Hello, Heritage. Goodbye, War.



“Go stand in the most divided places.”

I scribbled the words in my journal when I heard them many many months ago. Black pen on the blank pages. No lines.

Even in this simplest expressive act, I am drawn to a free page. No lines.

I am drawn to Freedom, whether it’s a long walk, a free write or a short prayer.

My story is finally making me bold. I want more Freedom everywhere.

What it really means is that I’m compelled to go stand in the places where Freedom is hardly yet a breath. Where the bones are dry and the future seems impossible and hopeless.

I am called to stand there … and some days, just simply to breathe. To let the breath of God flow through me and remember this very act, like Ezekiel, can breathe life into dry bones. But unlike Ezekiel, I stand there as a woman with a checkered past and mostly I am on my knees before my Lord, my words poured out before his feet …

I come as the woman who has been forgiven much and now I can’t help but be a witness.

Heritage is our month of remembering. This month, we will be the witnesses to the stories we come from and the stories God is writing through us.

We will take a stand in our stories and watch God move through the most unlikely threads. Like when Jacobine1, a Dutch SheLovely who has taken the lead in rallying her friends to do their #onewordcheckin as #woordvandedag on Twitter, sent me the link of an online church (mijnkerk) who had written a short piece on #woordvandedag. As I clicked on the site, I notice the church is based in Utrecht. And on Saturday afternoon, this theme of Heritage thick on my brain, I message her: Did you know my ancestors were from Utrecht?

Later that afternoon I sit with Ma and Pa around that Indian table cloth bought in Vienna and we talk about our family stories. I hear from Pa about the three brothers who came from Papendorp in Utrecht and settled on the southernmost tip of Africa in the 1600s. And how, generations later, it came to be that I was born Idelette van Papendorp in the town of Paarl, South Africa.

But truly, my birth certificate will tell you that I am actually Ida Gertruida van Papendorp. I am from four generations of women with these names.

I am Ida Gertruida,
daughter of Ida Gertruida Redelinghuys,
daughter of Ida Gertruida Visser,
daughter of Ida Gertruida Visser.

Heritage_Idelette800And I don’t quite know what it all means.

There is much story in these family photos, just like there is in yours.

All I know, is that I’m drawn to the walls.

So, when the team wanted me to lead us out into Heritage month, I prayed about what to write.

And I remembered those words written into my journal:

“Go and stand in the most divided places.”

As a young girl, I had a Berlin Bear, the symbol of Berlin, on my white bedroom wall–a tourist memento my dad had brought back from his studies at the Goethe Institut. The Berlin wall then just seemed like an inevitable and impenetrable part, cemented into our world’s future.

And then the wall came down.

So, when I got to visit that city once on a very short four-day trip, the only thing I knew I needed to visit, was Checkpoint Charlie. I wanted to stand and see with my own eyes one of the places where the Berlin Wall had come down.

I even bought a small piece of authenticated Berlin Wall to bring home–a handful of gray cement with a bit of red painted graffiti. This little piece of cement reminds me that barriers can fall even in the most divided places.

Change can come. Peace can come.

As one who was born into the side of the oppressors, I know: God hears the cries of the oppressed.

I also know that my story and the story of oppression is so completely interwoven that I can’t turn my face away. Some days I may want to live a more care-less life and just get on with summer and focus on berry-picking or something with my children, but inevitably it catches up with me … that story I was born into and how I am a witness now.

You see, I’ve touched the iron bars of Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island.

I’ve touched the remains of a German wall.

I’ve even walked through the gas chambers at Dachau.

That makes me a witness.

Now I have just enough audacity to believe that systems can topple, walls can come down and lions will lie down with lambs.

I have just enough audacity to believe that when God says if we humble ourselves and pray, God will hear our prayers and things will change.

 … if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)



So, when you ask me about my heritage–what I have inherited from my past–I can tell you about the memory of injustice lifting like a veil, I can tell you of the years I carried the shame of being an Afrikaner and carrying this story in my blood. But what I want to tell you, is that I now bear witness to the fact that walls come down and impenetrable systems crumble.

I bear witness to this God who hears the cry of the oppressed.

I bear witness to the work and heart of a Beautiful God who carries our shame and, as we hand it over, exchanges it for glory.

It’s in this place–where the earth has rumbled and rocked underneath my feet–where I have taken off my high heels of knowing-every-right-answer to just come humbly … lowly … before my God who hears the cries of the hurting.

It’s in this place that I still get to stand and invite you to pray with us–a throng of barefoot, audacious pray-ers–believing we are joining our cries with the cries of the oppressed and God will hear our prayers.

Today we are launching 25 days of prayer for Syria. So, dear SheLovelys, please come pray with us. We will send out daily prayer emails (Monday through Saturday), written by our SheLoves contributors, on behalf of the people of Syria. There is very little that qualifies us to write these prayers, except willing and humble hearts and an audacity to go and stand in this most divided place.

Today’s prayer was written by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, a First Nations woman. She writes:

Transformer Jesus, make my heart break to be more like you,
make my eyes see others as you would,
make my feet walk softly on the earth,
make me a wind of change in my lifetime.
Make me a channel of your peace.

You can read Melaney’s full prayer for Syria today by signing up for the daily prayers. ( I will send it out by PST 12pm today. After today, it will go out by PST 4am every day.)

We are not helpless or powerless bystanders.

Come pray with us.

Peace can come.


SYNCHROBLOG: On Tuesday, Sept. 24, we will host a synchroblog entitled “I am From” in conjunction with Heritage month in South Africa. Lauren, one of our South African readers suggested we do something special for Heritage month, so we thought, Why not? At Amahoro Africa this year, eClaire and I hosted a Writer’s Track over three days and this was one of the exercises we did with the group. We will share our “I am from” pieces and invite you to come link up with us on that day.

On the 24th, I will tell you more about the girl in the mustard yellow dress with the white socks and Bata Toughees. (Yep, that photo was from my first day in Grade 1.) I may tell you about the language that started in my school and how my mom was christened in a black dress. I may tell you about  frikkadel on Saturday afternoons and pannekoek with cinnamon sugar on the first rainy day of winter in Paarl.

We hope you will dig into your own memories with us and come link up. You can write your own “I am From” piece–yes, go wild–or you can come see our template on the 24th and follow the easy guidelines. You may also email us your submissions, if you don’t have a blog. We’ll feature one of the link-ups or submissions on SheLoves.

Thank you for reading and praying with us this month.

With Love,