By Rev. Toya Richards, Global Servant
Since being endorsed in 2021 as a Global Servant with International Ministries (IM), I have often been asked why I’m going all the way to South Africa to serve when there is so much work to be done right here in the United States. It’s a valid question that calls for an answer.
My response: Ubuntu!
It’s a word that has its origins in several of the Bantu languages of Southern Africa, including Zulu and Xhosa. Loosely translated it means “I am because you are,” or “I am because we are.”
Ubuntu is about our common humanity, and emphasizes the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of humankind. The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Ubuntu means, “A person is a person through other persons.”
When I said “yes” to God’s call to full-time global mission service, I did so with the understanding that I was to serve with and on behalf of my neighbors all over the world. I have a responsibility to them, just like I do to my “kin” around the corner. And, in fact, there’s no way I can successfully live an individual, local life and calling without ensuring the collective, global “we” is lifted up too.
I am because you are. I am because we are. Ubuntu!
What happens in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one of America’s epicenters for racialized trauma and where I most recently lived, is directly connected to what happens in Cape Town, South Africa, where vestiges of apartheid are still quite visible and additional harms like xenophobia run rampant. Nothing in these two places is isolated, and my charge as a Christian is to help facilitate healing, recognizing that when one gets better, we all get better.
Each of us is called to do that healing, restorative work in spaces assigned by God, and my post is in South Africa, and more specifically at Cape Town Baptist Seminary (CTBS). There, in tandem with faculty and staff, I’ll be teaching church and ministry leaders with limited formal training who are doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God in communities hungering for hope.
To put it in perspective, Africa is presently home to roughly 685 million Christians, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Yet only 1 percent of all African churches have trained pastors, said Rev. Dr. Godfrey Harold, CTBS’s principal and chief executive officer. Pastors and lay leaders in South Africa and throughout the continent need to be fully equipped so they, in turn, can effectively reach those in the communities they serve. These ministry leaders also need to be empowered agents of change and transformation who usher in justice, equity and reconciliation for all of humanity.
When students at Cape Town Baptist Seminary thrive, we all thrive – from the Bridgetown community where CTBS is located, to the very bench you inhabit within your own church house. Ubuntu is the through line that connects us from heart to heart and breast to breast, and it is why I am eager to go to The Mother City (Cape Town) to be of maximum service.
I pray you will be inspired to join me on this journey, and that you will see how the place you’ve been called to serve intersects with your kindred in Cape Town. You can join my Mission Partnership Network with a donation of any amount, and I would specifically ask you to consider a reoccurring gift that will help me maintain financial stability during my four-year assignment.
I also covet your prayers for the ministry I’ll be engaged in, and particularly for the students, faculty and staff at CTBS. My sincere thanks in advance for your partnership, and I pray God’s immense blessings as we move forward in the Holy One’s will.