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Vanessa and family admiring a majestic elephant
Pictured - Vanessa and family admiring a majestic elephant

Pursuing Peace in the Midst of Struggle

By Vanessa Griffiths, Fundraising Support Manager (Church Enterprise Development). 

Being African-born has come with its blessings and its heartache.  I grew up in Zimbabwe, and the early part of my life was dominated by war.  My world was embedded with racism and inequality, but I wouldn’t understand the true extent of that until I was much older.  I had an amazingly privileged childhood going ‘bush’ nearly every holiday to see the wonders of the African game, but I always felt what I called the ‘African guilt’ where I had much, and most people had little.

As Zimbabweans, we watched the struggles in South Africa and saw the hatred and conflict during apartheid.  As a teen, I wondered how we could ever resolve racism.  My first week at university in South Africa was the week that Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island after serving 27 years.  The streets of Cape Town were filled with people overjoyed by his release.  Mandela could have come out of prison with bitterness and hatred for those that oppressed him, but he came out with a spirit of forgiveness and love.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” Nelson Mandela told us. Mandela pursued peace and changed the very nature of the struggle. He claimed a victory that was beyond political conflict and freedom that was freedom of the spirit.

I feel like I am on a long walk to freedom like Mandela. My journey has certainly come with many sacrifices, but I have embraced Australia and all it offers.  My understanding of people has deepened, and I have learnt that life is not black and white but many shades of grey. I have learnt that God is my anchor; without him, I would be cast adrift.  I have learnt to trust in God to guide my footsteps so I can embrace this next chapter in my life, walking side by side with congregations to support them in their amazing work. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Blessings, Vanessa. 


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