South Africa: A lesson in perspective from a homeless man

Young men from other parts of Africa travel to South Africa in hopes of job opportunities they find out do not exist. (IMB Photo)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

I met Victor my first visit with the homeless ministry here in South Africa and have continued conversation with him week by week. He is one of the brightest men I’ve ever met and has a huge heart. Plus, he has the greatest perspective on life looking at his “troubled situation” through Christ-like lenses.

leah allenLeah AllenA native of Zimbabwe, Victor came to Johannesburg in 2008. Most refugees travel to the city looking for work, but not so for this medical school graduate. That’s right, a doctor with 13 years of schooling forced to live on the streets.

Victor was kicked out of Zimbabwe for writing a letter stating his opinions about the government.

“They considered it treason, which is a death sentence there,” he said. “So, I can never go back.”

When Victor stepped off the train in Johannesburg six years ago, he was held at gunpoint on both sides of his head. They took his laptop, cell phone and money.

Exposed lack of care

Fortunately, in a short time, he landed a job at a medical facility. He was quickly exposed to the lack of care the workers had for the patients.

“The employees always wanted tea-time, when there were many people suffering in the waiting room,” Victor said. “I can’t stand to see people suffer like that.”

He couldn’t take the lack of compassion any more and quit the job. After a couple of more opportunities fell through, Victor found himself with no money and learning to survive on the streets.

“I had never known failure before,” he explained. “But I’m glad I’m here to learn a new perspective on life.”

Those aren’t the words you expect to hear from someone who is homeless.

Eyes opened

Victor said his eyes have been opened to the suffering that happens on the streets. With a heart as big as his, he cannot help but care for the people he comes across on a daily basis.

He told a story of how some people passing by stole the few belongings his fellow homeless friend had. Victor said a few words of discipline to the perpetrators and got the belongings back. He thanks God for opportunities like that to help someone who is suffering on the streets.

Despite his new, positive perspective, Victor still blames himself for his present circumstances.

“My biggest problem is that I can’t keep quiet,” he explained. “When I see a problem, I have to do something about it.”

Victor defies stereotypes. He is not homeless because of alcoholism, an unsupportive family or poor decisions. He’s out on the streets because his heart is just too big for this selfish world.

Leah Allen, a former communications intern at the Baptist Standard and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is serving as a semester missionary in Africa with Go Now Missions.

More from the Baptist Standard

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

Care to comment? Send an email to our interim opinion editor, Blake Atwood. Maximum length for publication is 250 words.