The Gospel in Jeans

I have a young friend named Wandile Mthiyane, who is wrapping up his degree in architecture here at the university. Wandile is a South African born in the large seaside city of Durban. The story of how he got to Andrews is itself blog worthy. But the very short version is that with no money and a prayer he decided to ask the mayor of Durban for financial aid. Lo and behold he spots the mayor exiting a meeting, introduces himself, gets invited to sit down with the mayor, whereupon he shares his dream for designing inner city housing for low income South Africans. The mayor is enthused, provides the money for Wandile to come to this country and Andrews University to pursue architecture and this dream to house the homeless.

The End? No—the story continues: Wandile learns the skills of architecture at Andrews, takes a break last year to return to Durban with classmates from the School of Architecture, secures initial funding for the new prototype housing, and begins construction. The dream is full steam ahead! In fact, he sent me an email a couple weeks ago with a synopsis of this newly birthed project. Here it is:

"It always seems impossible, until it's done." Nelson Mandela

It's amazing what people can do when they come together for a common goal.

Since last August, Andrews University’s Masters School of Architecture [has] partnered with a local shanty community in Durban, South Africa to help design and build a home for a disabled family of three.

This project was motivated by Wandile Mthiyane, who grew up in the area and wanted to go back and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Currently all the designs are done, and Wandile is on the ground building the house with the local community and architecture students from Durban University of Technology and University of Kwa Zulu Natal.

The building experience has opened doors to ministry as local officials ask Wandile, “Why in the world would you leave everything to come and do this?” Wandile says he usually answers that he’s “just carrying on the mandate Jesus left for him on earth.” As you might imagine, this leads to full-blown conversations about faith in the broken world we live in.

What has been most inspiring in this project has been seeing white South African students from the suburbs come down to the townships for the first time and exclaim how they feel safe and loved in a place they’d always been taught to stay away from. This project is making us realize that we’re more alike than we are different, which is what the whole concept of Ubuntu is all about: “I am because we are”—and really we are because He is. We have experienced how this project is helping to break the walls of Apartheid.

Each year our pastoral team here at Pioneer votes a single mission project to add to the many projects this congregation already is supporting right here at home. We believe this amazing Ubuntu project is the right one for Pioneer to support in 2017. The project now needs $3,500 to finish its initial phase. If you would like to partner with our School of Architecture in establishing this new prototype housing for the Durban townships (and it is very possible the prototype will spread to shanty towns across the Republic of South Africa), please mark your contribution “Durban Project” on a Pioneer tithe envelope.

Isn’t this what Jesus meant? “Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these My brothers and sisters, you do it to Me” (see Matthew 25:40). No wonder Desire of Ages discloses: “We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps” (640).

So why not walk in His steps with a gift to the Ubuntu project? Who better to follow?