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Lord, how long will I call and You will not answer?

"Lord, how long will I call and You will not answer?" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

We have more and more people coming to the church in need of help as a result of political violence and intimidation. Reports come to our ears daily of acts of torture and oppression, people are rounded up in areas and made to attend party rallies. Abductions happen regularly, murders occur and are unreported. The list could go on and on. And in the midst the government maintains the posture of pretended indignant integrity, hypocritically acting as though their hands are clean and the opposition had better stop the violence.

What does that mean on the ground in our country at the moment? It means that all of us are somewhat fearful. True, some areas are much safer than others, the more densely populated, less affluent areas are more prone to the violence, but even in these other, safer areas, we all drive with great care. I recently went to buy some maize meal for our staff and social concern ministry. I had heard about its availability-on the black market, of course, as there is none in the shops. On the way back I took a longer, more circuitous route just in case I was stopped.

Is carrying food a crime? No, but. Churches have been stopped in fact from distributing food, even an organization that feeds street children was told to stop operations. Our own food distribution we keep as low-key as possible. How tragic, to live in an environment when doing good has to be done in secret, lest it be seen and stopped.

Many of our church folk learn the slogans of the day for their own protection, minibuses plaster themselves with party posters as a form of protection. We cancelled our youth meetings last night and encouraged people to be off the streets during the evening. Late last night, taking our assistant caretaker to catch a ride home and having to drop him in town, I myself was feeling a bit nervous. Even writing these words, letting you know some of the things that are really happening, I have a concern about who might get hold of this and what might it be used for. Such fearfulness is wrong.

Friends, we need you to pray please. God must hear, and God must do something. We as a church will continue to do what we can do, we will seek to "trust in the Lord and do good" and we will hope to "dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture."

But frankly, it is hard. The economy spirals in freefall, my salary at the beginning of the month has devalued by about 40 times now. Food is short, unavailable on the shelves of stores or far too expensive if there at all for the average person. The black market thrives for all basic commodities, inflation figures make no sense, in the millions of percent now. Outstanding fees on our school bill are charged a penalty of 10 percent per day, people struggle to find basics, fees for our ministry at a college went from 3 billion one day, to 10 billion the next, to 25 billion the following week.

Food procurement is challenging and expensive, the government charges an iniquitous duty of 65 percent on food brought in, a duty charge that is levied on transport as well. Friends in South Africa are sending a food parcel for our pastors and church workers and the needy, but they will end up paying in excess of twice the real price because of government taxes and transport.

The wickedness is unbelievable, the lack of concern for struggling people is demonic, the deafness of those in power to the cries of the suffering and the commitment to self-advancement at the expense of others are hard to believe. How can any in power inflict such suffering upon their own people?

As a church, in our fear and uncertainty and concern, we seek to remain faithful, we look to God, but we are honestly asking the Habakkuk questions. We feel that we pray and God does not listen, we feel that we cry and God does not act. But our faith is trying to reach beyond our feelings, indeed, what is the alternative but despair?

So please, this week especially, pray that we will understand God's larger purpose and be willing to endure with an eye on that. Pray for many people struggling and wondering, in fear and uncertainty. Pray for young people caught up in the situation, for elderly who are beaten by youths contrary to the deepest mores of culture and African community and disgraced in public as evidence of society's fabric being ripped apart, for grandmothers and widows, for schoolchildren with studies disrupted and classes cancelled, for people in prison for political views, for pastors to be wise and full of integrity, for police and army members, that they will be convicted and refuse to act out the part they are called to play.

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