This past week, I took some of my youth on a mission trip. The mission trip, though, was right here in Cape Town…we were literally working in communities that my youth have grown up driving past all their lives. However, many of them had never even stepped foot in one of these communities before this week. My youth were volunteers in running a holiday club (kind of like a day camp or vacation bible school) for both kids and teens during the school holidays.
As part of the teen program, the teens were given questions to journal about each day. The theme for one day that really stood out to me was “Me and My Community.” The teens were asked to journal about their communities, describing what they do and don’t like about it, and to brainstorm action steps to make changes in their communities.
The teens could readily answer the problems their communities face. Everything from gangs, drugs, child abuse, poor sanitation, no access to healthy foods, and garbage everywhere.
After journaling, the teens were split into groups and made large collages about what they wanted their communities to look like. I was amazed at how the collages turned out. They had such specific answers and ideas as to how to make changes in their communities. Their collages were filled with hope, filled with big dreams. They want a library, help with homework, soccer fields, better buildings, parks, no more drugs, healthier families, bible studies, no more violence, healthier foods, and the list keeps going. All filled with things that I think we all take for granted at certain points in our life.
Talking with some of the teens, there were mixed responses. Some honestly felt like change could come to their communities and they had such optimism. One boy I spoke with could so vividly articulate how he was going to make changes in his community. It was incredible. I have such confidence in him that he is going to make a difference in his community. Others, though, were really down and felt like there was nothing that could help. They felt overwhelmed.
To be honest with you, I had mixed emotions too. I was filled with hope when I saw the changes they wanted. However, it was so challenging for me to look at these collages and see all these things that these teens are hopeful for then to turn my head, look out the door, and see sprawling shacks as far as my eye could see. My eyes seemed to bristle with tears as I looked from the collages to out the door to back to these teens.
As I write this blog post and think back on my ten months as a Global Mission Fellow here in Cape Town and think about the remaining ten months to go, there’s one thing of which I’ve been reminded, and that is the importance of vision, the importance of dreaming, and the importance of being able to look past what you see in front of you to see the potential of what is already there.
This past week, these teens were given a space to dream. A space to sit down and reflect. I honestly don’t know how often they are given that space to dream. I felt humbled to be a part of their dreaming and I’m thankful for getting the chance to expose my youth to the issues facing their own communities.
And yes, people might say it is one thing to dream and another thing to act on it. I completely agree. However, dreaming is where it all begins. Dreaming gives the action the purpose. So call me a dreamer. Those dreams of mine and the dreams of these teens are going to spur on bigger things.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (King James Version)
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
GMF International, Class of 2015-2017
Sowers of the Word Church