Bridget is a missionary with SIM, serving in South Africa, her home country. She studied at SMBC (2010-2012) in Sydney, Australia, before returning home. She serves as a women’s worker at Holy Trinity, Gardens, Cape Town.
Today I need to go and visit Nazlie. She lives about 16 kilometres from me, but it is amazing that in South Africa, in my city of Cape Town, travelling 16 kilometres can take you into another world and another culture. It is my second time visiting her, and we are going to start reading the biblical book of Colossians together.
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I put on my Navman and make my way towards her area. The suburbs give way to smaller shops – shops selling anything and everything. I think of my family “to-do” list, and think that I could probably spend the whole morning going into these shops and getting the list done at a fraction of the price compared to where I live. Tyre shops or “get your braces here”. A braai [BBQ] is happening outside a butchery, and the smoke looks welcoming.
I park outside Nazlie’s house – she is renting a flat at the back at, I think, quite a high price. Today we sit in the car. It’s cold outside but warm inside the car. Nazlie and her two sons share a one-bedroom place and this week is the boys week “off” school. (Covid regulations require students have one week on and one week off school, so that there are not too many people in the classrooms.)
We open the book of Colossians: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Colossians 1:1-2)
Nazlie has many problems. She is unemployed and divorced. The father of her two sons is living on the streets. Her past is colourful. The Lord has touched her life, though. She loves him, but today she shares how she doesn’t hear from God. I ask her how she thinks she will hear from him. We talk about how God can use anything but in these times when we have his Word, he primarily talks to us through the Bible, and that when we say “God told me this …” we walk on dangerous ground, as we can make up anything that suits us really.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father” – of all the ways that Paul could greet the Colossians, he greets them this way. “Why do you think he does?” I ask Nazlie. “I think it’s the same in Philippians,” my voice trails off, “Yes, it is!” (I had to check). Why would Paul greet people in this way? What is grace?
Nazlie is not sure. “Good question,” she says. It seems that – as grace is heaped together with peace – it can only be given by God. It is his gift to us, which means that no circumstance and no one can take this away from us.
We pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then we head down the road to a spice shop.
We talk about how many people would love peace with God (or “peace”, even if they don’t acknowledge God). They have plenty of wordly things – houses, jobs, and so on – but no peace. We talk about what Nazlie has. She might not have a job, but she has these spiritual riches: forgiveness of her sins, the gift of life forever with him (these are parts of grace), peace with God and the gift of his enabling each day.
Then, we get to the prayer at Colossians 1:9-14, which throws more light on grace. All these things that Paul prays for others cannot be bought: to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding; to know God, to know how he thinks, to have his Spirit of wisdom inside us.
I tell Nazlie about Tsitso, a guy who was a ‘dagga’ [cannabis] smoker and manual labourer with little education. He was converted to Christianity and then suddenly started making very wise and kind financial decisions. Where did that wisdom come from? It was the gift of God.
We pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then we head down the road to a spice shop. People are selling coriander and toilet paper outside. The shop is filled with delicious smells. I’m aware of Nazlie’s financial position, so I wonder whether it’s helpful to offer to buy her some rice. I offer. We buy some rice and lovely spice and then we stop for a Gatsby (large bread rolls, filled with chicken tikka and cooked potato chips). We get one for each of us, which will feed our boys. There are five of them altogether, two of hers and my three stepsons.
Nazlie shyly hints for a lift to a nearby shopping centre. We go via her home to drop off the Gatsby and pick up one of her sons, then wind our way back to the suburbs. I pull off the road and wave them goodbye – my heart tugging for her quiet young boy, his soft brown eyes above his mask, and all he has been through.
Bridget is a missionary with SIM, serving in South Africa, her home country. She studied at SMBC (2010-2012) in Australia before returning home. She serves as a women’s worker at Holy Trinity, Gardens, Cape Town.