Earlier this year South Africans were shocked to read (and watch a video) of a black man being viciously attacked by a rather large white man for no apparent reason other than that he was black and wearing the insignia of a radical, left-wing political party. I remember my own shock as it happened at a place that I often visit. As we all sometimes do, I had convinced myself that such things only happen far away and that it will not touch my little world.
As I contemplated this violence on my doorstep, I wondered what I would have done if it had happened while I was present. The attacker did not look like someone I wanted to confront and looked way more comfortable with physical violence than I had ever been. Then I wondered what I would say to the man who had been attacked so viciously. And I silently hoped that someone who looked as similar as I do to the attacker would get an opportunity to speak to this victim.
At another time this year, I was standing on the side of the road waiting for my wife to come and pick me up. My car was broken, and I had just come from a meeting that had not gone well. Months of sacrifice and investment were about to be lost. I was filled with deep sadness and struggled to see the future.
Out of the blue, a car stopped next to me and a smartly dressed man got out and came up to me. I recognized him from a church where I had recently ministered. In his eyes I saw a reflection of my own sadness and wondered if God had sent him to me, for me to minister to him. I did not feel up to it but was willing to try.
In our conversation, he confessed that he was going through a very trying and painful time but immediately turned the conversation away from himself. He spontaneously and very generously started encouraging me, commenting on the sermons he had heard me preach by quoting some of them in illustration of his point. In a few short moments he lifted me out of my despair and gave me new hope for the future. I was not ministering. I was being ministered to, gently and with generosity.
If you are a South African, you may have heard of this man. His name is Pastor Maano Ramadwa. He is a speaker, life coach, trainer, radio presenter and prolific author whose latest book, Resuscitation Leadership, was recently published. During our conversation, he invited me to be a guest on one of his radio shows. I have a face for radio but did not expect anything to come of it.
A couple of months later he kept his word and invited me to sit in on a panel discussion in response to current events in South Africa. The country was reeling from a recent spate of violence focussed on women, children and foreigners. I would be joining well-known local pastors Bernard Igwe, Lebogang Lebeko and Ron Lutendo on the Revival Show to discuss the reason for the hatred and anger that gave rise to the violence.
Imagine my surprise when Pastor Ron Lutendo turned out to be the man attacked at the place not too far from my house! I discovered this while on-air and I should have prepared better, for my words fell far short. You can listen to the recording here on Maano’s website.
Ron was a revelation and felt God had used this incident to teach him something that he will be able to use in ministry. He is also content to let the law run its course and for the courts to determine punishment and justice.
I will be visiting his church soon. We may disagree on many things, but I am determined to learn everything I possibly can from this man and this opportunity.
You may be from the far side of the world with very little understanding of the South African context. However, I do hope you see the unexpected and random nature of God’s ways in this story. The response to Jesus’ life and ministry was often one of surprise. Your translation might use the word ‘amazed’ but others translate it as ‘surprised’. He hears you AND he answers you. And he surprises you all the time in how he does it.
I pray that he will surprise you with his kindness this week and that you will stand amazed!
(My radio adventure with Pastor Maana is not over. More on this later.)