Last night I ended up on the streets of Gatesville in Cape Town, South Africa, enjoying a steak masala gatsby at a restaurant called Golden Dish.
But let’s back up a little bit.
Saturday night, I, along with 29 999 other people, give or take, attended the Passion Worship event in Cape Town. Sunday morning I wrote a blog post about it sharing some reflections I had – some good things I experienced, and some things that troubled me about the event.
And then the internet exploded… well kinda.
The responses were completely polarised. From people sharing my post and high fiving and cheering me on for saying it like it is, to people questioning my salvation, my judgemental tendencies and in one slightly more extreme case, telling me to “Shut your pie hole!”
There were a number of responses I really enjoyed (and let me tell you, pie hole was up there), but the one that stood out for me most was one that simply said, alongside a share of my post, “Someone get this man a gatsby!”
ENTER DJ EAZY
Many years ago, I had helped to organise a Christian music festival called Newsong Festival and one of the guys I had met there was a coloured DJ called DJ Eazy (or “Tyrone!” when he’s in trouble with his mom!). He jumped on, we started chatting, and then we made a plan to make that a reality.
At the last minute, unfortunately, Fusi, who was the one calling for the gatsby, had another engagement and so it ended up as me and 10- or 15-year reunion with DJ Eazy standing with three gatsbys outside arguably the most popular gatsby establishment in all of Cape Town.
THE WAY FORWARD
For three days I had spent a lot of time engaging with people online about my post, trying to share some of the reasons I felt God might have wanted me to critique it in the way I did. Some of those conversations went pretty well and others went quite badly.
But it was on Tuesday morning, first sitting with my friend Wayne in my lounge drinking coffee and then later on the streets of Gatesville (where there were slightly fewer white people than there had been at Passion) where the real engagement happened.
The gatsbys were amazing and the humble service and generosity I experienced from Ameen, the Muslim man who runs Golden Dish made an impact, but it was the face-to-faceness of the encounters that felt significant to me. It was a cup of coffee with a new mate and then an on-the-street conversation with a guy who moves in very different spheres from me.
HELPING BOTH ENDS MEET
I am convinced that the long-term transformative solution to the problems of my country, South Africa, lies in relationship. The internet can be a great place to get conversations started, but unless we get face to face and break bread together or have a coffee or sit in the middle of a busy road late at night and share a gatsby, we are unlikely to make much progress.
When you meet, something that otherwise can remain an issue (that can be held at arm’s length and not fully engaged with) becomes a person, with a story, and it is a lot harder to dismiss or ignore or disengage from a person.
We see it in the way we have traditionally done giving in this country – we have outsourced it to churches/non-profit organisations and charities so that the rich never have to meet the poor. The solution is bringing the rich and the poor together. Finding a way to do generosity through relationship. An organisation like Common Change that has just launched in South Africa has some creative ideas to do that.
And it’s the way we’ve responded to race – we see an incident online or in the paper, we see something burning and respond with “those people” or “there they go again” without taking a moment to listen or try and understand the story of the pain that is behind the actions. Perhaps connecting with an individual will change our hearts and later our actions.
PEOPLE OF FAITH
I can imagine Jesus’ voice saying something like, “Blessed are those who share a gatsby, for they will come face to face and be changed.”
Or something like, “The kingdom of God was like a man who invited a brother on to the streets to share a gatsby…”
How can we get creative about the ways we engage with the issues around us? I believe it has to happen in our lounges, at the local coffee shop, or even in the streets of Gatesville, any time up to 2am when they are still are serving the best gatsbys in Cape Town. Let’s do this.