I’ve yet to go to South Africa- (It’s on my list.) but, I met Nelson Mandela in 1985/86. My Senior year of high school. Mr Phillips (My Cross Country coach and Political Science Teacher) gave us an assignment: This year you will find and follow an issue you care about, collect and read and report on it. I chose: Apartheid. And so in that classroom in Michigan, I met Mr Mandela. In articles, in speeches, in interviews…..my passion for equality didn’t end or begin with that assignment- but it was fueled by it.
I didn’t finish that assignment on graduation- I couldn’t. I followed Mr Mandela for the rest of his life- from incarceration to freedom. From condemnation to grace. His response to condemnation was to extend grace. His response on release from prison touched and amazed me.
Tonight, I’m filled with joy for what God did through Mr Mandela- and sadness for the world’s loss. Nelson Mandela was a hero in a world greatly in need of them and facing a great shortage of them.
So what happens when a hero dies? We cry. I am right now. We remember: The wisdom, the mercy the grace and the difference he exemplified. We grieve- and then- we carry on the legacy. Each in our own way.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
― Nelson Mandela
Lord- I am so thankful for hero the world had in Nelson Mandela- I pray that you’d grant the same mercy and grace to each of us- that you’d inspire us by his legacy- not just to remember- but to carry on. I pray peace and comfort for his family and loved ones….. and I pray that you raise up a generation of Mandela’s….. Men and women with courage to make a difference- In Jesus Name- amen.