During a 24 hour prayer watch in the early hours of December 17th, somewhere around 3:00 AM in the morning, while standing on the back deck of our team house here in Cape Town, one of the young people working with us saw flames shooting high up into the sky a couple kilometers away in a community called Masiphumelele. 'Masi' is one of the communities where we serve the poor.
The young lady who spotted the fire quickly woke up others on the outreach and they began to pray for God to stop the fire. Within minutes it began to rain and the fire was quenched.
But the damage was already done to people's small shack homes. The fire burned 160 homes and left 600 people homeless. Within two hours the young people participating in "Ten Days for Jesus," a Christmas outreach during December, were on the site of the fire. But the rains were hindering the help they brought to the people forced out of their homes. So the team prayed again. This time they prayed for God to stop the rains. Once again, God extended his hand and the rain stopped. Rescue operations got under way.
It was a long weekend of removing rubble from the home sites, distributing blankets, food and materials to begin rebuilding, and working besides the people to reconstruct their tiny shack homes.
And it showed 30 young people on the outreach that God answers prayer.
It was a tragedy that the fire happened in the first place. Sadly, fires in the townships are common on Friday and Saturday nights. Mostly they are caused when someone is drunk and accidentally turns over a kerosene cooking stove.
We are committed to long term solutions to the housing problems of the poor here in Cape Town. We can't do much to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people, but we can help one family at a time, one life at a time.
And we can serve besides people in their times of tragedy. Listening, getting involved, serving where needed, and praying expresses the love of Jesus. We understand in times like the fire what Jesus felt when it says of him,
"Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowds because their problems were so great - they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36