Land of the Living: Reflections on Hope and Grace in Cape Town
February 12, 2024|
By Christal Joy Potter
Leaning trees, with branches bent over as if to reach something desperately needed…wild peace lilies blooming all across wide fields, as if to adorn a weary land with beauty and vibrance…rolling sand dunes lining the coast, as if to signify the vastness of God’s love for the people inhabiting the land…mountains curving around the shape of the entire city, as if to illustrate the refuge offered to those who look to Him…wind constantly blowing, as if it were the very breath of the Maker, YHWH, uttering a gentle, “I am here,” every moment. I could go on listing the things I saw and experienced while in Cape Town, South Africa, but these visual observances resonated most deeply with me during my time there.
My name is Christal Potter, and I traveled to Cape Town to visit Hope Africa Collective (HAC) with a team from my church in October 2023. As we prayerfully and practically prepared for this mission, I had hopeful expectations for what God would do, both in our hearts and the hearts of those we would be communing with. However, what I encountered was far sweeter than I had imagined. It is difficult to sum this sweetness into words; but, from the time we arrived and started meeting with people, to the precious moments before we said our goodbyes, I felt completely bathed in the peace of Christ.
The land itself quite literally proclaims the works of His hands, and those whom Jesus has revealed Himself to there are zealous for His righteousness. During our stay, we were able to learn more about the deep-seeded pain and generational burdens that are carried by the people of South Africa. We were also able to see the nature of spirituality and how it plays out in the culture and traditions of the different tribes and people groups. When we arrived at HAC, it was beautiful to see how God had divinely planted their campus right in the middle of it all–a beautiful shimmer of light in a place that had no apparent reason to hope for something new, good, and lasting.
I will never forget meeting the staff and students of HAC. The passion exuded by the staff to come alongside their neighbors, to love and lead them to the hope of Jesus, while also giving them tools to learn and grow new skill sets, was so inspiring. And, the students were so full of joy. When I consider the stories that some of them told me over “tea time,” of their backgrounds and daily hardships, the only explanation for their joy is found in Romans 5:3-5: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Reading that passage now forever opens my mind up to the fullness of its meaning. The people living in the townships often feel unseen, under-valued, and stagnant–stuck in a cycle of brokenness and oppression that they can’t seem to rise above. But, this is a lie from the enemy. Just being present, walking down the paths of their homeplaces, visiting their house churches and small businesses, I could sense the presence of God at work in the most hidden places.
One day, God gave me a prayer:
“I can’t put into words what I have seen. But, Lord, You know every part and every soul that occupies this land. Jesus, heal, save, restore, and uphold in ways that only You can, here. You keep showing me a vision of a flood of grace rushing through the broken, winding streets of the townships. Father, spread Your Gospel message, even by means of one person, so that Your Blood would be the only “protection payment” they would need. I pray that Your grace would flush out all hurt and strongholds; that You would be their refuge, Jesus, like the mountains that surround them on all sides…like the lilies that bloom all throughout the valley. Please, be their comfort in desperation, and teach their hearts to worship in spirit and in truth. Help them to be willing to die to spiritual practices they have long identified with, and show them their true identity with You–so that they would begin a new heritage of Heaven. One of praising God in their native tongue and raising their voices in prayer, boldly as lions. Father, do something great among these people, and do the same for me. Remind me of my need for You, and remind me to worship You in spirit and in truth. Please, reveal to me the areas of my life that I must die to. Lord, You are holy and so very kind. I am in awe of what Your grace affords us. I love You so much. In Your name, Jesus, amen.”
This vision of grace flooding the streets is something that often plays in my mind. It was like a swift, raging wave gushing through the streets of the townships–a cleansing flood that consumed all of the fear, hopelessness, and generational burdens of the people. What is even more amazing is that my friend, Bronwyn (who actually publishes these blogs for HAC), and I both had Psalm 27 on our hearts when we embarked on our journey. And, when I tell you that Psalm 27 was everywhere, I truly mean it. It was the song of my heart while we were there. The lyrics of that beautiful psalm were present in songs we heard, in devotionals we read, in the scenery of the land, and even written on walls. Driving past a very impoverished area, I glanced out the window of the van and saw graffiti on a cinder block wall: “The land of the living.” Needless to say, I was in awe. Verse 13-14 reads, “Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’S goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
“While I am here.” This line brings to mind a beautiful woman, named Tessa, that Bronwyn and I met in one of the townships. She was a former graduate of Hope Africa and was working in her own salon. She expressed the hardship she still faced daily, but she was filled with hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. I wrote in my journal after she prayed over us that I felt as though I had just met Queen Esther. She knows that she was made for so much more than what she experienced because she is a daughter of the Most High. She understands that she is a citizen of Heaven, and she IS confident that she will see the goodness of the Lord while she is there. She is patiently trusting and waiting for the Lord to move in miraculous ways. She is brave and courageous and anointed. This is the power of the Gospel. This is the move of God’s hand across the nations.
Getting to experience the healing, saving power of Jesus through the declarations of hurting people changed my life. It has opened my eyes wider to the promise of eternity with Christ and the Church He is growing…and we, flawed humans, get to partake in this Kingdom expansion. I am truly humbled. One of the most unforgettable moments for me was sitting in a home filled with people, ranging from about age 5 to age 85, praising Jesus with fervency and complete love and devotion. To be completely honest, I was sitting there, eyes full of tears and heart broken for the pain and conditions they were living in when God spoke the words of Matthew 5:3 in my spirit: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” You see, it is easy to pity those who lack certain earthly provisions, but the Word also reminds us that we do not mourn as those without hope. We are to be gracious stewards of what He has entrusted to us, compassionate and willing to aid in ways He enables and instructs us to…for this is unto Him, and their greatest blessing will be given by the One who saw the content of their hearts as they have wrestled and endured faithfully. The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. I want a heart like that, always…one that realizes its need for Him.
I want to be a tree that leans, bending over in desperation–reaching out to the One who is always near. I want to be a peace lily, planted in a wide field in need of beauty and vibrance. I want to be someone who reminds others of Psalm 139–that God’s thoughts are precious about them, and they outnumber the grains of sand on the beach. I want everything I do to point to the God who embraces His people as a strong refuge of safety, like the mountains that curve around the shape of the city. And, I want to be a woman of prayer, who constantly declares, “The Maker is here,” with every breath I breathe. This is what I witnessed in the people I engaged with at Hope Africa, and in the townships. While, yes, there is a vast need for the Gospel, and for resources and support in these areas–I clearly saw hope shining in the darkness.
When you pray for this nation, pray that ritualistic, ancestral worship would be replaced with worship to the only One worthy. Pray that the bondage of both government and society would bend and break under the power of the only One just and truly kind. Pray that the conditions of those living in dangerous locations would be transformed by the goodness of the only One able. Even more, ASK. Ask God how you can partake. Ask how you can be His hands and His feet. You have a role to play, and I can tell you that it is worth it. Supporting Hope Africa Collective is so much more than funding an educational program–it’s illuminating the lost to eternal hope and freedom. It’s awakening people to their true purpose, identity and worth. It’s revealing to people with deep trauma, and those enduring spiritual warfare daily, that they are loved and held by a miraculous Healer. And, it’s opening the eyes of the blind to a life-unending…a promise that’s unbreakable. I had an idea of what missions was before I went on my trip, but God showed me what living on mission really is. Missions is faithfully asking God to show us how we can participate in the movement He began long ago. It’s being willing to sow, speak, and show up in ways that He calls us to. It’s living sober-minded of what is happening around the world and joyfulling spreading the word that God is living and moving among the nations.
A song that resounds in my mind as I think back on my visit is a song the staff of Hope Africa, and even the people in the house church, sang to the Lord during times of worship. Together we proclaimed: “Oh, be lifted above all other gods. We lay our crowns and worship You. All glorious God we praise Your name. We lay our crowns and worship You.”
That is the posture of the hearts of the people involved in HAC and serving in the surrounding areas. Their lives are marked by the presence of God. What an honor to be among them. I smile when I think of day one, meeting everyone there. All of the beautiful African names I initially struggled to pronounce correctly, God has known since before the foundations of the earth. He reigns there. His divinity is sensed in their worship. From the outside, you see the evidence of brokenness in the community, but wow–the people of that land are so precious to God. I am humbled and so excited for our reunion in Heaven…where not even language will separate us. Thank You, Lord Jesus. You are kind, extravagant, and so detailed in Your works. Each person I met was intricately stitched together with love and beauty. Everywhere we went, the people greeted us with genuine affection–warm hugs and familial kisses. The children were some of the most beautiful humans I have ever seen. They are full of love and so valuable. There was no division among us. The bond of the family of God is so evident. I have never experienced anything as uniquely sweet as that. Heaven became real to me as they sang over us in their homes and in their classrooms. I cannot really explain it except to say, I did not experience an emotional sensation–it is as simple as this: Heaven was opened. Our earthly reality was intermingled with the reality of our home to come. Such glory–so holy. ‘Who am I that You are mindful of me?’ Lord, may my life look more holy in that way than it ever was before. Let everything else fade–Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, in South Africa, and in me, as it is in Heaven. Jesus, thank You. Amen.
Now, as I reflect on my experience in South Africa, and time spent with the staff and students of Hope Africa Collective, my heart is drawn to their hunger for a covenant that will not be broken…a promise of purpose being restored by the One who holds the world. I was in awe of the natural beauty that spoke of His majesty, presence and wonder…and I was amazed by the supernatural beauty that was found in some very broken spaces. Those things spoke of His goodness, compassion, and omnipresence. This assures us all that He is near to the broken-hearted and faithfully at work in ways beyond what eyes can see.
By witnessing the ministry of the Gospel in this region, and the ripple effect it has on the community, I have arrived at the following conclusion: Though the believers of Cape Town and I live in two completely different physical realities, we have the same hope and the same promised home with Jesus Christ. And I am so excited to share it with them one day. May we all share the desire of David, found in Psalm 27. “The one thing I seek most – is to live in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His Temple.” On the other hand, the faithful men, women and children of prayer living in those harsh conditions, are trusting the Lord for His goodness to be seen in the land of the living…that those who are lost, destitute, and endangered will seek and encounter the God of abundance and mercy and love. So, let us prayerfully set out to come alongside our South African brothers and sisters to see the Kingdom come in every hidden corner. My charge for you, reader, is that you would consider joining in the mission of bringing the hope of Christ to those in need of refuge, provision, and a promising future.
In closing, the mission statement of HAC makes our goal simple: “We believe in ending poverty through empowerment and opportunity.” Empowerment comes from the power of the Holy Spirit as the Gospel is illuminated to those who have yet to believe in Christ…and opportunity comes from linking arms and offering time, skills, and/or resources in order to aid in the growth, development and education of those in need. This combination is so impactful. Through your prayers and willingness to partner with organizations like Hope Africa, you are participating in the most rewarding work. Daniel 12:3 reads, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Praise be to God! Lord, let this be so. Instruct us to do Your will and help guide many to righteousness in South Africa and among the nations. To Him be the glory! And, to you, my friend…I hope you feel spurred on to join us in this movement of the Most High.