I thought I was prepared for the sights and sounds of a squatter camp. How different from a township can it REALLY be? I thought. I realized shortly after turning into the camp that I was in for a completely different experience.
The road, if you can call it that, had turned to mud from dirty laundry water and sewage. Our tires could not escape the amount of holes, bumps, and grooves made in the dirt. It was just wide enough for one car to safely pass through the lines of shacks on either side. I had seen shacks before, but nothing like these. Strips of cardboard taped together, plastic bags as window liners.
Children play in the water as the sun beats down on their dark skin. People lounge outside of their homes; some washing clothes in large bins, some playing board games, and some walking through the streets carrying items home on the top of their heads.
We are stared at by everyone. Why are the whities coming in? What do they want? A few children raise their fists, thumbs extended in a greeting, Sharp. I lift my hand with my thumb extended in return, a way to say hello back; to acknowledge I see them. Sabona. Sanibonani. Hello. Hello to you all. I see you. The Zulu greetings come from those whose curiosity gets the best of them.
We follow signs to the church, ‘Judah Africa Outreach Service ——>’
We pull up to a clearing amongst the dense shacks. A stage with speakers turned up all the way streaming passionate prayers from the church leaders greet our ears. I always forget how loud African church is. A crowd has gathered, umbrellas in hand to block the bright sun. Children huddle at the front of the crowd, showing off dresses and new shirts, arms wrapped around one another. Community.
A few people from the camp look on, sitting on the stoop of their shack watching and listening. A few men walk through the service, just passing through. Some seeds will be eaten by the birds. Some seeds will fall on rocky ground…
And then, then the music starts. The excitement in the crowd is tangible as voices rise and bodies move in praises to their Lord; their only hope. As the dancing starts, feet move with joy and all join in. Each song has its own dance. I join in, unsure of the steps but unable to stand still. Dust swirls around us as we kick up dirt in our unashamed praising of God. Worship lasts over an hour as these people with no money, no electricity, no running water, few jobs, and poor-excuse-for-shelter-for-homes lift up thanksgiving and praise to God. The same God I blame when my life doesn’t turn out how I think; the same God I yell at when I feel cheated, slighted, deceived; the same God I seem to only thank when things go my way. The faith of these people rocked my heart as I heard them stand in belief for change, provision, healing, and souls saved in their community.
Oh, to dance so feverishly for my Father that all the dust in my life is kicked up!