The twists of travel have put me in South Africa on July 18, Nelson Mandela’s 93rd Birthday, a day that is celebrated by service to neighbors in South Africa.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to tour the Apartheid Museum with some of the Lutherans who lived through the struggles.  The Christian community’s effort around the world to stand up for justice in South Africa is an important part of the story of freedom, democracy and reconciliation.

The Church in South Africa on its own might have been more easily dismissed had not other churches joined them in solidarity.  Conversely, we in the churches around the world could never have created the condition for change from our position outside.  It reminds me much more why we need to walk together in our witness—locally, regionally, and as the book of Acts says, “to the ends of the world.”

A few months ago Nelson Mandela was quite close to death.  Today his birthday is celebrated.  All over South Africa people are committing to provide 67 minutes of service to their neighbors. That is one minute for each year of Mandela’s leadership to the country (some on the streets, some in prison, some as head of state).  Certainly such service is not the final pathway to some of the struggles for justice that to this day continue, but it is a start and a great way to celebrate a man of inspiration.

Wars continue to rage, drought spreads, poverty stays around, and the church continues to strive in its service and witness.  We are stronger and truer because we have one another.  Thank you for being present in so many places and ways through the ELCA, our companions and missionaries, and with ELCA World Hunger.

Dan Rift, Director of ELCA World Hunger