Often, David and Cherie are asked about their sense of safety and security since moving to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. God called them to South Africa to train pastors and do research and education in the region. Many know Johannesburg as a city ravaged by crime, violence, and severe strikes. Houses and businesses have tall, cement walls built around them to reduce theft, often with electrified wire at the top as just another layer of protection.
“When we moved to South Africa in 2002,” says David, “we were already aware of the country’s reputation as one with a high level of crime, and that it was supposedly a ‘dangerous’ place to live.” Daily life can be challenging. “Johannesburg can be a difficult place to live,” admits David, “and life here requires wisdom, street-smarts and caution. This was just one more thing to surrender to God: their safety.”
“As with most people in this country,” says David, “we take steps to protect ourselves and live with wisdom.” However, this does not always mean crime will stay away. “In spite of the fact that we’ve been victimized by criminals twice in the last year,” explains David, “we believe that God has indeed protected us. In the wake of being victimized, one can blame God and point fingers at Him for not providing protection. Or one can do what we’ve always attempted to do: to thank God for His protection, protection we’ve recognized or not recognized.” David and Cherie understand that this side of heaven, they will not fully know how many times God fiercely protected them.
This knowledge helps to keep them from living in constant fear. “There are plenty of people in our city that live in fear,” explains David, “We [Cherie and him] choose the opposite. We believe that we live in the freedom that comes from Christ, and as such, we refuse to live in fear. We exercise caution, and attempt not to be foolish in what we do, but we can’t live in fear. If we ever do, then it’s time for us to not live and minister here, because then we’re of limited use to Jesus and His purposes in this place and in our lives.”
Theft impacts ministry
Their second run in with crime occurred just a few weeks ago. The vehicle used about once a month for ministry trips in and around South Africa was stolen. This vehicle put on about 45,000 miles in just three years. Not only did it provide transportation across difficult African roads, but it also could pull a trailer full of materials like Bibles and training manuals. “The vehicle was indispensable in a research project we’re completing in South Africa, surveying pastoral leaders about their training needs,” David says. “We’ve surveyed approximately 1,200 pastors, from each of South Africa’s nine provinces. The 4×4 helped us get to many remote communities to speak to leaders across the nation. [David facilitates TOPIC Southern Africa. TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition) is an international network with train-the-trainer events and research projects.]
It was also a main form of transport with our Pastoring of Pastors (POP) initiative, where we envision, encourage and equip pastoral leaders (and their spouses) to from groups wherein they provide mutual pastoral care. Teams of POP trainers used the vehicle to provide training in several nations of southern Africa,” continues David. The loss of this vehicle will greatly impact these ministries until it can be replaced.
Comforted by Scripture
While David, Cherie, and the rest of the Southern Africa Team seek to understand God’s purposes for this situation, they still turn to God. “The scripture that comes to my mind in the wake of our vehicle theft is John 6:68,” says David, “where Peter asks, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”… We’ve been reminded, that at all times, especially in times of insecurity, there’s no place, nor anyone, to whom we can go other than the Lord Jesus.”
This truth applies to all of us, not just those on the mission field. “Many times our discussions with American friends about dangers in SA include reflections about danger issues in the US – about gun violence, school shootings, etc. Whether the US, South Africa or anywhere else, there’s no place that’s truly safe this side of heaven,” David says.