Welcome to Johannesburg

Day 1 : Monday, 14 February 2011


Kee Poh Li:

South Africa, here we come! Our first stop is Johannesburg, a city that seldom sleeps and where crime is known to be part of the fabric. The largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg is also the wealthiest. Yet there is an apparent income disparity in society in close proximity within the city.



Our first steps to discover Johannesburg includes a tour of Soweto, an acronym for "South-Western Township". We saw poverty up close and had our initial unforgettable contacts with the children on the streets. Personally, our encounter with the lady who saw the need at an informal settlement, Motsoaledi and was self-sacrificial to take upon herself the challenge to start a simple day-care centre out of her love for the children was particularly heart-stirring.


We learnt of the painful past at the Hector Pieterson Museum, two blocks away from where Hector Pieterson was shot and killed at age 13 during the 1976 Student Uprising in Soweto. The students protested against the introduction of Afrikaans, regarded as the language of the oppressor, as a medium of instruction in all African schools.The photograph of a young man, Mbuyiswa, carrying the critically injured Hector Pieterson in his arms, with his sister in anguish captured the injustices of apartheid. We had the opportunity to see Hector's sister as the tour guide pointed her out to us while she was walking past the memorial.


Join the POR team in our journey below as we open our hearts as learners to seek to see how God is working in South Africa.


Psalm 113:7-8
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.

Stephanie Siak:

We touched down on Valentine's Day, 14 February, 6.30 am at Johannesburg. Although most of us had not slept well during the entire flight, our hearts were warmed by the welcome package from Gerda and Acres of Love Team that awaited us at Protea Hotel Fire and Ice, Melrose Arch with this heartwarming message:


Psalm 113

"May you be blessed with unforgettable memories. Thank you for visiting us!


Indeed this came true for us on the first day of our visit as we discover the sights and sounds of Johannesburg. Some highlights included chocolates placed by the hotel in our rooms for Valentine's day, a great start accompanied by a sumptuous breakfast with the generosity of the church, an eye-opening visit to Soweto and a tiring day but one that leaves us with thoughts of how blessed we are.


On reflection, some thoughts are:


Within the Walls - there is safety

Everywhere we went, we saw electric fencings with barbed wires surrounding buildings and designated areas, a distinct feature of the city. Melrose Arch where we are staying is considered a safe place in comparison. You can wander in the malls, restaurants and streets of this area which have been fenced off. We were warned not to wander beyond this safe haven. Likewise, Singapore is a safe haven where we can walk along the streets without fear anytime, day or night that we should not take for granted. It also reminded me that only within the walls of our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ are we safe as we dwell in His love and protection.


Precious are the little ones in the eyes of God

A visit to Motsoaledi brings us to the squatter homes of more than 40,000 people where everyone shares a common tap and no electricity. We saw little children who are a few months old to 5 years, all cramped into little hot stuffy rooms, laying side by side on a very thin mattress. As I gazed upon these little ones who do not have much, I wonder what God is thinking as He looked upon them. I looked at the zinc-roofed houses everywhere but I also saw the beautiful flowers and vegetable plots growing among the squatters. A soft still voice whispered in my ears that we can all enjoy God's blessings whether we have little or much in this world. The journey continues!


Christine Goh:

Hello! Greetings from afar! Hope you all had a great Valentines' Day! I've enjoyed my longest Valentines' Day ever, (South Africa is 6 hours behind us). It was pretty romantic being able to celebrate it in the air and also catching the sunrise from on high with my friend, Wenyi.


Talking about aeroplane, this was actually my first time flying. The experience was really fantastic, except for all the scary moments. Thanks to Bertram for telling me that we may nosebleed when the plane takes off due to the pressure. And not forgetting to thank God for His journey mercy.


If you come to South Africa, you will realise that at almost every turn you can see very well-painted graffiti art. That really made me want to 'vandalise' their walls too with my artwork. You can also see women with amazing neck muscles as they can carry so much weight on their heads. Also there's one person you can never miss out when you come to South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela. We went for a tour around Soweto. As our humorous guide repeatedly talked about Mr Nelson Mandela, somehow I got reminded of our MM Lee on his contributions to our nation and what we watched in Invictus.


We were also given the chance to visit the flea market and a community called Motsoaledi. There were quite a number of illegal stores set up at the flea market and just like what we watched on the tv, we witnessed them dumping their goods in lightning speed and running off after getting some information that the police were coming.


But the most wonderful experience for today would be the time we spent interacting with the Motsoaledi community. The people there came from really poor family. We all carried cameras with us, and we thought, that the kids(maybe ages 5 and below) were so eager to let us take pictures of them and we gladly abided. We realised they were trying to get some goodies from us in return. As we visited a few more homes, we saw that the adults will get the kids to approach us as well. There was a store set up at the side selling sweets and they wanted us to buy it for the kids knowing that they love it so much. it saddened me to witness the poverty.


Located somewhere in the community was this day-care centre. it's quite small, definitely smaller than my 4 room flat's living room, yet it contained more than 30 children. When they were taking their afternoon naps, they were only limited to the space of a child's body-size with not even the allowance to flip over. They slept in alternate positions with their feet beside someone else's head.


Everyone's heart melted just looking at them sleeping. Our guide also introduced a noble lady who chose to help out at the centre with each child only paying her 50 rand (about S$9) per month. Her life greatly moved us.


I am asking myself, am I contented with my life? What can I do to share the blessings i have, what about you?


I am excited to meet the kids from Acres of Love tomorrow. Stay tuned to the POR BLOG!


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