Yesterday was a great day.
It began in Khayelitsha playing pool… I won 2 games to 1! We spoke about contextual ministry, dreamed about church planting, spoke about those who were ahead of us in our thinking, men like Rene Padilla, John Stott, Samuel Escobar, Orlando Costas and Vinay Samuel. We prayed for one another, shared some joys and some struggles.
I could not help thinking how different we were in so many ways – him a Xhosa man from the rural areas, ministering in the Townships. Me, a white English-speaking city boy planting a church in an urban fringe area. But yet I marvelled at what a meeting of hearts and minds it was. It is the gospel that does that. The gospel that takes us and makes us brothers, knits our hearts together in genuine friendship, joy and common cause.
My day could not have ended more differently. Having coffee with a group of recovering addicts after the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting finished. I am not an addict but my friend is and she has blessed me with her trust by opening up her world to me. And now some of her NA friends are slowly becoming my friends too. I could not miss the irony of me, a non-addict, showing up at an NA meeting and being greeted like a regular by some of my new friends. Not surprisingly some of the new people I met did not even know I was not an addict. Why do I go to NA meetings? I am not altogether sure except I am fairly convinced that is where Jesus would be. Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with the broken, the lost and the outcasts… and there sure are a lot of them at NA.
And this is my candle…
An NA tradition is that when someone is celebrating a big milestone they share their story and someone organises a cake. My friend was celebrating six years clean time yesterday. She invited me to come to the meeting. I already know enough about the rhythms of NA, however, to know that this was a closed meeting. “Just come anyway, we’ll make a plan” she assured me. So I rocked up secretly feeling pretty excited. I was going to sneak into a closed meeting of NA. I was uber-hard core missional now!
As it turned out I did not have to sneak in. They asked for a group consensus as to whether I could stay- no-one objected. Just plain old vanilla hard-core for me then. After the share, the person whose milestone it is, blows out the candles on the cake and then hands out the candles to various people in the room.
One candle, is normally for the person with the least clean time in the room (7 days in this case), and then others are given to significant people in your recovery process. I was extremely honoured to receive a candle. I will treasure it always.
On my way home I thought about how Jesus calls the church the light in the darkness. NA has some pretty dark stories and it someone seemed fitting that I went to NA and I was given a candle. My prayer is that as we (the church) seek to be the light in all the darks places, the nooks and crannies, the forgotten and neglected places in our city we will collect a whole lot more candles.
By the way:
“ekasi” – is an another way of referring to the townships in South Africa.
“the rooms” – is what NA or other addiction programmes are often more colloquially known as