Hospitality: Giving more than spare change

Meet Greg Jewell, our first guest poster in the hospitality series! My husband and I got to know Greg and Roxanne Jewell while we were in South Africa. Their South-African-American marriage and dramas with visas were things that connected us, along with their love for children. Greg has graciously agreed to share about the work he does with the children who live on the street in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. For those of you who are not from the area, these are children and teens who sleep on the streets, and are often begging for change at robots (traffic lights). Most of us either roll our eyes and roll up our windows when we get to the robot, or we guiltily give them some money. Greg and the YFC team, however, are giving something more: they’re making friends with these kids by making space in their lives and hearts for them. I love that Greg’s focus is on how true hospitality is not about us–what will make us feel better, what we are comfortable with–but about the other person.

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I work in the Khayalethu Project of Youth for Christ in KwaZulu-Natal. More specifically, I work on the Outreach Team. Our team focuses on helping youth who live on the streets. Many of the youth who choose this lifestyle do so because they enjoy having no authority figure over them. It’s not an easy lifestyle but they can do as they please with what little they have. Now how would you go about getting a child like this off the streets? It’s not an easy proposition at all.

Our main activity is simple: we get to know the kids. We go to where they are which is never a nice, clean place. We sit and chat with them. If we can, we play card games or soccer in an effort gain their trust. Essentially, we treat them like the human beings that they are.

When most people see the kids we work with, they see a random face that makes them feel guilty. Sometimes this guilt will cause them to give money or food but then the traffic light turns green and life moves on. The kid gets to eat or get high but there is no other change in behavior. Similarly, the person who gave gets to feel good about giving but doesn’t realize that they’ve enabled that child to continue living on the streets.

Salving one’s own personal guilt is not the way to help these children. They need so many things that they can’t get on the streets and one of the most important is a positive adult role model who cares for them. At YFC, we’re able to spend the time and effort to build relationships with these kids in the hopes that they will one day trust us enough to take our offer of help. After all, who would listen to a complete stranger who is offering advice? We want to come alongside these kids so that they will see that there’s a better way to live.

Just like all kids, these kids deserve a chance to make something of themselves. If you ask them, they would all tell you what they want to be when they grow up and none of them want to be homeless adults. We want to come alongside them and help them to see that they can do so much more than beg for spare change and society’s guilt.

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I’ve asked my guest posters to share practical things that people can do to show hospitality. This is the part where we stop scrolling, and start doing. 🙂  

If you live in Pietermaritzburg, rather than giving money to street children, would you consider supporting the work of YFC/KZN? You could also commit to making sandwiches for their outreach, or volunteering your time. Take a look at at their website (Click here) to see if these, any other opportunities  fit your abilities. However, as Greg says, “Christ has given us all the ability to pray and we greatly value your prayers”.


gregAbout Greg Jewell:  I was born and raised in Midwestern USA but I now live in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. A lot of people here think I’m an atypical American as I love soccer, hate coffee and use sunscreen religiously. I’m married to an amazing South African woman who loves Jesus and working with kids as much as, if not more than, I do. We’re undergoing the long and grueling process of adoption because we know that God has called us to this.

PS. If you liked this post, you might like this one on how we can help without hurting, or this one on caring for all kids, not just those in our immediate family.

The Real Customers

Here’s a really great, really short video about how good intentions are not enough when it comes to assisting those in need. The gap between the kind intentions of the US and the actual needs in Africa is very large. A lot of times someone in the West comes up with a GREAT idea that everyone in the majority world needs (cynically, let me say also without consulting anyone in the majority world), gets lots of rich people really excited about it, mass produces it and ships it over…. then wonders why these needy people aren’t so excited by it.

(One of ) the problem(s) in this little transaction is the donor is dictating what and how and when to give—they are the “real” customer– and the person receiving the goods has no say. I am not convinced that the alternative suggested in the video (matching grants) is the perfect answer, but at least it seems to be going in the right direction. I also  like the comparison of a Martian giving marriage advice. What do you think?

ps: the Chalmers center also has some other interesting videos on similar topics.

http://vimeo.com/25156429