By Service & Social Justice Intern, Laura Castle
This is an excerpt from an Advent blog entry that I wrote during December of 2012, when I lived in a small sugar cane farming community in South Africa…
“My South African host father ministers to hundreds of men and women in the surrounding areas. He travels to each different farm in our community—all are owned and managed by white farmers who provide housing and wages for black African farm workers and their families. Most of the field work is difficult physical labor including: planting, weeding, hoeing, cutting, burning, hauling, and packing onto the trucks.
I have begun to look forward to the chilly mornings when I join my host father. We leave our house at about half past five, with a coffee mug in hand. As we travel through the foggy, mist covered dirt roads, the vast fields of sugar cane are all I can see as they create a tunnel-like effect on both sides of the road. When we arrive at the first farm, we greet the workers and I attempt to lead one of the vibrant acapella isiZulu songs that I have learned—through endless hours of listening and sounding out each word. My father then shares scripture and a message. This past week the scripture for the devotion came from Luke 2:8-12:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
In many ways, these farm workers are like the shepherds. They hardly get recognition or praise for the work they do, though it is some of the most important work in the community. These beginning stages in the fields are the start to a long production process, ensuring jobs for many South Africans. Working in a sugar cane field is viewed as one of the lowest jobs in South African society…but these workers are dedicated day after day, in order to provide for their families and communities.
And God comes to these South Africans, just like he came to the shepherds. He comes to bring them good news, and says that this joyful news of the birth of Jesus Christ is for ALL people—economic and social status aside. There is hope for each one of the farm workers I worship with during my time here. There is hope for all people in South Africa, and in the world, because of the day when the angel came to share the good news with the shepherds in the fields. In this Advent season, we live and wait in hope for the Christ who comes to ALL of us to bring everlasting joy.”