Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Upper Room in Jo'burg

A week in Johannesburg, South Africa, was just what the doctor ordered. After visits by Mom and Dad and John Thornburg, I was just a little worn out. I was afraid that (yet) another trip would be more than I could handle, but it turned out to be relaxing and restful. Of course, that may be due to the fact that the group which welcomed me was Upper Room Africa.
Upper Room Africa has a very simple – and powerful – mission statement: to help every African spend time with God everyday. The main instrument which Upper Room uses to fulfill this dream is the ever-popular daily devotional guide of the same name.

I was in Jo’burg to attend the African Editors’ Conference of The Upper Room, during which we brainstormed how to get copies of the devotional into as many hands as possible, and to help encourage Africans to write devotionals for future publications.

The conference was held at Common Ground, a retreat center owned and operated by the Methodist Church of South Africa. The place was quiet, peaceful, and extremely conducive to listening to God … sort of like an upper room!

We did have a little time to sightsee during the conference. On Tuesday afternoon, we had a special assistant tour guide ... this gorgeous little girl from Jo'burg.

These run-down "hostels" house out-of-town men who work the mines located in and around Jo'burg.

These are the famous "twin towers" of Soweto. They originally functioned as the water-cooling towers for an electric plant which provided electricity for whites in Jo'burg, even as Soweto itself remained in the dark. The plant is no longer functional; it sits barren, though the towers are still a colorful part of the landscape.

The Catholic Church, Regina Mundi, located in Soweto, was a famous haven for the resistance and freedom fighters in the 1970's and beyond. A tour guide shows us an altar table, which was battered by the butt end of police rifles.

The well-known Black Madonna and Child, inside the Regina Mundi church.