“Bless-ed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
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In February, the Hub Church from the UK blessed us with their presence, and left us with Cadburys Mini Eggs and Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, a book, that as I read it, is shedding new light on the gospels historical and cultural setting, and as a result is peeling away some of my Western ways of interpreting Jesus. Bailey’s cultural insight on “the poor” (2008:68), will no doubt crop up in future updates, but for now I am just about getting my head around feeling ‘bless-ed’.
In context, “Bless-ed” (Mt 5:3ff), makarioj in Greek, isn’t concerned with the Western view of someone who does X in order to be happy when they have earnt / received Y in the future. Culturally, bless-ed is an existing state of happiness that is already present, i.e. the person already has Y, or is already happy in the knowledge they’ll have Y in the future.
So when I say that Rachel and I were bless-ed by Soul Survivor UK’s short-term mission to Durban in April, I don’t mean that I feel that blessing was earned through 18 months of planning the event, or that we expect to be bless-ed in the future as a result. I do mean the whole experience exposed pre-existing joy.
Over 10 days, volunteers served alongside some of the leaders Soul Action works with. In teams of 14 they rebuilt homes, ran holiday clubs, evangelised, gardened and even planted a church! We spent evenings eating together, debriefing in teams, worshiping and ministering in the presence of the Holy Spirit. On our final evening together, hosts, staff and volunteers shared highlights and prayed together.
Rach and I were bless-ed as we made ourselves available to see volunteers off each morning and to greet them at end of their day, and bless-ed to visit each team at least twice over the 10 days. This in particular led to significant soul searching on my part.
One such moment took place on the middle Monday, as we visited an organisation working with boys who live on the streets. A leader Rachel mentors was encouraging boys – and our volunteers – to decorate biscuits and reflect on their weekend; which are tough on the streets, since places of safety often close. As a boy shared in isiZulu, it became apparent that he’d been abused over the weekend. The details were lost in translation – ‘thankfully’ – but it deeply impacted the UK guests whose turn it was to share next, and me. I was similarly impacted by our visit to the team in Bhambayi, a squatter camp established by Gandhi in 1904, where the tin shacks and open sewers reminded me of scenes and smells I’d first experienced in the slums of Delhi over 15 years ago.
After 10 years in South Africa, I don’t worry about getting compassion fatigue or injustice immunity; that some locals seem to suffer from. I don’t worry about it, because I already get it! But this Easter, I felt bless-ed, not because I’m better off than some – that is eulogeo ‘blessed’ without the hyphen – I was bless-ed as I felt reacquainted with my taste for authentic spirituality and the deep joy that comes from the knowledge that I still hunger and thirst for justice.