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March 4-11, 2009 – Botshabelo, Africa… a place of refuge

Contributed by Angie Larson
Clive, IA

Warm-up Question: What would you do if you were to do something different with your life?

In 1990 the Cloete family decided to dramatically change their lives. Marion and Con were successful business professionals in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. They owned a five bedroom home, swimming pool, and had many wealthy friends. After intense fighting in their country, many black children were left as orphans. Marion and Con decided to open their home to 30 children left without parents, much to the dismay of their affluent neighbors during apartheid in South Africa. They helped the children get to and from three schools until their home became a school where Marion served as the teacher.

The Cloetes were bombarded with requests for help from single mothers and other orphans as word spread of their kindness. They found themselves in personal conflict between their sense of moral responsibility and their disapproving neighbors.

In December, the Cloete family, Marion, Con, and their three daughters, Leigh, Nicole, and Shanna, decided to walk away from their affluent life and opened a community called Botshabelo, which translated means ‘place of refuge.’ They spent their life savings to buy a hundred acre farm to build a place for orphans to live and receive education. It is now home to over 1,000 people who have sought refuge and education in Botshabelo.

A documentary named, “Angels in the Dust,” was made about the Cloete family in 2007. “We face challenges, not problems, we are the custodians of this planet,” says Con Cloete. They had what many dream of having in their life in Johannesburg, but have found so much more in the care of children without parents.

Discussion Questions

  • What is your initial reaction to the Cloete’s change in lifestyle?
  • Do you think this kind of thing could happen in America? Why or why not?
  • If you were going to give up your life for another group of people, who would you make the sacrifice for? Who do you feel particularly concerned for?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 8, 2009.
(Text links are to
oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In the gospel, Jesus tells of his own upcoming betrayal and death. Then he asks us a profound question, “for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” We work so hard to gain the whole world. We strive to be competitive, bump up our credentials and resumes; we work to get better clothes, better electronics, better jobs, more affluence. And for what? What do we gain? We are bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages a day telling us that we need more of ‘the world’ — more stuff and prestige. The Cloete family was pressured by their neighbors not to reach out to those in need because of “how it looked.”

Jesus asks us a hard question. He wants us to look at what we are striving after; what are we are trying to gain. Are we trying to gain popularity, wealth, approval, or power? He reminds us that he has a better way. It is better for us to lose our life that we have planned out and to trust him in a radical and awesome way that suggests a very different kind of life.

Jesus can do great things with our lives if we let him take control. Try to look for Godly things, not human things, and let go of what’s preventing us from listening to Jesus in our lives. Let go of what keeps us from listening to people in need and responding with the love that God has demonstrated with us through Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  • What human thing, emotion, or quality are you seeking after? What do you secretly desire or envy?
  • How hard is it for you to “give it to God”; to trust God and follow? Does it depend on the situation? How?
  • What can you do to proclaim Christ’s message to help the marginalized and needy in your community? In the world?

Activity Suggestion

  • Play the Toby Mac song “Lose My Soul” and print off lyrics for youth. Discuss the songs lyrics and how they are taken from the gospel text.
  • Learn more about Botshabelo on their Web site,
  • Watch the documentary “Angels in the Dust” about the Cloete’s life-changing project.
  • Talk about the possibilities for during a year of service sometime after high school. Check out some of the ELCA volunteer opportunities for young adults.

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, help us to identify the ways in which we are seeking the world’s ways and not yours. Guide us in the ways you would want us to live our lives. Aid us in helping others in our world according to your loving and just will. Thank you for giving us the opportunities to serve and witness for you while on this earth. In your name we pray. Amen.