This is what I posted to our people and the church family at Mountain View… Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to the Mandela Family and our Nation. God provided a remarkable man for a remarkable time in our history.
Today South Africa and the world mourn the lost of Nelson Mandela. In an extraordinary way close to 100 heads of state, including four US Presidents, are expected to be in South Africa to honour one of the world’s great peacemakers. This is obviously news that has touched people around the world, especially here in his homeland. As Nancy and I have moved about in our community, there really is a genuine sense of loss. Although Nelson Mandela had been ill for some time, his death has brought a sense of great sorrow to our country.
Having lived here for 13 years, I have many thoughts about Mandela as a leader. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, tells his unique life story. But what made Mandela who he was? What was it that people admired and were so attracted to? What is it that makes the former South African leader who spent 27 years in prison before becoming the country’s first black president in 1994 so famous?
The obvious answer is his leadership in the abolishment of the apartheid system that ended with the democratic elections in 1994; but there is more. As great and as needed as that was, there was something more that spoke to the masses. What made Mandela such a great leader was his compassion, humility, forgiveness and grace. A government statement recalled the former president’s own thoughts when asked how he wished to be remembered. “It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered,” Mr. Mandela said. “I’d leave that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, ‘Mandela’.”
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, said it so well, “Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 27 years of wrongful imprisonment – setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country.” FW de Klerk, who as South Africa’s last white president ordered Mr. Mandela’s release, called him a “unifier” and said he had “a remarkable lack of bitterness”.
That’s it. After all he had been through, when he came out of prison there was no retaliation, revenge or resentment. Instead he sough reconciliation. His gracious response to those who wronged him – that’s what marks his legacy for me. Even when he reached such a powerful position as South Africa’s president, he didn’t abuse his authority. As matter of fact, his determination to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup platform to bring about reconciliation amongst our people was brilliant. He led the transition from white-minority rule by using the white man’s sport of rugby and won the country over. The day he put on that South Africa rugby jersey in Johannesburg, tipped his hat to people, and South Africa won the world cup, it was incredible. If you have not seen the movie, Invictus, it is a history lesson for the ages. That day he won the hearts of the people forever, regardless of skin colour.
The national sentiment here? It’s like Nelson Mandela (or Madiba as he is called here) has made South Africans and Africans stand tall and feel good about being who they are. Many have wondered what life in South Africa will be like without Mandela. And even though this country continues to struggle in many ways, nearly 20 years after apartheid was abolished, I believe God sent a remarkable man for a remarkable time in our history and he has touched us all. The harvest is ripe and the opportunities are plentiful for those of us who do ministry here to speak about true reconciliation as we continually share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today, as the world recognises one of the most revered statesmen, I wish I knew more about his spiritual condition. Did he have faith in Christ for salvation? Surely, he heard the gospel. These days are a good reminder for all of us, that although we may believe that there is no place for politics in the church, there most certainly is a place for us to pray for those who lead us.
That’s what the Apostle Paul urged God’s people to do in 1 Tim. 2:1-4. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
May God find us faithful with His story of hope and reconciliation. As you listen to the news and read the stories, please pray along with us for all that God is doing in the great nation of South Africa.