With the news of Nelson Mandela's death I am reflecting on two different visits I made to South Africa... the first in 1987 with my friend Larry Warren. At that time I was a Contemporary Christian singer and we performed 21 concerts around the Country in 25 days. It was brutal and exhausting work and interestingly it was there that I made the decision to pursue the full time pastoral ministry. On that visit we were in the midst of SA's 'Apartheid ridden' culture and the work we were doing in the Townships outside of Cape town gave us an up close and personal view of the oppression and injustice.
The second visit was in 1997 and this time I went as a Missions Pastor which ironically took me back to the same neighborhoods I had visited ten years earlier. This second excursion under the vision of a new 'peace seeking initiative' which was clearly searching for unity in a divided nation, allowed us to watch through the lens of a new government, the dismantling of the upside down system. That readjustment moved swiftly to make changes. Nelson Mandela was the visionary behind the movement and his remarkable story reminded me of MLK Jr, JFK, RFK and other world leaders who played a major role in changing the cultures around them.
So, with the passing of Nelson Mandela I am again faced with my own desires to be that kind of man. That kind of leader. Although I can never approach their magnitude I sometimes wonder why can't I effect change in my small corner of the world no matter how little the change looks.
This of course reminds me that every liberation movement, even the dismantling of Apartheid, only points to the one and only true movement leader... Jesus of Nazareth. He came from Heaven to Earth and led His people to true freedom. As we ponder the life of Nelson Mandela, let us concentrate on the life of Jesus. In the Old Testament it tells all of us who want to stop the oppression that... "if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10. I believe that is a picture of putting faith in Jesus the Savior and Lord. His peace never ends and His government is just and true. We are sad to lose Mandela but full of joy to embrace the One he pointed us to.
Rev. Scott Roley
Director, The Franklin Table
959 Glass Street
Franklin, TN 37064