Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Compliments of the RaiN

Just when I was about to plug in my headphones and start tip-typing some news from the last two weeks, the sky turns a hazey red-grey, the thunder rolls in and I hear the plops of rain hit the sidewalk. Lightning is close enough I could grab it if I just stuck my hand out the open window. Rainy season is on it's way. Normally during the rainy season, there is a thick rain between 4:30 and 6 in the evening; just in time to wash off busy days of all the workers walking home. I've been caught in it just a few times and it's not so much the thump of raindrops that I worry about...remember where I was raised...but the branches that fall from the jacarandas. Those are fun to dodge!

Thanks though to the spring showers, all the flowers are out in the parks, grass is green and the city feels fresher. People's umbrellas are put to good use blocking both the rain and sun.

So, it's been awhile...and it's been a fairly "normal" few weeks here in Central. Siri and I finally got to go see our friend Ngwako perform with his band. He is such a talented Marimba player (and is quite smitten with Siri). The concert was in a township called Mabopane at a bar called, "The Taliban." When we asked the owner how he came up with that name for his club, he told us that he and his friends had been watching the news after September 11th and thought that the area looked a lot like the places in the Middle East where the Taliban were hiding, so they decided to name it "Taliban." Maybe our expressions of surprise inspired him to follow it up with... "it's more of a nickname though." Sure, your bar's nickname is printed on the billboard and sign? Hilarious. The music was incredible and watching these guys perform then talking with them a little bit about what jazz music means to them and to South Africa as a whole has challenged me to listen differently. I've never been against jazz but maybe I've just never heard it the same way. It tells such deep and powerful stories but allows the authors to enjoy the telling, dance in the pain of tragedy or walk again through the love stories of their lives. Miriam Makeba was the first African performer to really make it abroad, she is now known as Mama Afrika. Her success made room for a musician named Phela, then Hugh Masekhela to really be heard all over the world. Music was born here.

Before the concert we were in the restaurant watching a soccer game between two of local teams, the Cheifs who are from Soweto and the Sundowners, from Mamelodi. The local teams are really popular and there's a hectic rivalry between the Chiefs and the Pirates, both from Soweto (a well-known township in Jo'Burg). You are either a Chiefs fan or a Pirate....I'm still deciding...

Last week also, I visited the NieuCommunities program in Pretoria North. They are an American organization run through CRM (Christian Resource Ministries) that offer 'apprenticeships,' for young adults who are still trying to figure out where God is leading them in their lives. They have beautiful property and a large house where the apprentices live and work out of. It was great to meet a few other Americans (strange to hear the accent...mostly west coast...YEAH!) And talk with them about their experiences here in S.A and the process of adjusting. It also was a challenge to see what life in the suburbs might be like and the contrast it is to living in the inner-city. After some arguments in my mind I came to the realization and acceptance that I really am happy to be living down town. With all of the challenges it brings, it is so worth it to be able to walk around the streets and really enter into this new world. To have my assumptions and realities confronted (more later about that). I am thankful that while walking through Burgers Park in the afternoon I can run into a friend or two and sit and chill and have some great talks. Obviously it would be easier to leave the city and go back to a "home" to process with other people that come from a similar background as I do. But God is doing some serious work on my heart and mind through living in this community and having to adjust to it's rules and realities.

Life at the Lerato House. Things are getting better at the house. Maren, Carlotta and I have had to work through some very frustrating and discouraging situations in planning the holiday program, working with the South African child/youth care students, and building relationships with the girls staying there. Last week though, things started looking up. We are celebrating the small steps! During the meeting on Monday, people actually made efforts to understand and be understood. People were busy with individual tasks during the day, and some really fun things actually happened. The girls went swimming on Tuesday then had a beauty day in the afternoon where they all gave each other manicures and talked about being precious in God's sight as his daughters. Three of the older girls are preparing now for the Matric exams (highschool finals) and will be getting ready to graduate in December! We are praying that they'll take time to study and do the work they need to do to finish strong.

Last week also, I had a really good conversation with my supervisor (whom I had only talked with once or twice before) about what the expectations were for me there as an 'outreach volunteer' and what the vision really was for the outreach team. I was getting so frustrated with not knowing really what the goal of our outreaches were or why they seemed so flaky half the time. She was happy to give me the info that I was asking for...and I got excited for what's in store. There is one thing that I'm learning about this place...if you ask a question...you'll get the most basic answer...if you want more information you have to ask specifically for it. Assumptions about how information is shared are very different in the US than in South Africa. After the conversation we decided that we could start brining a first aid kit to the 'bad buildings' and Marabastad for the women who have open wounds that are infected and not healing well. Also, I learned that there is another drop-in center in Kallenin, a township in the East, that TLF works with and that I can start going there too. Also, at the beginning of the year, the outreach team goes into the schools and does presentations on AIDS/HIV, human trafficking, and other issues that are affecting teens in this city. The picture of outreach got a lot bigger and longer term...which is exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully from here out, realizing what we're working towards will help me stay focused when the daily things don't happen the way I think they should. God is always so much bigger than we recognize and I am thankful that He is opening my eyes to where and how He is active in people's lives and in this city.

As we've been learning what it looks like to live and share Good News in the city, there's a concept that I've been so challenged by. It's a seemingly obvious one that we all claim to do...Be PreSenT.
There's a book I've been reading that describes "being present" in these three ways:

"To become present is to become present first of all for God- to open ourselves to be surprised by the fact that God is already present in the very places where we arrived thinking that we would be the saviors; to open ourselves to the work that the Spirit has already done. There are communities that we write off as if God is not there. But to become present is to find signs of God's presence where we sometimes least expect it.

To become present is to make ourselves vulnerable, being present for ourselves, being open to face our own prejudice, feelings of discomfort, barriers or walls that we still need to transcend.
To become present is to place ourselves where Jesus was, in the shoes of others, in some of the most vulnerable places of the city." -The Gospel, children, and the city.

There is so much to learn about what this really looks like day to day and I am happy to be studying with the best Teacher in the world.

There are some great kids here who have been cracking me up! There's Togoso, my coworker Xolani's son. He's just over one year old and is a little dragon. His name means joy but every time I've walked into their house...he greets me with a growl and a stomp down the hallway. He's the cutest dragon ever! Vusi is a little boy who lives next to TLF and who's family is friends with some people who are working with the organization. Vusi will come over to Museums Park just to visit. He's quick to ask questions but quicker tell you how things really are. I'm so glad there are kids around play with and learn from.

If you're praying:

Petunia-a woman we met during our outreach. She has been asking a lot of questions about starting her own candy-selling business in order to get off the streets, and is wondering about other places to stay. She is the woman who inspired the first aid kits being brought down and has shown interest in really taking care of her wounds. Thank God for this new friendship and pray that she can have the courage to take steps into a new life.

All the people affected by HIV/AIDS, rape, and abuse here in South Africa. I've been doing some research for the event being planned for World Aids Day on December 1st and its astounding the myths that are still commonly accepted and practiced in order to "cure" AIDS. The 'virgin cure' is still so popular...which leads, in part, to the high rape rate. People stop taking their ARV medications in hopes that traditional medicine (beet root, powders and herbs, bones and shells) will heal them.

Continued safety as Siri and I walk around the city

Guidance in friendships

I love you all and am thankful for a supportive community at HOME!

1 comment:

  1. still deciding between a chief or a pirate!? c'mon, you think we're THAT gullible?...