One Challenge is excited to have Heather as a guest writer this month. Heather and her husband John and their three boys live in Johannesburg, South Africa. Heather is mom, writer, and educator extraordinaire. Among other ministries, she works with women in South Africa who run preschools in low-income “townships.” She also serves on One Challenge’s Global Care Team. Heather writes a compelling blog, to follow her go to insteadbless.wordpress.com.
Creating Community Beyond Fear
High cement walls, palisade fences, and electric wiring designed to protect against home invasions and burglary attempts have unfortunately served as a deterrent to knowing our neighbors in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dependence upon security companies insulate one home from another. Neighbors drive in and out of their gated driveways with little or no acknowledgement of others. Johannesburg, South Africa is known as the City of Fear. Murder, assault, robbery, and car hijacking are at critical levels. The level of violence associated with home invasions is significant as perpetrators do not hesitant to use lethal force against home occupants to get what they want. In addition, Johannesburg crime affects every resident with no regard of race or socio-economic status.
When our family moved to Johannesburg, a common introductory remark to us was… “It’s not a matter of if you will experience crime here; it’s just a matter of when.” Sadly, this statement proved to be true. In eleven years of residence in the City of Fear, we have experienced nine different break-in events. Gratefully, our family was shielded from harm in each situation. Thus, crime remains a significant concern.
Breaking Out in Relationships
With the increase of crime in our neighborhood in recent years and a strong desire to know and build community among our neighbors, we invited them to our home last year. We had a wonderful turn-out. Like us, our neighbors were eager to be known. We formed a Whatsapp group to share information and provide support to one another. As we continued to form relationships, word spread to more residents in our neighborhood about our group. Our little community of neighbors grew. Today, our community represents five different streets and fifty-four different residences!
Fun with Biscuits and Bingo
Recently, we invited our neighbors to our home again for the purpose of making more connections and having a bit of fun. We called the event “Bingo and Biscuits.” We had nearly 50 people of all ages come to our home one Sunday afternoon. Some of our neighbors had never played bingo before! Others couldn’t remember the last time they played! Of course, we had prizes! We played six or seven rounds together. And we laughed and laughed and laughed! Afterwards, we mixed and mingled, enjoying a variety of delicious biscuits (cookies). We plan to gather together again for a large neighborhood braai (barbeque). We look forward to it!
In the City of Fear, we refuse to be afraid. We do need to be wise, prudent and alert. However, our goal is to rally together as neighbors to support, care, and protect each other. Since we began this effort last year, some significant relationships have been forged between our family and some of our neighbors. It’s been an incredibly gratifying experience!
Visitors to South Africa‚ however‚ are warned about a string of potential crimes‚ with OSAC [Overseas Security Advisory Council] stating: “Crime is notable for: 1) the level of violence associated with personal/property crimes‚ as criminals do not hesitate to use lethal weapons; and 2) the occurrence of crimes across all metropolitan areas regardless of the socio-economic status of a particular neighborhood. Crimes range from petty muggings to ATM scams to armed residential home invasions and murder. These crimes occur with frequency….”