one of my earliest memories in life is walking the streets of Hillbrow, on a Saturday night, aged 5 years, with a guy called Ian Mcleod, and a carload of university students, armed with a plastic bag full of ‘the complete gospel of john’ books in a variety of languages such as southern sotho, pedi and xhosa, striking up conversations with people we would meet on the streets, telling them God loved them, and in many cases praying with them, right there on the street.

There is no way it can be a true memory, because I can’t see my parents letting me out on the streets of Hillbrow at the age of five. But it definitely happened as a semi regular event (I remember going out a bunch of times with them) and we moved away from Jo’burg when I was 12 years old, so I must have been fairly young to be doing such a great and crazy thing. I’m just not sure why my brain thinks I was five (much better story perhaps – ‘the stories we tell are better than the stories we live’ – darin petersen). And we are talking 80s SouJesus rica here. Crazy times indeed.

i often think of those times and remember how carefree and fearless i was back then and don’t think i have come close to being that way since.

And last night, as I stood in the middle of a street in downtown Hillbrow (not sure there is an uptown Hillbrow) with my new friend Nigel (who i originally met online and through reading inspiring and challenging articles he had written) at round about 11pm and prayed with and for a young guy struggling with heroin addiction who just wants to be clean and to stop slipping back (and whose swollen eye bore testimony to the story of hours he had been robbed and beaten up earlier while selling clothes) those childhood memories came flooding back. And it felt so good. Like this is where I am meant to be… and this is what i am meant to be doing right now.

i thought about how in philly, and even maybe oakland, we had slipped into the idea and story of how that poverty looks different but is essentially the same as this (not true – took driving into hillbrow for one minute to know this is a far more hectic and messy than anything I have witnessed in Americaland so far).

i thought about how we allow ourselves to be convinced that living a messy uncomfortable sacrificial life as a Jesus follower is right for some people but not for others (and how for some people just showing up once a week and throwing something in the offering plate is more than enough – i’m convinced it’s not) and how challenging others to be radical or revolutionary in their faith is only cool as long as it doesn’t mean we are judging them or making them feel guilty and even the idea of possibly crossing that line and horror-of-horrors making someone feel bad for living in materialism and wastefulness and not actively following Jesus is strongly frowned upon.

i think about how dangerous the ideas and practices of ‘political correctness’ can be and how Jesus was kind of a lot of the opposite of politically correct in much of His thought and word and deed.

i think about a largely complacent church where we rally the troops in a national campaign to defend the right to hit our children, but make much less of a stir when it comes to issues of poverty and homelessness and reconciliation and the increasing amounts of orphans in our land and world because of AIDS. But we must be allowed to hit our kids!

And more… watch this space…

This trip has come at an important time and at a new milestone in my life… And it feels like God is stirring and shaking and moving and waking and I cannot afford to miss that or not respond as I see His hand and hear His voice.

What about you?