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May27ThuLiving in South Africa opened my eyes to the world and strengthened my faith. May 27, 2021 by Stacey Dlamini
I used to joke with my other “saved-since-before-I-can-remember” Christian friends that we didn’t have a testimony. In some ways, it was true. I can’t really remember when I first made a commitment to follow Jesus. I was born in church. OK, not literally, but almost. I certainly was raised there. I grew up in a Christian home in a small Nova Scotian community where faith was a fact of my life. It was interwoven with my identity as a human and I did not question it.
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I benefitted from all of The Salvation Army’s programs for the development of young people. I was in junior soldiers and then corps cadets. I went to Sunday school and then church twice on Sunday. I sang in the singing company and played in the band. I went to music camp and then worked at Scotian Glen Camp. I attended every youth councils. All of these experiences shaped my faith and character. It was a great foundation.
But a foundation for what? I lived a sheltered life, which I now recognize as a privilege. I had no experience with suffering. I knew nothing of adversity. I was not marginalized. I was mainstream, confident, perhaps even entitled.
In 1996, I was chosen to attend the Army’s International Youth Forum in South Africa. There I met a 17-yearold Zulu man who, upon my return to Canada, became my pen pal. We were married less than six years later in Durban, South Africa. Buhle and I danced down the aisle to the beautifully blended acapella voices of his family. I had moved there to marry this man and start a life together.
Living and ministering with The Salvation Army in South Africa opened my eyes to realities that I never knew existed. I walked a road with beautiful people whose faith had been tested and purified in a way mine had not. I met and worked with resilient young people whose parents were living with HIV-AIDS. I worshipped alongside men and women who did not have a job but who trusted God every day to put food on their family’s table. I sought to bring comfort and relief to people whose lives had been threatened and who had lost their homes and belongings due to xenophobic violence. I saw how the youth of my city hustled and dreamed and reached for a future that was better than what their parents had inherited. I ministered to women who had been trafficked to the dark underbelly of Johannesburg to satisfy the desires of men, and listened to their stories.
All of these experiences, with all of these different people, shaped me. I felt their pain. I felt their hope. I marvelled at their resilience. We prayed together. We worshipped together. We laughed and shed tears together. We encouraged each other. We shared life together. I was watching and learning.
And here is what I have learned. Faith is powerful. It is a weapon to be used to push back the darkness. It can change your circumstances. And it can change you despite the unbending reality of your circumstances. If this faith in Jesus is something we wrap around ourselves like a woolly bathrobe to bring warmth and comfort, then we are not experiencing all that faith is. Faith in Jesus is meant to change the world around us. It’s meant to make real the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Faith is meant to change us. It means that when the arrows of life assail us, we will not be shaken. We may be bruised and battered, but there is indeed power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.
I’m no longer a young person. I have been married to Buhle for 19 years. I have two children still at home, two who are grown, and I’m also a grandmother. While in many ways I have lived a privileged life, there have been arrows sent my way. I have experienced dark nights of the soul, uncertainty and doubt, financial challenges, loss of loved ones and broken relationships with people I love. None of us are immune to this. But thank God that as his children, we do not go through the difficulties of life alone. My faith is stronger because I’ve watched the faith of others who went through hard times. I hope that as I walk that same road, others are watching me and will be encouraged.
Photo: Shirley Jeffery
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