JessicaAn update from Jessica, a Perkins School of Theology student and assistant to Dr. Evelyn Parker, studying in South Africa:

We had such an amazing time touring the Durban area and soaking in all the gorgeous plants and trees and wildlife it had to offer. However, there was a dark side to the city, as well.

Our tour guide, Dulce, took us to a place called Squatters, which are camps for immigrant aliens and other poor people who cannot afford housing. There is no running water, electricity or plumbing. The houses are built with sometimes nothing more than cardboard on dirt. I saw people emptying out buckets of water along the roads to wash away their own waste. And trash was absolutely everywhere because no formal sanitation system exists.

The squatters did not just go on for blocks, but for miles. It was heart-wrenching. I found myself asking, “Why, God? Where is the hope here?”

Ironically, our trip focuses on the theological concept of hope and its practicality. Such a place as this made me understand why hope is not something to be taken lightly. Surprisingly, I saw an image of hope among the squatters. A group of young boys played along the road outside of these houses. They laughed and smiled and played; one carried a walking stick. The scene immediately reminded me of some wealthy children I had seen in Dallas a few days before we left doing this very same thing. They expressed the same emotions and the same care-free spirit that the wealthy children I know, who speak a different language, look very different, and live a continent away.

What I saw in these South African boys was the same humanness that I saw in the white Western boys — the same humanness that we all share. This motivated me to joy to see their joy. Therefore I refused to allow myself to pity the people. Instead I decided to use the young boys’ smiles as strength to continue onward trying to bring about the Kingdom of God.