Why South Africa is the way it is

Saturday and Sunday were full (12 hours between the two days) of training and preparation for South Africa.  Saturday was mostly preparation, and we got a lot done.  Sunday was training, and we had the Tessendorfs, the couple who founded the ministry we’ll be working with, Helping Hands in Africa, come speak to us.  We got a history lesson on South Africa, a few cultural lessons, and question and answer time with them.  It was fascinating and heartbreaking all at once. 

Some basics facts from the history of South Africa helped me to understand why the situation there is like it is, so I thought I’d share.  


  • South Africa’s population is around 47 million people.  Those people identify as part of one of four major races. 
  • 80% of the population is black.
  • 9% of the population is white.
  • 9% of the population is colored (an acceptable term for a designated ethnic group).
  • 2% of the population is Asian (often from India).


  • The economy of SA is very similar now to how it was under apartheid.  That means that the economy is set up to support the whites (10% of the population).
  • There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor.  A street can divide a village (mud huts with no running water, no electricity, dirt floor) from a modern street like in the US.
  • There are not enough jobs to go around.  Young girls often live with older men so they will have a place to live and food to eat.


  • Descendants of Dutch and French settlers (Afrikaners) believed that the Old Testament promises and instructions to the Israelites were addressed to them.  They considered SA to be the land that God had promised to them. 
  • The racial divide in SA was absolute under apartheid.  Black Africans had separate areas in which they had to live (unless they were domestic servants living in the home of their masters), and they had to be back to those areas by 10pm each night. 
  • Black Africans could not legally hold a job of manager or higher.  They could work as laborers under a white person.
  • Many whites were unaware of how blacks lived.  There was no free press, and they were not allowed into the areas designated for blacks.  (Mike Tessendorf would sneak into black areas to minster to people, but his wife could not tell people where he was for his safety.)
  • Anyone thought to be supporting blacks or the resistence could be arrested and jailed for 90 days without cause or trial.

That’s enough for right now…more to come on why this has set SA up for the AIDS problem it currently has. 

In more pleasant news, I am feeling much better, and I can talk now (thank You, Jesus!).