Heroin Addicts, White Shoes, and the Gospel

My friend Tom and I, were walking with some friends to the Johannesburg Art Museum during our summer project last month.  Instead of going in, we stayed in the park where hundreds of South Africans and Zimbabweans were laying around on the grass.  We walked up to a guy who waved to us.  As we approached him, another man came to us and said, “I’m not even going to make up a story for you.  Give me your money.”

Now this was the first time that I’ve been in South Africa that I have been threatened to some degree.  I was a bit nervous.  A young kid started yelling to us, “Come over here.”  The man raised his voice.  He pointed to Tom’s shoes, “Your shoes are white.  Look at my dirty ones.  You have money.  Give it to me.”  It wasn’t hard to tell that this man was flying higher than a Boeing traveling over the Atlantic.  We took the kid’s advice and went over with him to talk with some others.  Later, we found out that the area we were hanging out in is a high-traffic heroin area.

Tom and I talked with heroin addicts about drugs, Jesus, and life in downtown Joburg for the next hour.  Talking with heroin addicts isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  There was a lot of drifting off and repetitious statements.  It was a circular conversation to say the least.

Thinking back on that interaction with the guy who wanted money, a Scripture comes to mind.  It’s Acts 3:6.  A beggar asks Peter for money.  Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

I don’t know what kind of outreach is happening in Hillbrow from the local churches (I don’ t live in Joburg).  But I pray that there are Christians who go there to say, “We don’t have anything to give you.  But what we do have will satisfy your deepest longings the way money and heroin can’t.  His name is Jesus and he has the power to forgive sin and heal your broken life.”


Comments (



  1. Tom Hagenberg

    Tom is so totally awesome!


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