Let me tell you of a saint I met in a township.
A good few years ago I was part of a project that went into the township of Tembisa, in the distant proximity of the international airport in Johannesburg. I had tagged along so that I could promote my food garden project. The meaning of the name Tembisa is promise and hope.
We met at the Moya Catholic Church, where we prayed and planned to help the poor people of that community. Everybody was poor and struggling to make ends meet, and Joseph Kudema was one of the volunteers, a layman of the Church, who carried the Poor on his heart. He would meet and greet us and welcome us into the community.
We were a group of volunteers under the leadership of the Christian Welfare Council – an agency of the Dutch Reform Church in South Africa, that does marvelous work of restitution among the Poor to this very day.
At that time in our history, it was a time for reconciliation among Black and White communities, and the time had come for not only welfare, but for development too.
We met occasionally with the intention to encourage the people to help pull the wheel of ‘development’ through the poverty gorge that was huge, deep and unending.
Joseph knew poverty well. He was wise, for he was a man of the Church, and knew the potential that Christians could bring to beat the problem – if only they were willing.
Joseph was a gentle man, a soft spoken man, and a wise man. He treated us with love, and was more of an encouragement to us than we were to him. We were always enriched at the end of each visit. And so, I found, it was, with the ‘poor’ Black communities – they were rich in love, and shared it generously with those who would care enough to come and visit them. The townships were hot beds of tensions in those days, not considered a safe place for well intending Whites to meander in.
One day Joseph shared his African wisdom with me, which I have kept as a treasure.
“Real leadership is when you can get a mouse, a cat and a dog to drink from the same saucer.” That is real reconciliation.
“When the bus begins to move, the dogs begin to bark. When progress comes, there will always be opposition, restraint, even persecution of a kind.
Joseph was one of those people who were silently great. He blended into the background of community, and quietly went about his daily convictions, of helping the poor in whatever way he could. To my mind he was a saint, not of the Catholic Papal kind, but of humankind.
He would refer us to Matthew 25, which I believe is ever relevant, and needs to be
shared in the obese and ‘gluttoness’ world of our Today.
Poverty, and world hunger is real.
Sometimes it is impossible to consider the poor from our cozy suburban comfort zones, for we are indeed worlds apart, but that does not alter the fact that hunger and poverty is prevalent, and that we can all do something to alleviate it in some small way.
Let’s look around our communities and share where we can, when we can, to make that small difference in someone’s life.
In every generation it is good to revisit Matthew 25. It brings with it the reason and importance of caring for the Poor, and urges the Church to create capacity for its voluntary members to be ‘doing their faith’ in practical expression. Apart from it being a little scary to me, – as it also hinges on the Judgment day !!
As then, and now, I still believe that the wisdom in Matthew 25 could form the Biblical basis of a welfare and development model for the poverty question. Any Church, through its members can bring a major contribution to poverty and welfare development in an holistic manner – and through today’s networking power it could be of exponential value. – if only they were willing !
Matthew 25 : 34,35,36
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35. For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36. I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Joseph Kudema, would be remembered well, if we only heard his heart more astutely at that time, and earnestly followed his example of considering and helping the Poor within his reach, and thereby letting his light shine, and honouring God.
I would like to believe that by reading this post, his light still shines on the darkness of poverty and will stir the hearts of caring people. Rest in peace Joseph Kudema, ‘Saint of Tembisa’ – Saint of Promise and Hope.