Sans Souci #thetruthwewillproclaim Protest | Black Hair Matters

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San Souci school girls at a parking lot outside of Newlands swimming pool. They protested at the parking lot where they met with the Western Cape Education Department.


Singing and dancing is an important part of the inseparable from South African protest culture.
Images by Siki Dlanga

His People Name Change: Paul Daniel – say his name

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“Siki; but why are you rocking the boat?”

“Which boat?”

“Why are you..” he pauses, becomes a little more uncomfortable as he looks to see who could be standing close by. He continues and whispers – afraid of being heard. “But why are you bringing up Pastor Paul’s name? I read your blog.”

It was even harder for his mouth to release the sound the name Paul makes. It was as though he had just blasphemed and it was my fault. He had spoken a name ought not to be uttered within the courts of His People or anywhere.

If I wanted to rock the boat I would have written something titled “How to Steal a Church,” but that is not my purpose.

This fear is the reason I have written as clearly as I have. Fear belongs to dark forces and so does intimidation and silencing of voices.

The name Paul Daniel, as clearly demonstrated by this conversation, became spoken of only in private corners and even there, it was most difficult to utter. In church meetings Paul Daniel’s name became the elephant in the room no one wanted to acknowledge as though the church, His People, had fallen out of the sky and came into existence all on its own. Its energy and spark was lost. The light dimmed and the name His People became heavy on our tongues when asked: “which church are you from?” Though the name had once sprung from a joyful tongue confessing what was evidently true.

Shame replaced confidence; self-doubt and fear replaced a robust faith culture. Before we came up for air, the Americans had arrived, taking charge of the church stage as our new masters, rearranging our spiritual lives, telling us how to do church properly. It was a confusing time. After all, we had been taught well, arguably we were a church of Bible geeks. We were not mere Bible lovers and readers but we lived to test its power in action. We had lived the story and we knew the faith story of the church itself. Our very lives were a living testament. Was the sin of one man the burden of all? We would all repent. We would all question ourselves, our beliefs; wives would question their husbands’ faithfulness. If what we were taught was questionable, surely whatever was replacing it would not be received without even more vigorous questioning. But it was not so. It was a confusing time.

After Adam and Eve had sinned before the Lord, who were they now? Their glory was no more and they were naked. Naturally they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid. We imported a covering and like Adam and Eve, the glory did not return.

Sin has a way of scattering, of separating and that happened in large scales.

We never saw Paul Daniel in the flesh again, not in the church he founded, prayed for or believe for. His name never again to be spoken of or acknowledged while it remained hanging over every sermon, every pastor, every usher, every revamped logo, every blue chair, everything the church tried to shape itself into or not.

Can Israel deny Moses? Did David deny Saul? Saul sought to destroy David and yet when Saul was dead, David killed the messenger who brought him news of King Saul’s death. David bitterly lamented the death of his leader who had sought to kill him. He did not pretend Saul never existed. He said his name. He recited a poem lamenting: How are the mighty fallen. He praised Saul and did not attempt to erase him from the history books of God’s people. Today, we read about Saul just as we read about David, though our Paul was no Saul.

 

After a few years after the church incident, my mother was in Cape Town for my cousin’s graduation. I took her to my church His People. I could tell that she was hardly impressed and I was disappointed, why wouldn’t she be? I took her to another service and still I failed to impress her with my church. I had not told her about the history of the church. I was not about to tell her what happened, just to avoid being told about the unstable nature of Charismatic churches who are here today and gone tomorrow. Two years ago she finally confessed her thoughts, she said: “I had this deep sense that this was once a very great church but something happened and it was no longer.”

I was stunned. Such insight.

That which once drew Nelson Mandela to walk through the doors is gone. Perhaps the name change then is fitting. Though my natural instinct is to speak the words of the prophet Joel, rend your hearts, not your garments. But, before the garments of His People are torn, let me say the name Paul Daniel, loud and clear.

The Bible does well to spell out the names of those who handed us this faith we now have. Hebrews 11 has been a His People favourite; it lists people of faith by name. The Gospels have names attached to them, e.g. Mark, Luke, because God sends people with names to bring the Good News to other people with names. Names God intends to remember, in fact our destiny rests on whether our names are written or not. These names build up other believers’ faith so that when we say the name Enoch we think one thing, when we say the name Esther we think another. Each name means something specific; it is not something to blot out because of personal discomforts. If there is a personal discomfort then that is an open door to repentance. Where freedom is lacking, God’s Spirit is absent. Where fear is present, God’s love is absent. We are after all living epistles. I am not saying much about the erasing of the name His People yet but let me speak of the name Paul Daniel. This name was banished out of buildings, books but not out of hearts, certainly not out of God’s heart. Paul Daniel is to many the Acts 29 man and I refuse to be ashamed of a man who left such a great inheritance for the church, not just in Cape Town, but the world over. His seed has been tested in great fires and yet it still stands. Works of faith must go through the fire.

Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.” – Luke 10:20

I want God to remember my name even if others may shun it for whatever reason. I will therefore not shun the name of Paul Daniel. His faith and teachings have given to a generation of leaders in every sphere more than words can say. I will therefore speak his name as clearly as David spoke the name of Jonathan and Saul, as clearly as Jesus spoke the name of John the Baptist, as clearly as Paul spoke of Timothy, as clearly as Jesus spoke of Abraham, the Queen of Sheeba or Mary. Yes, let the name His People fade if it must, though I doubt that God will write it out of His book, but let Paul Daniel hear God utter his own name loud and clear, because then his true glory will be revealed. It is God who crowns us after all. All other crowns are worthless. All other voices are nothing if God’s voice is absent.

“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will never again leave it. Upon him I will write the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from My God), and My new name.” – Revelation 3:12

His People Name Change: it has been changing

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On my right leg I have a mean looking scar. I was scarred on the day news of Pastor Paul Daniel’s resignation as pastor and president of His People Church were officially announced to all the members of the church. I was not there. On that day, perhaps during those same hours, I was bitten by a vicious dog. It leapt from behind the walls of a house and it bit me. How it was able to jump that high, nobody knew. The owners were apologetic. They said it had never done that before. It was an evil day. I was beyond upset. Why did bad things happen to Christians I wondered? I stood in the cold waiting for a lift that would take me to hospital, who knows if the dog had rabies? I spent what felt like hours contemplating why bad things happened to Christians. I found solace in the apostle Paul who was beaten many times, shipwrecked, imprisoned, at times he thought he was going to die and yet, he was more than a conquer in Christ Jesus. The day was cold. The clouds were beyond gloomy. I wondered, what is going on? It was a day I wished had never existed. The Biblical Apostle Paul had provided me with perspective though the cloud of evil would not lift. If such tragedies befell a devoted follower of Christ such as the Apostle Paul, why should I escape?

I arrived late at night where I was staying in Rondebosch. “So? What was the announcement at church about?” Louisa feared to share the announcement with me particularly upon learning of the extraordinary events I had already suffered. She believed that I would be crushed. Naturally, it seemed as though everyone was already knocked hard by the news. Reluctantly, Louisa shared the news with me and for the first time, my day from hell made sense. I responded with a sense of relief: “Ah, now I understand what was going on today!” My soul had been in turmoil for at least 12 hours. Nothing was easy. My traumatic experience all of sudden felt like a gift of grace for me to understand how to receive the news. All my thoughts had a reason for being. I watched people suffer for months and years because of that experience. Many fell away. I felt shielded from it all, the ugly wound over my calf muscle was my perspective. I’m not proud of the scar but it is my scar for life.

Louisa had told me that they had watched a video where he announced his personal failure and was therefore resigning. This was the dreamer who once wrote these words that still echo in my heart: “beating the door of my heart for something larger.” This is the founder of His People Church who began with one mere University of Cape Town student, a church which he built up to several congregations and church plants. It was a church decorated with the finest young leaders whom he had developed. This was the man who dared us to dream dreams so large that only God could fulfil. This was the man of faith under whose leadership the word impossible seemed illogical. This is the church I was told Nelson Mandela once walked in upon hearing music as he walked past. This is the church of dreams and that dream shutdown quite suddenly, with this announcement. It had obviously been ending for a little while before the announcement. Months before he had been sharing stories Sunday in and Sunday out about the history of the church. Little did we foresee it, we were being prepared for the imminent dark cloud that was already approaching.

I had felt compelled to write him a letter to tell him my story and to thank him for the work he had done. I thanked him for blasting the lid of smallness and for daring us to dream. I came from a place where I had not encountered people of true faith and then I found young people, hundreds of them who were captivated by God, full of purpose and were encouraged to be more. Of course, there were problems but I was lost in the euphoria. Every worship service I saw a cloud of light inside the building. I thought this was not uncommon, until one day I realised that I no longer saw it. Now, another kind of dark cloud closed in on us and we were trapped inside of it.

On the first Saturday of this August, I was walking around at His People building at N1 City. I found myself remembering how the name His People had come about. I recalled how it never came through a strategy meeting; it was born out of a movement. I recalled how I heard Pastor Paul tell the story. People were asking these new converts as they were growing on campus: “who are you?” They told him that people are asking; who are we? What should we tell them? He responded: “Tell them you are God’s people. You are His People.” And so it was. His People. I smiled as the story came to mind. I loved that it was born out of a movement.

I had been away from church for a while since I had been out of town for a work program. On that Sunday I heard an announcement that there will be a meeting about a possible name change. What?

… to be continued

Black Women Run South Africa

#DearBlackWoman,
everyone of every shade did well today 
all over the country. Municipal elections are over as votes are being counted as I write this.
I have to single out the Black Woman today though, what a star!

Black Woman you run this country, quietly, humbly, disguised as a mere servant. You get no thanks for it. But you are not waiting to be thanked for running your house. At every polling station, you outnumber everyone on the IEC serving everyone else.

In sometimes all white neighborhoods of Cape Town, these amazing women are there everywhere with beautiful warm smiles. Sometimes as the only black presence as usual humbly and courageously serving everyone to vote. You won’t get any thanks for it, you are not waiting to be thanked, you are just running your country, your house for all your children. I’m inspired by the hard work of black women today. Yho! Black women bleed for this country and get no thanks for it. Humbled to be a black woman alongside such amazing women. inspired. What selfless human beings.  

You make #SouthAfrica great. No one else is going to say it so there, I said it. 

Handsome him

I remember him. I was on the train like any other morning on my way to work in Rondebosch, lost in my usual thoughts. Then that #DearBlackMan ruined everything. He was the most handsome man possible. I did not stand a chance.
Not a chance to stay calm, not a chance to forget I saw him. Not a chance to pretend I did not see him as I effortlessly often did.

His clothes were different shades of perfect formal grey, each item as if made by the best tailor just for him. I thought I was in a movie only I was completely underdressed for my part. I forgot how to stand or the station I was getting off. So I got off the wrong station only to get back inside again, feeling like a complete fool. Now that I think about it, what was it about him because ordinarily, handsome men can be handsome all they like, they just do not make me nervous but o, this man totally did. It must have been the manner he stood inside of his silver skin like he was standing on top of the world, as if the world was perfect. It must have been that he knew that he was brilliant in every way. Or perhaps the way he did not apologise for all that was admirable about him. The way he commanded to be seen without demanding it by his very presence. He seemed like a whole, perfect man though there surely can be no perfect people. I have no idea who he was but o, that man made me lose all my cool. Of course, I think he looked back at me but what are the chances really?
I could not look back, not after getting off the wrong station. 

Tutu’s Commission 

#VYLTP visited the Arch Desmond Tutu, we could ask him questions but there was not enough time. In fact his doctor had just declared the end of all conversations with immediate effect. I thought well, I am not letting him go before he answers this one question. One I was confident he would want to answer. We are his life’s work after all. We are it. I said: “What advice would you give our generation of Christian Leaders in our country, particularly because we must continue the work that began before us.” (We may think that we are doing something but no one ever does anything in a vacuum).He responds partially smiling. Is South Africa after all not the apple 󾁛of his eye and his life’s work? He says: “I don’t want to give you advice, that’s never a good idea but I will say this. MAKE THIS COUNTRY BEAUTIFUL, especially for the poor.”

He smiled and rose according to his doctor’s command. 

I wish you heard it from his own voice, every word is weighty and well considered. It comes from a place where words are no longer just words but they are weighed, considered and they come from a long well lived life, they come from words that are now so few because each word could be his last though he may live past a hundred. #DesmondTutu #wordsofwisdom #commissioning #youngSAleaders #leadership #SouthAfrica 🇿🇦

South Africa through the eyes of a Newcomer 

She had only been in South Africa for two whole days when she heard a white South African ask: “What can whiteSouth Africans do to respond to the racial inequality?” He has a good heart.She too has a good heart and was taken aback that such a question can be asked in such a country.

“Isn’t it obvious? 

Can’t they see?” 

The question overwhelmed her. What causes such blindness she wondered. And yet the white SA in all his intelligence cannot see the obvious. It is the same reaction I feel when people didn’t know what was happening to black people during apartheid. And so apartheid continues because of this inability to see the apparent. 
I watched her look at shacks as we drove past. She looked at the shacks in a manner that tore my heart.

 I didn’t want to look at her while she was looking. But I couldn’t shake off what I felt and saw through her eyes though she spoke not a single word. The wall that separated the shacks from the free way suddenly felt like apartheid.

 It felt like the pain of where she comes from. A place others worship by supporting her oppression in the name of God. I watched her look, and I suffered.

Hector Peterson Merorial: Stellenbosch University 

After nothing was left unsaid at the Hector Peterson Memorial Lecture at the famous foundations of apartheid, Stellenbosch University Theology Department. Effectively the theology that empowered the apartheid regime to kill a little 12 year old mercilessly, the current young leaders who are more than frustrated with the university’s apartheid culture poured their souls and took a stand within the same walls that had designed their future. A future not unlike Hectors perhaps not using guns this time but using methods of exclusion. Methods not different from what Hector was shot for. They clearly stated their intentions and painted an image of the future they want and did not mince their words about what would take place should the same methods of oppression persist. 
An older Afrikaaner man passed behind my back, enraged after having a discussion with some of the speakers. He had said that he would not be threatened. He must be referring to the students’ statements. 
Long after he has rushed out of the door, long after the revolutionary words and hours after I have lamented the state of being of the older coloured people there. A state I felt was what apartheid spirit does to people who are not white. I wanted them to be proud but I could see people who have been inwardly crushed just like apartheid used to do to people. Black Students have an advantage because they will leave that culture of oppression. They can also confront boldly as they have but the ones who work there are bound and the environment is not there for them. 
After my heart went out to them, the angry Afrikaaner emerged and I pitied him the most. He may be racist. He maybe a proud Afrikaaner who refuses to change but it was as if the pride of the Afrikaaners has been broken. The words cracked something. There is no going back any more than we can bring back Hector Peterson. 
Today something fundamental shifted. We will see what it will look like though it will kick back like the anger of the old man. 
Beneath his anger I could not help but pity him. For his human pain however wrong his beliefs. There is a man hurting and an identity that was built around diminishing the humanity of others has been challenged. 
Truly, who is an Afrikaaner when he is free? When his identity is not built around false superiority or accumulating wealth at the expense of those he considers less? 
He is right to be angry because the old is losing its power though it pretends to still be strong. He must be angry and he must mourn and he must change and discover true freedom that will help him see himself and his culture with new eyes. Not the eyes apartheid gave him.