After flying 18 hours to South Africa, we went to an archetypical African worship service. It was great – the atmospherics were perfect. We crossed a narrow footbridge over a reed-covered stream to the church. The rhythms of church wafted out to us long before the building itself was in view. Inside, the small congregation was already in high gear, singing, worshiping and dancing for all they were worth. We sat in the back and tried to blend in, but of course, were too white, too stiff, and too jet-lagged.
After the service we talked to Jaco Schallwik and listened to him tell the story of Michael. His father had died of AIDS and his mother was dying of AIDS. Just a year-old, he slept in a cardboard box, was malnourished and bone-thin, and lay all day in his own excrement. Jaco was a corporate executive at the time. His friend had challenged Jaco to help him feed the poor. When Jaco saw Michael’s family, he couldn’t believe that people lived like that. Normally cool and unmoved by the plight of others, Jaco felt Michael’s situation strangely grip his heart.
When Michael’s mom died, Michael was taken to the hospital. Jaco tracked him down. When he went to see Michael, God spoke and said, “This is your son.”
“I knew I had no choice in the matter,” Jaco said. Within weeks, he had completed the necessary paperwork and brought him home.
Together, Jaco and Michael offend just about everyone. Jaco’s white friends don’t understand why he’d adopt a slum-dwelling black boy. And Michael, who doesn’t understand race issues and loves everyone, doles out hugs indiscriminately, breaking down barriers that Jaco never appreciated before Michael came into his life.
Through Michael, God showed Jaco that he was living for the wrong things. He began to help an orphan ministry called Refilwe. He saw how poorly administered it was and God told him, “This is why I gifted you with management skills – to help others like Michael.”
After some soul-searching, he quit his job in business to become Refilwe’s director. Hundreds of orphans have a family as a result. Watching Michael hang onto Jaco’s neck, it seemed to be the most natural thing in the world.