The Presence of the Living God

Last November I was in a place called Mogopa in the Western Transvaal. Mogopa is a little village, a settlement some 70 years old, where over the years black people have built for themselves a stable community. Of course, they were still black people in white South Africa, which meant that the men had to leave their families and the village to go to work in the white cities. It meant that they were still poor, oppressed, and rejected. The people in Mogopa had their own school and their own churches. They were happy that they did not live in a so-called "homeland"; they had bought their land from the government 70 years ago.

But then they heard that Mogopa was a "black spot" in white-declared land. They were going to lose their land, and they would receive little or no compensation. The government, this anti-communist, "Christian" government, had broken down their schools and their churches, had cut off the water supply, and were getting ready to send in the army and the bulldozers to remove the people of Mogopa. And that is why we went, the "visible" leaders of the church, to pray with the people of Mogopa.

As I stood watching those proud people being reduced to utter confusion and helplessness—people who for so long had sustained themselves—I wondered what we were doing there. If not today, then tomorrow the bulldozers would come. We could not hope to be a protecting shield for these people. We knew that the government would stop at nothing to execute its plan. Why would a government that does not stop at killing children in the streets to protect its position care for the presence of the church in Mogopa?

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