The Mandela Legacy, part ii

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Katie Justice served in YAGM in Southern Africa in 2012-2013. Below, she shares the impact of Nelson Mandela on her life:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  –Nelson Mandela

Hearing the news that Tata Mandela passed away on December 5th, I can honestly say it took me by suprise. I sort of thought it wouldnt because of the fact that he became really ill during my year in South Africa and was close to dying. Hearing that he had passed made me realize what a great human being he truly was and how there will never be another Nelson Mandela in our lifetime.

Madiba (as he was affectionately called by the people of South Africa) has always been an inspiration for me. His struggle to bring human and equal rights to all is one of the many qualities that I have admired about him. The quote above to me defines what God’s love in the world should look like when practiced. He also realized that for South Africa to move forward from the dark memories of Aparthied, forgiveness and reconciliation is the gateway for working together as a family.

The quote above always reminds me of the purpose that God has laid on my heart. Forgiveness, reconciliation and the struggle for equal rights for all is something I will continue to strive for and I hope to see achieved in my lifetime and, as Madiba said himself, if need be Im prepared to die for.

Tata Mandela, Thank you for continuing to inspire me and many others around the world. You have served your country well my friend. May you rest in peace and celebrate with Our Father Almighty in heaven.

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The Mandela Legacy, part i

The YAGM program in Southern Africa is in its sixth year. All of the participants have been influenced by the work and witness of Nelson Mandela. Now with his death, a few alums share their reflections:

from Elise Anderson (YAGM in Southern Africa / MUD 2011-2012):

Nelson Mandela was a person I have had a great amount of respect for all of my life, my parents protested apartheid and they kept up with the events in South Africa. Hearing my parents talk about those things I never thought that I would spend a year of my life in that beautiful country. When I found out that South Africa is where I would spend my YAGM year I became more interested in the history and politics and the legacy of Nelson Mandela. It wasn’t until I was there and had lived among the people of South Africa that I truly started to understand what the books and documentaries were saying. The history was no longer just words on a page, it was emotional. I could relate stories I had heard and things I myself experienced to the history. Every conversation led to the past and to either how far South Africa had or hadn’t come since the end of apartheid. The country was covered with the scars of apartheid and many of the wounds left were still open, it truly felt hopeless at times. But, along with the scars there was also a feeling of love and healing and the hands that were responsible for that healing were Mandela’s. His face was everywhere, his name in every conversation, his spirit felt by all.

Mandela taught everyone in South Africa what it was to love, to forgive, but more importantly what it was to walk along side not just your friends, but your enemies. What he taught us all was the ultimate lesson in accompaniment. As YAGMs we focus on the idea of walking along those who we are hosted by. Not to lead, not to follow, but to work in a partnership of love and understanding. Is there a better example to follow than Nelson Mandela? His lessons in forgiveness and cooperation are what have always stuck with me and after living among the people of South Africa it is what I feel has stayed with them as well and continues to work in and through them. Nelson Mandela’s death is terribly sad but with death does not come darkness. The light that shined in Mandela will only burn brighter now. And we will continue to walk along with each other, until the great peace and understanding, for which Mandela was prepared to die for, is realized.

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from Nicole Holtz (YAGM in Southern Africa / MUD 2011-2012):

I remember learning about Nelson Mandela in school. He would be compared to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I saw him as a world leader, someone able to influence men and women of any color. He was a symbol of resilience, freedom, and forgiveness.

During my year living in Kimberley, South Africa I learned about the personal influence that Mandela had on my South African friends and family. Descriptions about Mandela didn’t just include, “he is the universal symbol for social justice” but also, “he helped free my grandparents and my parents. He freed me and all my people.”

Upon hearing of Mandela’s passing, my South African brother wrote, “Rest in peace Madiba, thank you for your immense contribution to my future.” While I was learning about Mandela in school, my South African brother thanks him for his very presence in higher education and the successful future he will most certainly have.

My prayer is that Mandela’s life continues to influence my own, freeing me from selfish and angry ways into a life of forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.

Feisty Freedom Fighters

DSC_0231 (2)Glimpses of Apartheid-history inspire Jen:

Wind ruffles the peach flower petals in Jenny’s Sunday Best bonnet while elderly Mrs. Matthews sniffles at the breeze. Buttered hot dog rolls and immaculately sliced watermelon are passed across the picnic table with polite offers of soft drinks. The three older women swap recipes for egg salad as the shade tree’s leaves rustle softly overhead. It’s a perfect 28°C on a lazy Thursday afternoon and somehow I’ve found myself in the midst of retired, feisty freedom fighters. It’d been months since the initial invitation and plans had finally fallen together to spend an afternoon together. Vivian rolled up in her white sedan that had seen better days and cheerfully told me that some of her friends would be joining us as well. By the time Jenny and Mrs. Matthews had squeezed into the car in all their flowery-bonnet-hatted glory, I had quite resigned myself to the idea of a quiet afternoon out with the Golden Girls. But somewhere between the hard-boiled eggs and puff pastries stories slowly slipped into conversation… “We hid several of them at the Youth Center, right in plain sight! Disguised as visiting volunteers, they were.” “I only went to prison for a little while because they kept confusing me with another lady, sent her to prison instead. Poor girl. They didn’t need proof, just wanted to scare people into being quiet.” “The police knew me by then but thankfully we got away without any raids, they’d have for sure done us in.” Jenny slyly drops me a wink across and for a moment the strong willed and zealous younger woman shines through. She’s no longer past sixty, but young and passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to fight for what is right. Yet the ordinariness of the three women around me feels like a piece of hope. If they could change their world, why not us? Apartheid was ended when everyday people got involved and started standing up against injustice. They had families, careers, homes to lose yet still they did what they knew was right for themselves and their nation. They were inspired by injustice, stood their ground, fought, won, and still managed to make it to glorious retirements full of picnics and friendships and flowery bonnets. It makes me wonder, how much could our world be changed if each of us found something worth standing up for—and actually did something about it? Speeding down side streets on the way home, Vivian looks sidelong at me and laughs deeply. Getting caught is no worry. “They can’t scare me with prison, I’ve already been there!”