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‘Are we making a difference?’


Elliott and Katherine Stotler have served with The Mission Society in South Africa since 2010. They develop educational, economic, and spiritual empowerment ministries in one of the more impoverished areas of South Africa—the Eastern Cape.

Here, Elliott wrestles with staying focused on ministry amid uncontrollable circumstances, and the lesson God taught him.

We are often frustrated by South Africa's continuing struggles with increasing corruption, income inequality, as well as the state of ethnic and racial reconciliation. When we return from the US and re-engage in ministry, the reality of the systemic issues weigh on us. We often wonder, Are we making a difference when it seems like everything around us is collapsing? We find ourselves frustrated over issues that we really can't control.

On Ash Wednesday, we attended a service at our local church. The pastor suggested that, while many people fast from a food or something else we desire, we should consider fasting from anything that diminishes our relationship with God. We decided that we would fast from allowing South Africa's broad systemic problems to frustrate and distract us from obedience to the small 'grassroots' role that God asks us to play here.

A few days later, we were leading a small business program and noticed that the church's theme for the year was based on the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk cries out to God, desperate to understand why the wicked continue to prosper at the expense of others. God's answer was that it may seem that the wicked triumph, but eventually they will receive God's judgement, and righteousness will ultimately prevail. Justice may not happen quickly, but it will happen in God's time.

In that teaching we found our answer: stay focused on God's calling on our lives here in South Africa, and leave the rest to Him. We can find clarity and the motivation to remain obedient simply by acknowledging His sovereignty over all things.