We had been working for over a month looking for people that our summer teams had met and had ministry conversations with. We now
stood there at the top of the hill looking at where we once had weaved in out of, looking for shack numbers and people, left in ashes.
Some of our Bible study friends lost their homes, their clothes, their money, everything.
Many people lined up to register how much land they once held, where they home had once stood. I began to walk around the site along with these now homeless people. They already have so little and now even that is gone. Even though they had lost everything, they were all pulling together, attempting to rebuild and prod the process along as quickly as possible.
After the land had been cleared a large bulldozer drove in and started clearing the land, crushing everything in it’s path and demolishing whatever was left behind. All I could think about is how difficult it would be to watch where my home once was, any fond memory I had of where I lived was now being erased. These people are so used to suffering that they have become numb to the pain yet still find a way to be joyful in their circumstances. That was the most difficult thing for me to process through. The most unfathomable to me, consistently, is how the people who live in these informal settlements continue to find the positive in their difficult and uncomfortable situations.
Many of the people who live in these settlements are from a surrounding country in Africa. In December, most leave South Africa and travel home to spend a month or two before returning to find work. They save up the whole year (and sometimes years) for the expensive trek home. When Americans experience a house fire, they list off the expensive electronics and maybe the precious family photos they lost. These people were devastated at losing a pair of shoes or all their money that had kept in a tin can inside their shack.
When we found out that our friends had lost their homes, we decided that although we couldn’t help everyone who had lost their homes, we could help the ones we knew. Some of us interns along with Impact Africa staff came together and put together bags with soap, snacks, bottles, clothes, and blankets, along with a Bible for each mother. They were most excited about the Bibles and continued to thank us! Even though this fire happened at the beginning of the month when they had been attending our Bible study for only a few weeks, they still come and one of the women rides a bus from a separate community because she loves it so much. They all have homes and I am so thankful they are safe!!