Written in the annals of our nation’s very diverse history is a story of a sparrow.
The background is the Anglo Boer war of 1901.
With the discovery of gold and diamonds, the British Empire came to occupy the land.
The British desperately tried to bring the pioneer Boers to submission. The Boers, fiercely resisted, fighting their enemy with guerrilla warfare, that cost the British much. Eventually a ‘scorched earth policy’ was implemented, where their farmsteads were burnt down, their fields salted so that they could not grow crops to survive. Their women and children were taken to concentration camps. But there was, overcrowding, bad hygiene, severe malnutrition, and endemic contagious diseases. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps of the Anglo Boer war. The women in particular knew immeasurable grief as they helplessly watched their children suffer, and give them over to death.
One such woman was Anette Marais, and the story goes …
“Anette Marais sat on a log and shook the dust off her tatty clothes. Around her sit a group of women with familiar but weary faces. Just a few feet away is the high wire fence of the concentration camp.
She opens her Bible and begins to read. She had wrestled with God in the dark hours of the night, and begged Him for a message of hope for these women, for who knows how much longer……!
Anette reads the words of Matthew 10:29 . Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
While she is busy reading these words, a small insignificant sparrow comes and sits upon her shoulder.
The group of women stare in surprise at the incident unfolding before their eyes.
And so the sparrow becomes a sign of hope in the impossible situation of the concentration camp at Bethulie.
It is fantastic to see how in the following months the sparrow of Bethulie became a beacon of faith and hope for these women. On May 1902 the Anglo Boer war ended.
Anette, on returning to her home, met a women of influence, and told her the sparrow story. She, in turn, retold the story.
In 1923 General Jan Smuts had two sparrows minted on the smallest coin of the then South African currency.”
So remember the story of the sparrow on days you may feel small, insignificant, forlorn or forgotten. May faith and hope be a beacon in our lives too.
PS In South Africa, the sparrow is known as a Mossie. I translated the story from Afrikaans. The author is unknown. More Afrikaans sparrow stories can be found in my Menu bar, just click on Random Writings and scroll down to Mossie Dag.
Reference on the background of the Anglo Boer War is from Wikipedia, should you want to know more.
Sometimes it takes words of affirmation to create an atmosphere for going from good to great. You may be the Cinderella of all the cities in South Africa, but you have the power of attraction for those who need time off from the merry-go-round of life.
But you are more than that. You are a kaleidoscope of hope, of contrasts and diversity, set in a paradise of green.
Durban you are a port on the East Coast of Africa.
Ships from afar, carriers of merchandise, wait their turn to enter your port, to foster the economy of the South. And hope does not go unnoticed as the number of these ships have increased dramatically over the years – reminding us that indeed you are ‘a market place for nations’.
A city of lay-back laziness that can trap the diligent and industrious person with a lethargy brought on by the gentle tropical climes of a warm ocean current. “Tomorrow is another day” well may be the creed you live by – and yet ! The steady onward everyday flow of the inevitable, continues to urge you to perform your duties with diligence. Your history is rich, your position is well place for the growth of a new emerging world on the African continent.
Your Oil Refineries are strategic, as are your marketable industries on the south side of your city. The southbound road takes your travellers back on a memory road, to old favourite holiday resorts, that have filled up many family photo albums with sweet memories of lazy sun-filled bucket and spade holidays.
Quite uniquely, in the heart of your city, are the Durban Botanical Gardens. Noticed, apart from its magnificence, is the peace that lingers there. Now if ever the Good Lord would want a cathedral to live in, it would surely be in this majestic cathedral of green – a garden with its huge trees that were planted some 300 years ago. It is one of Africa’s oldest botanical gardens, and I suspect by far the best on the continent.
Your inner city now scarcely reflects the former heyday of your holidaymakers’ favourite destination. It has become crowded and derelict, as most inner cities are, with the influx of those desperate for employment and cheap accommodation. Yet, two or three blocks up, on your sea-side, are found well-kept paved promenades. Walkways with tall hotels, all with sea-views, that tell a different story of who you were, and now want to become.
A city caught with one foot in a developed world, the other foot still entangled in poverty. And indeed is this not the state of any modern city in the world of today ? A world on a runaway train toward globalisation no matter the cost – for there is always a cost, there is always a price to pay for progress and development !
Now going northward – the touch of your colonial history is still markedly seen in your suburban landscape of the yesterday-wealth. Grand homes in beautiful tree-lined streets with lush green gardens, steeped in your recent history of refined living. Planted and painted into a part of the master portrait of South Africa’s history of diversity. Durban you are a world showcase for diversity.
But time moves on.
And a new era, for some, has arrived. A time of unprecedented sophisticated living, as seen in the great shopping mall of Gateway Theatre of Shopping, some say the largest in the southern hemisphere, and the brand new developments of the Pearl towers for renowned accommodation.
Umhlanga Rocks reveals your ability to transform yourself, yet again, into an international tourist destination with its new modern high-rise Pearl towers and hotels, – contrasted by the ever loved ‘little village’ where the locals still meet and converse over a pint of brew.
A promenade of note with its iconic Whalebones Pier that enables one to walk on water! The recognised landmark of Umhlanga Rocks, the red and white light-house, a beacon of light, near the world-famous Oyster Box Hotel. No expense is spared, nothing but the best is offered to presidents and kings, and the visitors of Europe and the Elsewheres of the world.
Still northward bound on route to the new King Shaka International Airport., the outskirts of the city give a show of brilliant green that is seen in the waving sugar cane fields, and the rolling hills that call out ‘ go the distance !’
Beautiful are the green hills of Kwa Zulu Natal – the green Province with its emerald-green beauty and flowing hills, a setting fit for prosperity – equally so for the penny and for the soul.
Going further north through the sugar cane fields, the main road will bring us to the mushrooming town of Ballito Bay, one of South Africa’s fastest growing modern real estate developments.
But if we are astute we will notice the road signs that take us off the main highway to settlements and townships that do not enjoy an acclaim to wealth.
And if we travel far enough we may encounter the rural folk of another world. A folk that have not yet made the leap from poverty to ‘progress’ – but have so much to offer with their rich cultural heritage.
The very wide gap from the arrogant and unsaturated rich in their affluent towers and malls to the simplistic living of the rural inhabitants is a screaming silent reality.
Inequality is a stamp on all our record sheets.
And it is in this ever-widening gap that a paradigm shift needs to occur, a miracle needs to happen, so that you can go from good to great. Pay attention also to the needs of the poorest of the poor, so that they can rise up and experience a kind of progress too.
Herein lies your miracle, bridging the gap between two worlds, if not three, – the haves, the have-nots, and the have-yachts !
Nevertheless all worlds can offer their own version and contribution toward ‘being rich’ – whatever that may mean, each in their own way. For sometimes the rich are not rich, and the poor are not poor. Sometimes the ‘developed world’ has much to learn about being “civilised”, the knowing of ‘Ubuntu’ – respect – simple courtesy, simple humanity ! Someone once said, ‘ courtesy is the first rung on the ladder toward civilisation ‘ – something the 4×4 riders, taxi drivers and road-ragers need to know and understand !
As a City you have kept up with your own transformation – indeed you have to do so, for your saving grace is in the lucrative revenue that lies in the holiday and tourist trade, robust business and employment, and of course the fine revenues from the Ports and Customs.
But most noteworthy of all are your peoples – a vast array of cultures within your social perimeters, which is the very fabric of your rich design, all gems in the crown of your disposition.
The Zulu people, with their ancestral and stout warrior history with colourful beads that tell their stories;
The rowdy yet gentle influence of the British, intertwined into your history.
The colourful vibrancy of the Indian culture, with their special cuisine of aromatic spices, curries and of course the famous Durban Bunny Chow.
The African People with their new-found vehement political clamour, coming to terms with power, and what that truly means, moulding the nation for tomorrow.
Indeed a beautiful mosaic of cultures, living side by side by the sea, in peace and harmony. Amazing microscopic worlds within a world, called Durban.
Your people and your children are easy, fun-loving, and sunshine kids – and daring too. Totally Sports obsessed, with any reason to walk, run, ride, swim, surf or canoe an epic event – a case in point the Comrades Marathon. A marathon of well over 90 kilometres between Durban and the hilly countryside of Pietermaritzburg. Who thinks out such things !!?
Great are your vistas for sports, but more so are your spectacular views of land and seascapes that lend wings to those who need to be lifted higher.
Durban, you are like a brilliant green emerald gem, an often overlooked gem, among the chief cities of South Africa. Slowly going about your daily business of business, culture and sport, with the determined purpose of welcoming your visitors from afar with warmth and hospitality. Hospitality that inborn trait you carry off so well.
No better place to see, no better place to be other than in “Durbs by the Sea” as our upcountry folk would say, when they pack for their annual holiday to crowd out your beaches with abandoned glee.
Durban, as the sunshine state of South Africa, you should surely be on the ‘must see list’ of the global community. You may take your place with pride, among the ranks of other destinations who strive for the recognition of ‘most beautiful place in the world ‘ – nonetheless contrasted by ‘new worlds’ waiting to be born into prosperity.
When your visitors step into this green paradise, they will surely hear the wind and the waves softly whisper : “You are welcome here”.
Easter. It’s that time of year again when the world slows down just a little, and there is time to pause and ponder on the things of God. He has been around forever, and will be with us even when we are unaware of His presence. He just is, and yet we miss Him, if we do not look for Him, or take a little time to listen for Him.
There is more to life than just living, and not everything is as it seems. There is a mystery at play, a mystery in full view, if we were to pause, to ponder and to perceive.
Easter time is a good time to ponder on The Great Story of God, the story of righteousness, redemption and restoration, and all things good. And for that we need to look at the cross, and the finished work of Jesus Christ.
The cross is a place of brutal suffering – where Jesus was lashed with a whip of seven tails, that tore and ripped the skin off his body; where a crown of thorns mockingly pierced the flesh of his skull. And so when we are in pain and suffering – God knows.
He was nailed to a wooden cross and crucified by a people that was called to be His own.
And so when we are betrayed – God knows.
The cross is a place of sacrifice – where God deemed it fit for His Son to die for the sake of mankind, – that is you and me. And so when we sacrifice for the sake of others – God knows.
The cross is a place of rejection. He was rejected by man, and abandoned by God.
And so when we are rejected, abandoned and all alone – God knows.
As the song goes “Like a rose trampled on the ground, He took the fall and thought of me above all”
The cross where the significance of self and its sin, melts into the sacrificed life of Christ Jesus, that makes us acceptable, and worthy, and beautiful before a Holy God.
The cross, is a place of salvation – where forgiveness is given, but so often not received, because we do not ask for forgiveness from God, from others, even from ourselves and are hard-pressed to give forgiveness to those who have done us wrong.
So often are we pre-occupied with only ourselves, and don’t listen or ask after the promises, and the ways of God.
The cross, is pivotal to the story of God, and to history itself.
The cross is a place of death, and death has to be breached, so that new life can begin. The cross is a place of life – the place where heaven opens and righteousness and restoration happens. The veil is lifted between earth and heaven – and so He opens the way, for those who choose to believe in God and in His story.
Jesus died, and rose again. The miracle of all the ages. He is the resurrection to the new life, the new creation, through a new covenant – a covenant of the heart !
And the new creation is what it is all about ! He is the beginning of our story, and He is the end of our story. But it is not the final end, for if we receive His invitation to heaven, and ask Him to come and live in our hearts today, we join Him, and reign with Him in His resurrected life, and continue into the new creation that is coming. A new beginning – a new story !!
So take time to ponder the old old story of Jesus and His cross, and accept His invitation today to real life, life bought by His sacrifice and His blood, and by His love, for mankind, that is you and me, to shine before God.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
This Easter, pause to ponder, and to pray … Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for going my own way, and not following You. Thank you for dying in my place. Please come into my heart, and live Your life through me. Thank You for the precious and miraculous gift of salvation. Amen.
I’ve had another random encounter that has left me with a curiosity about greatness or fame or are these two things the same ?
Well, let me make a short story long ! Not to long, I’ll get to my point as quick as I can.
I love colour, textures, wools and fabrics. Now and then I go up the hill, behind the big Mall, to a Centre that has gated parking with a Gate-keeper who gives me a ticket to park. I have to use the escalator to get to the lovely wool shop called Sew Time.
On one particular visit I noticed a new Gate-keeper who had a gentleness about him, and I thought at the time, perhaps a slight slowness too, so I gave him an extra warm smile and thanked him for the ticket. Now I live in the Slow Lane and often have random encounters with special people, and if I’m smart enough will recognise them as such, and be a little kinder. But I went on my way and gave no more thought to it.
About six or so months later I again went up the hill, behind the big Mall, passed the Centre to the big grocery store where I often do my shopping. My son was with me and we sauntered around the store, buying the few items needed. When I had finished paying at the till and about to exit the store, the doorman, who checks the incoming parcels came up to me and said quite emphatically “I know you”. I looked at him blankly and he again said “I know you”, I know you from Show Time.” My mind raced, no I don’t do Show Time, he has the wrong face. I must have quite a common face, because it’s not the first or second time I have been mistaken for some one else. “Yes” he said, “Sew Time – at the Centre opposite the bank” The penny dropped and I recognised the gentleness, and the face. “My”, I said, “you have such a good memory, you sure do know your customers !” I fluttered my hand over my heart to show him I was happy that he recognised me. He just gave me a big broad smile, and I went on my way.
A brief random encounter, and my heart took wings. I turned to my son and said “Wow, wasn’t that nice – I’m famous !!” He wasn’t impressed.
Are you famous when, people that you don’t recognise, recognise you ? M’mmm, maybe – in a small way, I want to think so.
But that brief encounter made me feel great !
You may understand my curiosity in this, when I tell you that I have always had a secret hankering after greatness. Not so much now anymore, but I really wanted to be great -and really am not ! However this random encounter brought to mind the question of greatness. What does it mean to be great ? What is greatness ? Is it wrong to want to be great ? It is something I have always kept secret because I think of things I can’t attain, yet want to.
Perhaps there are seeds of greatness in all of us, but if these don’t sprout, they will lie dormant, then they will die.
Perhaps to strive for greatness comes from a personal need – a cup half full. Comparing yourself with others. Rejection – a need to prove oneself. Need for recognition, affirmation and appreciation ?
Now Recognition is an interesting thing – is that not how the whole corporate world of business moves itself forward, with recognition and reward. Incentives that want us to do better, go further and achieve great things ? Ambition is not a bad thing in itself.
William Shakespeare said : Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.
Greatness in Biblical proportions :
Abraham obeyed his call and became great. Moses delivered God’s people from oppression and became great. David worshipped God while tending his sheep and became great. Solomon built a temple for God and became great. The Prophets, the Poets and the Psalmists all became great in expressing their words in truth. The Disciples of Jesus became great as they followed Him. Paul, the revelator of mysteries in Christ, his writings and the planter of churches became great. And those ordinary people of great faith found in Hebrews chapter 11. Greatness comes from great expectations, great aspirations and great accomplishments done in Faith – especially when you are serving a great God, for in God lies all greatness.
Even the Disciples of Jesus, John and James had a hankering after greatness and asked Him if they could be seated at His right and left hand in glory. So it’s not wrong to want to be great, its part of the human condition, right ?
In our history halls of fame and greatness there are many who can claim greatness.
To name a few :
In war – Alexander the Great, Napoleon,
In politics – Mahatma Gandhi
In art – Leonardo da Vinci (one of his paintings recently sold for 4 million dollars – the world has gone mad !!)
In music – Mozart, Beethoven, – Elvis Presley, the Beatles !
In sport – Mohammad Ali, the Springbok Rugby team – some will disagree, but I think they are great !
In science – Albert Einstein (my favourite)
In communication – Bill Gates
And so the list can go on. There are many great and famous people in our history books.
But how do you measure greatness ? And is it only time that will tell who is truly great.
To my mind real greatness must lie in the character of man or woman. And may well be viewed very differently by God than what we perceive to be greatness.
Jesus taught His disciples that it is in serving others for the glory of God that greatness lies – in essence Humility.
It is in humility that greatness is seen. Humility is all around us, if we would but see it, we would see greatness more often.
So, do you want to be great? – I have to ask myself again !
Ascribe greatness to our God, He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 31 : 3,4