When I was in high school, my parents were considering emigrating to Australia. They filled in all the forms, took us for medical check-ups and blood tests, but in the end we didn’t go. I can’t remember why not, only that I was glad. I had protested every step of the process, even insisting that I would stay here if they left.
Everyone has an opinion on whether to stay in South Africa or emigrate to greener pastures. A commenter on a blog post I read recently said something like, “You [the writer] only want to stay because you can’t afford to leave. No one really wants to stay.”
Naturally, there was heated debate back and forth, and I stopped reading before I reached the end of the comments. While I agree that some people stay purely because they cannot afford to emigrate, I believe there are a lot of people who choose to stay because they want to be here.
Of course, my husband and I have concerns about raising our family here. South Africa has a shocking rate of murders, hijacking and rape, and we can’t ignore that. Yet, we don’t feel that there’s no hope for this country. Certainly we don’t think we can escape tragedy by moving elsewhere.
I have lived and worked in another country. I loved it there, but returning to South Africa was coming home. I love being South African, I love that in spite of all the nonsense South Africans still have a sense of humour and hope for our country.
Our government may be a circus, and our education system may be in shambles, but the past was not all sunshine and roses. I am free to marry across the colour line, something which used to be against the law. I am free to follow Jesus, something which could get me killed in other parts of the world. I am free to homeschool my children here.
I know my children won’t have the same kind of childhood I did. I remember riding my bike around the neighbourhood, streets which are now enclosed. I remember playing with the other children in our street until it got dark. There is no way I will let my children roam the streets or ride their bikes by themselves. But I don’t think that’s any different in other countries. Crime can – and does – happen anywhere.
Sometimes, I am afraid. Just last night there was a hijacking a few blocks away from where we live. When I pull into our driveway I always look around before opening the gate. I make sure I have a good grip on my bag when I go shopping. I always try to be alert and cautious. But I can’t let myself be consumed by fear.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
We love our country, and our hearts break for our country every time there are news stories of corruption, or incompetence, or crime, but we firmly believe that we are here now because God has placed us here. In our church, in our workplaces, in our extended families, and in our friendship circles, we are here because God is using us for his kingdom in ways that we may not be able to see. If we ever move to another country, it will be because God has called us there.
But right here, right now, South Africa is where we are and where we want to be. I don’t believe that God has abandoned South Africa. We should be praying for our country and its leaders instead of always complaining and spreading negativity.
I am tired of hearing people, particularly ex-pats, badmouthing our country. I’m not judging anyone’s choice to leave, because I believe you are doing what you feel is best for your family. So, please, won’t you stop judging my choice to stay?
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5)
What are your thoughts?