I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned from my trip to South Africa was that I should not feel guilty for what I have. One of the topics that we talked about multiple times during our trip was guilt. It is easy for us to go to the townships and walk inside their shacks that house 5 people and are no bigger than my bathroom and feel guilty that our bathrooms are nicer than the entire place that they live. Feeling guilty about what we have is what leads us to giving some money to the homeless person on the street or giving handouts to people who do not have what we do. While this is not bad on its own, the reason that we do it is to ease our guilt. We cannot just give handouts in order to ease our guilty conscience.
Instead of feeling guilty, we should feel convicted. We did not choose to be born in America instead of in South Africa in a township. We do not need to feel guilty about who we are because of genetics or geography, because we had no hand in choosing that. When we feel convicted instead of guilty, we take action that will impact more people than handouts will. And honestly, people do not need more handouts. The best thing that we can do for those who live in poverty is to provide them with resources and skills so that they can make a living themselves. One small example of this is to plant a garden in a township and then task one of the villagers who is willing to tend it. This way, the villager is taking responsibility and now has a way to provide food and/or an income for their family.
This really impacted me and reminded me that guilt and shame are not things that we, as Christians, should hold on to. As is written in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
~ Rachel VanLaningham