I believe that South Africa has come a long way since Mandela was chosen as president in the first free election in 1994. In less than 20 years, this once oppressive country has sought to move on into a new era of freedom and opportunity for all. The attitudes of South Africans are astounding. It has been less than a generation since apartheid fell, but I see less racism here than I do in my own city of Richmond. The progress made in these 19 years is truly astounding.
That being said, South Africa still has a long way to go. In my position at the care centre, I see the lasting effects of apartheid and racism daily. I see it in patients who live in squalid shacks, in people who are unemployed (or who are employed full-time but are paid way less than US minimum wage), and in a healthcare system filled with dedicated professionals who lack the resources to provide adequate care to those who need it most. HIV is rampant in South Africa (a situation that Mandela fought against following the end of his presidential term). Townships remain as full as ever. Gender violence statistics are appallingly high. Despite the enormous progress, these issues remain the daily reality for far too many people in this country.
During my three and a half months in South Africa, I have met some of the most dedicated and compassionate people that I have ever had occasion to call my friends. I have absolute faith that this nation, which has an extraordinary capacity for forgiveness and Christ-like love, will continue to strive towards resolving its problems. South Africa is a beautiful place. It is graced with a stunning natural setting, but the real beauty of this country lies not in the land but in its people. I am so privileged to live among them, especially during this time of morning and transition and celebration, when their ability to pull together and support one another is more evident than ever.
God bless Africa;
Guard her children;
Guide her leaders;
And grant her peace, for Jesus Christ's sake.