Mark Fairweather Tall
Reflecting on the life of Nelson Mandela
In August 2008, a team from Norwich Central Baptist Church went to South Africa on a mission trip. We were based at a church in Soweto for two weeks. During that time we had the privilege of being able to attend a concert to celebrate the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela.
The highlight was to be his appearance. Entertained by music and dance for some hours, excitement mounted in the crowd as the time approached for him to come on stage. The love, admiration and pride in him amongst South Africans was clear in any conversation in which his name was mentioned. Here was a man who had guided them through to an era of peace and stability as the country dispensed with the evil of apartheid in favour of multi-racial democracy. His message of forgiveness and reconciliation; the demonstration of grace through the absence of bitterness to his treatment; his stubborn determination to do what he could to oppose that which was unjust, is to be admired. In fact there was much in Nelson Mandela’s life after his release from prison that embodied important gospel themes.
He has left South Africa and, indeed, the world a better place because of his example. He will deservedly go down in history as one of the greats. That is why I feel so privileged to have been there to clap and cheer with others as he was supported on either side to slowly and carefully walk across the platform to his seat. Whilst his health was already fading his legacy will last for many years to come.