RAPED GIRLS AND REDEMPTION GROUPS IN AFRICA
Dear Mars Hill, I’m writing from Johannesburg, South Africa, hoping to catch a flight out a day later than scheduled since my flight to the States was canceled yesterday. I awoke today and sat down to read The Times. The headlines in the small twenty-eight-page newspaper are horrifying and most are related to a chauvinistic rape culture of violence against women. “Three babies a week left for dead at Pretoria dumping site.” “Legal abortions needed.” “Teenagers can get help with unwanted babies.” “Newborn found in smoldering dumpster.” “Man arrested for raping daughter.” “Judge nails youth leader over sexist outbursts.”
Yesterday I visited a black township of two hundred thousand people. In the days of apartheid, black Africans, coloureds, and whites were segregated and blacks were relegated to the townships, which are far less developed than the white areas. Picture the slums portrayed in the movie District 9 and you will have a good idea of what a South African township looks like. There are no paved roads, no stores, no schools (except for maybe a primitive few), and no electricity, though there are some exceptions in nicer townships. The townships around Johannesburg each contain at least two hundred thousand people and up to two million people. When I visited the township, I was told that many of the shacks had young, poor, and desperate young women. I was also told that for three or four dollars you could buy one for the day and do whatever you wanted to her.
As I write this, I’m shaking and holding back tears thinking about my own twelve-year-old daughter being raped for an entire day for a few bucks. A preacher in my position can start to live an isolated and idealistic life. We can become hard, callous, ignorant and cold hearted. We can fly in and speak to stadiums, have our photo taken, and autograph our books, and every minute get further and further from human suffering and need. So, I thank God for the opportunities he gives me to be wrecked.Seeing Haiti was life changing and I want to publicly thank those who have given more than $2 million total toChurches Helping Churches, including our Mars Hill gifts, which were more than $600,000. I also thank God that I get to not just be a preacher, but also a pastor dealing with rape victims, single moms, and those who have a tough life because of sin committed against them. And I’m glad I came to Africa, even though the few weeks away from my family were very difficult for us all, and I do hope that I can get out today or soon to see them and return to work.
Still, God has opened a great opportunity here. In my two weeks between the cities of Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg, I have learned a lot about what I believe God may have in store for the three premier cities in South Africa and from them to the townships and the rest of Africa. We are ironing out a few details, but it seems like a robust, gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing network of churches is being pulled together. These churches have some amazingly godly pastors, and enough people and horsepower to plant hundreds of churches. Those churches can help raise up a new generation of men who love women and children like Christ loves the church and declare a spiritual war on the darkness that permeates this culture of rape.
I think we can help network and resource the African church to do the African work, as the last thing this country needs is idealistic, ignorant Americans running things from a distance and throwing money at problems without the gospel. We come to serve, not to solve. You can pray that all goes well as Pastor Mike Wilkerson is finishing up his Redemption book, upon which we base our Redemption Groups for those addicted and abused. Also, as Pastor Justin Holcomb and his wife Lindsey are finishing their book tentatively titled Rid of My Disgrace for rape victims after many years working professionally with them, pray that these resources are anointed by the Holy Spirit to help the nations, beginning with our ownMars Hill Campuses.
When I get back, some of the elders and I will need to huddle up and put together a plan to either bring leaders in from the nations to learn with us about how to serve abused women and children, or we will need to find a way to get some of our best leaders out into major global cities like Johannesburg to train the church leaders there on how to bring the healing of Jesus and his people to devastated people. It’s a big job but the tomb is empty and God’s heart is for the widows, orphans, and victims, so he will give us much empowering grace. We’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks as we sort out the details and make our plans. And I’ll see you Sunday, as I’m back in the pulpit after preaching about twenty-five times over the past few weeks. We’ll be continuing forward in the Luke series as we gear up for Easter, which is our biggest Sunday of the year. For Jesus’ Fame, Pastor Mark
This post is republished material from Mars Hill Church for teaching and archive purposes only.