Pilgrimage of Grace reflection: Nqobile Mdletshe
“Repentance and reconciliation are not once-offs. We need to be intentional about keeping reconciliation alive and keeping focus. God has made us bridge-builders,” says Nqobile Mdletshe as she reflects on her participation in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace, a three-day journey towards repentance, reconciliation, restoration and prayer in the Genadendal community, the Moravian Church and South Africa as a whole.
“It was a wonderful to see where we have been on our journey towards reconciliation and how we as a ministry and country are still continuing on this journey,” Nqobile says. This was especially evident in the history of the Moravian Church and their efforts to move past injustices against its people. At the Tutu Museum her eyes were opened to the painful journey of South Africa as a country, but even more so the fact that its people have been so intentional at working towards healing.
What stood out the most for Nqobile was when the pilgrims were at the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas on the third day of the Pilgrimage. “Everyone prayed with such a heart for healing of the country and the continent. As we were praying, I felt everyone take part in the healing process and experienced that our prayers having a ripple effect across the whole of Africa.”
“I was also inspired by Rev Riaan de Villiers of the Groote Kerk when he spoke about bringing about change and the importance of repentance regardless of whether it was me or my generation that were in the wrong.”
Nqobile was deeply touched by Rev Nelis Janse van Rensburg’s repentance on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Afrikaner community as a whole. “Knowing that he might face backlash, he still stood in the gap for those who needed to repent.”
What was most profound during the Pilgrimage was the importance of relationship, says Nqobile. “It started with building relationships with the pilgrims that came from different backgrounds all over South Africa and abroad. I loved praying together, forging friendships, connecting and having conversations of what we want the future to look like.”
One of these pilgrims was Mia du Preez, an Afrikaans-speaking wife and mother from Paarl. “We spent time walking and having conversations at in Harmonie’s gardens and it was just amazing to feel that we have so much in common, even though we are at such vastly different life stages and come from such diverse backgrounds.”
“Repentance and reconciliation are not once-offs. We need to be intentional about keeping reconciliation alive and keeping focus. God has made us bridge-builders,” Nqobile says.
Reconciliation is also close to the heart of God. “This is what Jesus came to do on earth – to restore our relationship with the Father, to get to know Him and to be one with Him. So too, we are called work towards healing relationships. It was never God’s heart for us to be separated from Him or from each other. Still, separation is something that’s so deeply engrained in our history in South Africa.”
According to Nqobile, the journey of healing starts with repentance, restitution and reconciliation – making things right. “For the longest time I, personally, wanted to see that things are made right. However, now I have a better understanding of how this is not just about apologising. It’s about inviting each other into our lives, sharing our stories, teaching one another about our traditions and values and learning from one another.”
Above all, the journey towards reconciliation is not possible without showing grace and love towards one another. “I truly believe that the Pilgrimage has brought us one step closer to bringing healing to our people and moving us forward as a country.”
BACKGROUND TO THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE
From 23 to 25 September 2022 a group of diverse individuals from South Africa and abroad participated in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace – a three-day journey towards repentance for past injustices in the Genadendal community, against the Moravian Church and in South Africa as a whole, along with reconciliation, restoration and prayer. The Pilgrimage formed part of prayer initiatives and actions from various groups across South Africa over the past few decades that centred on Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 20b – 22 (NIV): “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”
The Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace was organised by the South African Christian Leadership Initiative (SACLI Reconcile) and supported by Global Voice of Prayer, in Harmonie, the Moravian Church of South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and various other ministries, denominations and individuals. The three-day Pilgrimage included:
23 September: A service at the Dutch Reformed Church Groote Kerk in Cape Town
24 September: A public event at the Moravian Church in Genadendal with a focus on repentance
25 September: A prayer gathering at the Southernmost Tip of Africa (l’Agulhas) for healing of the African continent. This also kicked off a 54 days of Prayer for Africa movement.