A 2002 article by Carol Landman, states that 600 000 children had been left orphaned by the scourge of HIV/AIDS sweeping through South Africa and that the number of these orphans was expected to increase to two million per year by 2010. In 2007, there were already 1,400,000 aids orphans in South Africa.
Every year, just before Christmas, our church runs a special Shoebox project for the orphans at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in the township of Soshanguve, 45km north of Pretoria. Although I’ve been involved with this project for the past two years, it was only in researching for this blog that I discovered the name Soshanguve stands for the languages spoken at this township – SOtho, SHAngaan, NGUni, VEnda.
Congregants of Waterkloof Baptist Church have been eager to assign their name to a child from a list supplied by Mount Carmel. They then get busy covering a shoebox in bright paper, wrapping the lid separately so that when the box is empty, the child can still use it as a beautiful storage box. The box is then filled with toys, sweets, writing materials, books, clothing, etc. – anything suitable to the age and gender of that child. Benefactors are encouraged to write a short note to the child and slip it inside the box.
As the number of orphans increases each year, so does the ministry. In 2007, around 128 shoeboxes were taken to Mount Carmel and in December 2008, we delivered 165 shoeboxes. Talk about feeling like Santa’s little helpers.
When our church announced in September last year that there were nearly 200 names on the Mount Carmel list, AND that they had decided to do the same project for the children at Mmamethlake township – over 50 boxes there – I groaned. How on earth were we going to reach a goal of 250 shoeboxes? But God was faithful, as were his people, and every single child at Mount Carmel received a shoebox gift on Sunday, 6 December 2009 (even visitors who were not on the list), as did the Mmamethlake children.
There’s an ancient phrase (earliest known record from St. Marher, 1225), predating modern English that reads: "And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet." The modern English version, “The tide abides for, tarrieth for no man, stays no man, tide nor time tarrieth no man," has evolved into the present day version: "The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present."
Emily Dickinson expresses this artfully in her poem "Yesterday is History."
Yesterday is History,
'tis so far away --
yesterday is Poetry,
'tis Philosophy --
Yesterday is Mystery --
Where it is today --
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away
We stand on the threshold of a new year. Today is God’s gift – his shoebox to us, his children.
As a fiction writer, I’ve already seen a Christian Writers’ Conference in Florida, USA during March waiting inside my 2010 shoebox. But I’m hoping the box also contains some time and knowledge. Time to complete the two writers’ courses I’ve purchased, and knowledge from those courses to improve my writing skills. Of course, a start on the road to publication would be a wonderful inclusion too.
As a fiction reader, I’m hoping God’s gift of this new year contains some personal relaxation time so that I can dive into all the unread Ted Dekker books that are patiently waiting on my bookshelf. And it would be really great if there’s a little space left inside my box for the shipment of more Eric Wilson and Brandilyn Collins books to South African shores.
Dear Fiction Writers and Fiction Readers, as you hold God’s shoebox in your hands, secretly lifting the lid to sneak a peek inside, what is it you’re hoping for? What are you trusting it will contain?
Matthew 7 v 11 says: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God longs to see our faces light up like little children as we unwrap each perfect gift from above.
MARION UECKERMANN only discovered her writing talents later in life. Her passion for penning poetry was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has recently authored her first full-length Christian Women’s novel, Prodigal, and is looking for a publisher. Ms. Ueckermann now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa. A member and moderator of the South African Christian Writers Group, Marion can be contacted via email to marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net or through her website www.inkslinger.co.cc