Reaching out is reaching in

Japie Krige is a missionary of the Melville Kruisgemeente to the inner city of Johannesburg. His passion for the gospel and ministry took root in the very small and somewhat insignificant village of Inalegolo in the South-East of Botswana. Rev Erick du Toit asked him a few questions.

What is your connection to Botswana?

My parents have always been part of youth ministries and missions. So from a very early age I accompanied them with the Student Church to Inalegolo, Botswana.

An integral part of your identity is building bridges between different communities. Why is this so important?

It’s important for people from different cultures and languages to come together to celebrate life. We should not only celebrate our commonalities, but also our differences, things that make us unique and special. Through this we experience the vastness and beauty of God’s character which is evident in every human being. The more we embrace our differences the more God is honoured and praised. Our differences should become the very reason we come together in community.

What did Inalegolo teach you?

Inalegolo is central to my own growth and identity. It is in this community that I became aware of my inability to communicate with people from other languages and I was challenged to learn Tswana, Sesarwa and Kgalagadi. The community was instrumental in developing my own passion and vision for unity which I currently live out in Johannesburg.

How does one ‘do’ outreach in Botswana?

A big part of what we do is to work with the leaders in the community. They are literate people like teachers, policemen and nurses. Building relationships with them ensures that the outreach is sustainable. Then a big part of our focus is children’s ministry. We’d see the kids in the mornings at the school and in the afternoons at the church. We do dramas, puppet shows and Bible lessons. Then we cook pap for about 200 children. For the adults we do “hut visits” where we engage in conversation with people in the community. People are very hospitable so they would invite us to come and chill under a tree and if the opportunity arises, we’d pray or share something from the gospel.

Are there any specific obstacles this community is struggling with?

On the surface there are many faults. Generally people don’t work so they’re very dependent on government grants. People drink to the point where they are paralysed. At first glance it would look like a very immoral community but if you look deeper, you would notice that the San are traditionally nomadic people finding their identity in hunting. However, they’ve been forced to settle down in one place taking up agriculture which is not part of their identity. When a group loses its identity, their values and morals start to deteriorate. In a sense they are being forced to become like their Kgalagadi counterparts. If they want to finish school or get a job there is a degree of Westernisation necessary. In the process they are bound to lose a lot of their values. So the biggest challenge revolves around identity.

Have you experienced that perspectives and worldviews change when people visit Inalegolo?

Ultimately we don’t want to visit Inalegolo for our own benefit. The focus should always be missional in order to enrich the community. But then I’ve seen that when the visitors are teachable, they often leave as the transformed ones. This is valuable for every person reaching out. There’s often a very big awakening that takes place in terms of how we view people and the world. Some arrive with racist and conservative ideas but then leave with a new understanding regarding inclusivity.

What is your dream for this community?

This has changed over the years. Initially we wanted a building where people would meet every Sunday and do church the way we do it. However, we’ve realised that this might not be the ultimate goal. Maybe God’s plan for this community is different from what we had in mind. Earlier we mentioned the identity crisis; so helping people to relate to their Creator discovering who they are in Christ – love, connection and grace. The dream is thus for them to truly understand this.

Do you have any advice for church groups going on outreaches?

Mother Teresa once told people “to come and have a look”. A lot of people left what they were doing and visited her in Calcutta, India. I believe something extraordinary happens when people exit their comfort zones to experience things like poverty. I often hear the sentiment that churches (especially white) feel irrelevant and that they don’t know other communities well enough to make a difference. And yes, it is wise not to move in and think you are the “white saviour” of a poor community, but at the same time you should not act apathetically. To see and experience for yourself is extremely valuable. This is where reconciliation and healing takes place and our own perceptions of life gets challenged. It starts with taking a practical step in the right direction instead of solely supporting from a distance.

Both Japie Krige and Erick du Toit predominantly use English in their ministries. The interview was also done in English.