloved South African family. Any fleeting thought I might have had of becoming someone in the eyes of the world was swiftly – and painfully, I might add – swiped right out from under me.

Yep, Soweto saved me.

So if you came to this blog to hear about another American hero living overseas... Well, I hate to break it to ya, but you won't find that here.

Yes, I have stories. Lots of them. Both remarkable and treacherous. But not by anyone who's done any saving. Rather, by one who's been saved and rescued herself.

Mmmhmmm, Soweto saved ME.

And thank God it did.


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