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Why Is This Street Lined with Men Sitting on Rocks?

April 24, 2017

Marlene is a Missionary to South Africa. She and her husband are working in a Bible School. For more info on the Spains, click here.


Rustenburg, South Africa, is where I currently hang my purse. You may not have heard of it; I hadn’t either until a couple of years ago when the Lord made it clear He was directing our path this way. Rustenburg is a small blip on the South African map about two hours northwest of Johannesburg, with a population of about 383,000. This small city, one of the fastest-growing cities in South Africa, has impacted the world! Yup, Rustenburg, South Africa—a place most people have never heard of.

South Africa, specifically the Rustenburg area, is the world’s largest producer of platinum (80 percent)! Platinum is the most valuable of precious metals. It’s estimated that one-fifth of everything we use either contains platinum or requires it in its manufacture. Among all the modern uses of platinum, most annual production is consumed within two categories: catalytic converters and fine jewelry. So chances are Rustenburg platinum has touched your life if you’ve ever owned a car or nice jewelry.

Our landscape is dotted with the mining industry. Not only do we see huge mining structures, complexes, and mini cities, but we also see the shantytowns that house the thousands and thousands and thousands of migrant workers who have moved to this area from Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and other places to find work in the mines. And because there’s such a large population of migrant workers from very rural Africa, the urban and rural worlds are colliding. Men leave their rural villages to find work, then send money home to support their families. They are the breadwinners, and it’s important they maintain a paycheck.


However, platinum prices have been falling in the past few years. This has tremendously impacted the labor force, resulting in thousands losing their jobs. The platinum mines have supported this community of Rustenburg from top to bottom. Now these migrant workers are coming into town hoping to find any employment. They arrive early to town each morning and line the streets, sitting on rocks or other makeshift seats, hoping someone will stop and hire them for manual labor for the day.


My heart is burdened for these men. I see more and more every day. I wonder how the church of South Africa can effectively reach the nations that have showed up on our doorstep. They may be migrant here on earth, but they need a home in heaven!

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