We’re not called to love conditionally.
We’re not called to give conditionally.
We’re not called to forgive conditionally.
We’re not called to practice selective benevolence.
And far from having a special heart for those with picture-perfect lives (you know, 2.5 children, a home in a manicured golf estate, and an SUV in the driveway), He loves the shattered and the broken.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” – Psalm 34:18.
The call to love and to give – materially and of ourselves – is illustrated in word and spirit throughout the Bible, and perhaps most poignantly in Matthew 25:35-40. For those of us who may not know these verses, they bear quoting in full.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
“Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, `Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
All of which takes us to Nation Changers and how South Africa needs this ground-shaking, ground-breaking organisation more than ever, as it goes about fulfilling these verses from Matthew.
Now what’s especially wonderful about Nation Changers is that not only is the concept spreading to other CityHill sites, but it also provides the opportunity for individual giftings to be used in a vast array of fields.
“It’s a fantastic concept, and it allows people to become involved in a project that’s bite-sized and which has fixed times, costs, and requirements associated with it,” smiles Nadine Wright, who heads up Nation Changers. “As individuals, we can get overwhelmed when faced with the needs out there, but with Nation Changers there’s the opportunity to do what you can with what you have.”
This year Nation Changers has no less than 82 projects on the go, requiring 547 volunteers and R600 000 – which might seem a lot, but this money is wisely stretched and stewarded. Compare these figures to 2016 when there were 52 projects on the go, requiring around half the volunteers and half the funds.
“This isn’t just a one-off,” stresses Nadine. “Nation Changers works in-depth, and consistently so, in our communities.”
These projects cover a vast scope, from feeding the homeless – who are often crippled by addiction, more of which in a minute – to building creches and providing schools with study packs and classroom supplies.
“What we do for little children changes future generations,” emphasises Nadine. “Education is key.”
CityHill Amanzimtoti is one site that’s running with the Nation Changers concept, which they dub the CommUnity Project.
“The idea to get the community helping each other was birthed in Tim’s heart (Tim Petersen being the lead pastor) a number of years ago,” explains Isaac Ronquest, a church staff member who modestly describes himself as “doing a little bit of everything.”
“Starting a whole new charity organisation and continually getting your local community involved requires a huge amount of effort and resources.
“When we heard about Nation Changers and the approach they took of reaching out to existing organisations and setting up multiple small projects that run for one month only, we felt that was the best way to set up the CommUnity Project.”
CommUnity has reached out to 12 local organisations needing extra support and then broken this down into manageable projects from donating food to converting a kitchen into a classroom.
“Once we established what needed to be done, we approached local businesses and community members to help us execute the projects,” says Isaac.
“There has certainly been a noticeable harvest from the CommUnity Project. We’ve seen organisations helping each other, and different churches getting involved.
“Our church grew as people heard of our involvement. People in our church and the community have become more aware of the hardships in our area and of the organisations who are actively working on improving the lives of the needy.”
This stellar local buy-in to the CommUnity Project certainly ties into Nadine Wright’s desire for Nation Changers to be just that: Nation Changers, not village changers.
And the call for an organisation like this is certainly more paramount than ever, with so many needing help – material, spiritual, and otherwise.
Indeed, in times when I’ve cried out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” during a Stygian struggle with addiction that flared up after almost eight years clean, it was Careline Crisis Centre and its founder and director Joey du Plessis, along with her staff, who brought these words to life. And incidentally, Hillcrest Christian Fellowship (as CityHill was previously known) was instrumental in the founding of Careline in 1995.
Yet even during the darkest hours, God was always there. Always.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” – Deuteronomy 31:6.
As an aside, organisations such as the World Health Organisation have long recognised addiction as a complex bio-psycho-social disease – and not a moral failing – with a genetic weighting as high as 60%. The remaining percentage stems from stress and trauma, notably in childhood.
It’s also a disease that’s reaching pandemic levels in South Africa, shattering and ravaging entire communities, along with chronic unemployment exacerbated by an economy that shrunk in the first quarter of this year. So yet again underscoring the overwhelming need that exists outside our safe cocoons.
“It would be fantastic to see the concept spreading countrywide,” says Nadine, adding that everything Nation Changers does is under-girded by prayer – with Isaiah 58:12 being especially key:
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
“We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I truly believe there is nothing more therapeutic for the human soul than to do something for someone else. We’re blessed to be a blessing. I’m living my dream. What a privilege!”