Monday, May 16, 2011


Pamela drives a point home with a young Zulu student at Sunday School.
At Junction Church every Sunday, there are several things going on.

Situated at the northern end of Johannesburg, the Junxion Center (our new building) is positioned strategically between Dainfern (one of the wealthiest suburbs in Africa) and Diepsloot (one of the poorest townships).  At 8:15 most of the leaders arrive to begin setting up for a day of activity, followed by early arrivals in their cars;  the first taxi arriving not long after.  Out of each taxi (and there are 6) every Sunday morning, there is a "spilling out" of folk coming to church from surrounding townships.

A taxi arrives at Junxion Center.
Taxis here are not yellow and black, nor are they sedans.  They are large vans (combis) that carry as many people as they can stuff in, usually breaking every law to get to their destination.  Driving is usually a time-driven, cocky man that can take most people who would give him trouble.  Accompanying most drivers are their co-pilots, in charge of collecting fees and keeping order.  Taxi drivers are usually the biggest jerks in the world - or the only ones who will yeild to you if you need to turn against traffic in the busy city.  It is impossible to sketch them accurately.

On the first taxi most mornings is a young girl named Pamela.  She's been coming to the Junction longer than I have, and lately has become one of the greatest helps to us in building this church.  In Pamela's heart is a sweetness that is rare, and a wisdom that is even more so.  I have grown to love her for her faithfulness and her desire to help us

Last Sunday, as I greeted the first taxi, I saw her, and asked her who her freind was.  She introduced me to Ruby, another girl about her age, who said she had met me before (I wish I could remember every face).  We chatted a bit, then I went back to meeting taxis.  After the last taxi arrived, I made my way to sit with Mario in the front row of  church.  The service is always wonderful, strong and uplifting, no matter where you come from or where you are going.  This week was no different.

After the service, Mario and I meet new visitors and maybe help people who need food parcels or Bibles.  It feels good to sit and talk with people who have come to try out a new place or a new church looking for a church family or the Gospel.

The second service at Junction is a service with translation to Zulu or Sotho, depending on our translator that week.  The worship is Zulu, with a choir feel, and worship that appeals to the native people.  It also has a way of sweeping you off your feet if you are worshipful by nature.   The children's ministry  is also taught in Zulu or Sotho, depending on the teacher.  If  the Children's church is led by someone English speaking, it is also translated.  Biblical concepts are meant to reach the heart, so translators are the most valuable group of people during translated services.  To tell a child that they are valuable and belong here, they must believe it without a doubt, and they have an easier time believing it when you speak in their language, and to their heart.

For the kids who stay for the translated service, we have special games, special treats and special  lessons, all designed to be fun and motivating to learn the Bible, bring a newness to their faith and provide a place of acceptance and joy that they can count on.  This is where Pamela comes in.

Pamela is a teacher of children by nature.  Every child at the second service sees her as a big sister or a teacher who knows them.  Although just 17 herself, Pamela has a motherly role in these kids' life, encouraging them to see their lives beyond the townships, beyond their culture and enter into a destiny that will be the only thing that sets them free from stereotypes, rudeness, prejudice or the bad influences in any culture.

Last week, we broke into groups to know each other better.  The groups were led by the teachers and helpers and later joined the larger groups to share things they had just learned about each other.  During the assignment when they were learning each others' names, Pamela broke into a song with her group, helping them memorize each other's names with music.  I turned around to see her, singing with her group and bringing them together as one, and I smiled.  She looked up, smiled at me and continued.

Without people like Pamela, there would be no hope or encouragement of the kids in the townships.  She brings a light to them as an example that no one living outside of their neighborhood can.  She transcends every cliche that people have of young South Africans.  I am supposed to "bring her through" as a leader, making sure she feels supported and enabled to lead as God intended her to.  Instead, she teaches me.  She teaches me that she can shine beyond poverty, separation, housing and language barriers.  She teaches me that more like her exist in a world that we tend to see as disadvantaged.  She teaches me to be prepared for not having anything, but to celebrate with the things that cannot be taken away.

Tonight, as I pray, I thank God for Pamela, and others like her, who know the Gospel of Jesus Christ as more than just words on a page or another identity of theirs.  I thank God that Pamela is here for today; and I pray for her tomorrow.