Although South Africa is a beautiful country with enormous potential, some believe it is in a state of disarray. Violent crime, political corruption, and rising friction among the races are commonplace. Many white and non-African residents have emigrated to other parts of the world in search of peace, security, and opportunity. It is not the purpose of this article to delve into history and cast blame for the present problems. Let’s just say that all citizens play a role and are partly responsible.
Whether white or black, large numbers of South Africans find themselves mired in difficulties and are looking for solutions. One such person is a 22-year-old South African of Dutch descent. He is torn between emigrating and remaining in South Africa. Let’s hear from him in his own words:
“Why should I stay in a country that threatens my existence? I know I am here for a reason and that I should try and do something to change the circumstances, but I feel that my primary concern is to care for my family.
“We are a very close family and we love each other very much. My 20-year-old brother understands the situation in our country, but he has a girlfriend and they have a very good relationship. He doesn’t want to leave her here and her parents do not want to emigrate at this stage. My 17-year-old sister is a successful athlete and has lots of friends and enjoys her life very much here, so she is against emigrating.
“My father is a Civil Engineer, and is already approved by New Zealand. But he is now 52, and will no longer be accepted by New Zealand once he reaches 53. So, if he is to emigrate, he must do it quickly. Moreover, if we children emigrate as dependants of him, we can easily enter the country.
“But if we do not go this year, we must be approved by New Zealand based on our own qualifications and skills once we complete study. So you can see why we must go this year or it might be a lot more difficult. My uncle and other relatives have emigrated to New Zealand, so we have relatively strong family support if we do decide to go there.
“I am torn between emigrating and remaining in my present country. Because my father was a victim of armed robbery and death threats, and violence abounds, I have reason enough to want to emigrate.
“But after a serious head injury in a car accident in which doctors believed I could become a paraplegic, family and friends united and prayed for my healing. Thanks to their prayers and Psalm 91, I was completely healed. Psalm 91 is a promise of God’s protection, and since He has kept his promise regarding my healing, why won’t keep his promise in the future? It is not that I doubt in Him, it is that I don’t know if Psalm 91 is meant to be applicable to my present situation.”
Well, life can be complex, can’t it? Since the last point raised by our reader was Psalm 91, I’ll start there. The part of the bible that we call the Book of Psalms is actually a hymn and prayer book. The psalms were meant to be sung. In fact, the word ‘psalm’ means ‘twang’ or ‘pluck’ and refers to the sounds of the stringed instruments that accompanied the singing of psalms. Although the psalms deal with every human emotion, from joy to despair, the book is called TENILLIM in Hebrew, which means ‘Songs of Praise.’ The purpose of the psalms, then, is not to serve as a basis of decision making, but to inspire. Psalm 91, for example, is a joyful song about trust in God’s protection.
The poet of Psalm 91 was so ecstatic that he wrote, “If you make the Most High your dwelling–even the Lord, who is my refuge– then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91, 9~12, NIV) Now, even if you completely place your trust in God, you don’t believe angels will lift you to prevent you from stubbing your toe against a rock, do you? The Psalm is not to be taken literally. It’s a poem. The images it paints are allegorical.
Besides, Psalm 91 doesn’t say God will watch over you when you are in South Africa, but that He will watch over you PERIOD. That is, He will watch over you wherever you are. He is watching over those who emigrated to New Zealand and Canada just as he is watching over those who CHOSE to remain in South Africa. I lived in the U.S., Japan, Hawaii, and now Canada. Can I go anywhere where God is not? Can you?
Also, think about this Indian parable. A young man just learned from a guru that God is everywhere and protects us. Joyful, he parted from his guru and walked along in the middle of a narrow, dusty road. An elephant was heading his way. As it approached, the elephant driver shouted to him, “Step aside! Step aside! Get out of the way!”
But the young man thought, “God is everywhere and will protect me,” so he kept walking straight ahead. But to avoid colliding in the narrow road, the angry elephant grabbed the young man with his trunk and hurled him aside.
After being thrown 20 feet, the bruised and sore young man returned to his guru, complaining that God didn’t protect him. His guru said, “Of course He protected you. Didn’t you hear him yelling at you to step aside and get out of the way?”
Another story: A certain man lived in a dangerous country. He had a chance to emigrate, but he chose to remain and trust in the protection of God. One day, angry men entered his home and cut off one of his legs and then fled. The wounded man cried out to God, “Why didn’t you protect me?” A voice from heaven said, “I did. But you turned down my offer to emigrate.”
I don’t want our reader to interpret my remarks to mean he SHOULD emigrate. Rather, the point I’m trying to make is despite his desire to trust God, he COULD emigrate without contradicting his faith in God.
Yet another parable: A guru and his disciple were passing through a forest when they saw a tiger in the distance. “There’s no need to be afraid.” said the disciple, “because God will protect us.”
“No,” answered the Guru, “let’s run away. Why should we trouble God with something we can do ourselves?” Isn’t it true that God helps those who help themselves?
Our reader’s opening question was, “Why should I stay in a country that threatens my existence?” It is not a matter of what he SHOULD do, but what he COULD do. That is, he could remain and fight to make his country peaceful once again. This is the path of the Peaceful Warrior. But before he could change his country he would have to change himself.
You are ready to change society if you can say, understand, and practice this 26-hundred-year-old teaching of the Chinese sage, Lao Tzu:
“I find good people good And I find bad people good If I am good enough.”
That is, if you are good enough to find ‘bad’ people good, you are ready to reform society. You see, the proper way to destroy your enemies is to make them your friends. This path, however, is reserved for a few, exceptional individuals. It is for the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.
Our reader could also choose to emigrate. This is the path of the Adventurer. The world needs adventurers and warriors; both play equally important roles. Of course, other options are available as well. For instance, instead of playing the starring role of a Peaceful Warrior, he could play a supporting role, joining with others to bring about change.
I also wish to point out to our reader that it is not an ‘either- or’ situation. That is, there are more choices for your family than EITHER emigrating OR remaining in South Africa. For example, PART of your family could emigrate while part stays behind. All options need to be discussed by all members of the family.
Ultimately, however, our reader should do what is best for him. I do not help my family by becoming weaker. Whenever I do what is best for me, it makes me and my family stronger. Of course, the same is true with every member of my family and our reader’s family.