Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You GotTa Make a PlaN cont.....

You have to make a plan......

So those scattered thoughts give you some idea of what’s been going on but mostly they were just to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking over here. Now for some more coherent news. First, thankfully my new hero Shawn, the IT guy at TLF fixed my computer so all the info and pictures from home have not been lost. Have I learned from this lesson....yes, buying dvds to write all my stuff to this week to back it up. Blah blah blah.

The past few weeks there have been meeting meetings meetings. As I was mentioning before, TLF is great at taking on great BIG projects. If you like, could you join me in prayer that these would really take off the ground and that we would have favor with the city and with the public. To name a few:

World HIV/AIDS Day awareness campaign- We are planning a city wide event with the theme of “Stop the Myths, Save the Patients.” It is common practice in South Africa and in many African countries to use traditional medicine or Muti to “cure” HIV and AIDS and cancers. This Muti is a combination of herbal remedies and magic. There are flyers all over town advertising how to heal yourself or cure some ill by drinking “AMAZING GRACE TEA.” The presence of these false cures encourages people with terminal illnesses to go off of the proven medication ARV’s (which are free to the people in South Africa) in hopes of using some quick fix. It’s a very dangerous thing also because many people will start their own businesses advertising that they have found a miracle cure. Walking down the sidewalk you’ll see tables set up with bottles of brown liquids and yellow juices...these are makeshift pharmacies. Our event has to be on November 30th instead of the true World Aids Day, December 1st due to some political barriers that were thrown up by the city. The event will start with a march to attract the public and the media. We will have two HIV/AIDS patients share their stories, then some medical workers do a question and answer time with the public. The School of Creative Arts is planning a drama and some music to go with the theme. It should turn out really well.

Lerato House Outreach- Recently, the outreach workers at Lerato House (myself included) stopped doing outreach in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Pretoria because it was too dangerous. We now go only to Central, mostly along Bloed street because the women work independently instead of directly under a pimp. After meeting last week with Wilna DeBeer, the director of PCM, she suggested we try to find some ways of getting back into Sunnyside safely. This is the part of town where the Nigerians have basically taken control of the prostitution and drug markets. (Has anyone seen District 9? It was an interesting depiction of the Nigerian influence in the townships and cities here. The movie was banned in Nigeria). Women are held captive and only let out at night to work, even then they are always within the pimp’s sight. The tight control by the pimps makes it very difficult to get information to the women if they want to get out. Not impossible, just difficult. This next week, I’ll be going on outreach with another organization that is still working in that part of town. Hopefully, this will be a chance to see how and where they are making it work. God is faithful and I know that He will protect us when we walk out in His name but we can also take precautions. It should be really interesting to go to this part of town and probably very different than getting to know the women working in Central.

Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign- There are a lot of mixed emotions about the World Cup coming here to South Africa in 2010. People are excited but are also understanding the changes it will impose on this country. In preparation for the games, TLF has taken on two big campaigns, this is one and the other is Rebranding Homelessness. They see it as a great opportunity to make the public aware of the injustices that are present in their own city. Also, it’s a chance to make the wider world aware of what’s happening in South Africa and actually, all over the globe. We will be working with FIFA and the city to do outreaches to hotels, building managers, stadiums, restaurants, salons, schools, and taxis about how to avoid being trafficked, how to identify someone who may have been trafficked, and how to assist in getting that person out of the situation. Our focus is women and children in the sex industry although human trafficking actually covers many other issues too.

So, these are a few of the things that I have been a small part of here so far. It’s been interesting to work towards such lofty goals in the “African way.” There are a lot of meetings (as mentioned before), lots of walking around the city to talk with people, lots of side tracks and diversions, a lack of funding all around, last minute planning, then...all of a’s’s working I am learning quickly to reserve judgement until the final event is finished.

On our way to Hatfield last weekend, the taxi man turned around after telling Siri and I that the ride would be 10R (about $1.30) and said that next year, during 2010 it will be 20R. We laughed and he looked at us seriously and said, “if it’s in US dollars, it’ll be $50.” He’s a smart business man in some ways. Prices are certain to go up all over the country but I’m curious if it will really affect Central as much as some of the other areas. White people are already afraid to use the mini taxis so I’m not sure the demand will increase with the increase in tourists. If locals won’t even ride in them, will visitors? I hope so. The taxis are fun...during the day.

Speaking of the local whites...just recently I’ve started to make some white South African friends here. It’s been so different than getting to know the black South Africans. There is a certain solidarity that’s assumed. People think I will identify with their opinions about city center, food, my living arrangement, and all the black people. They are surprised when I don’t. I went to lunch and a Christmas market in the suburbs with a woman who grew up during Apartheid and offered a different perspective on the freedom struggle than I’ve heard before and gave some really honest opinions about the “old” and “new” South Africa. She is curious about what it’s like to live in the middle of the city not around any other white people and said that she’s very excited about the new freedoms now. That she is free to go places and get to know people she couldn’t before. This conversation and some with our new friends in Durban have given me a whole new picture of how complex the racial issues are here. You have the British and Afrikaans who are allis at times and enemies other times. The Indian people and the Black people are also categorized similarly sometimes but then have a strong division between each other. It’s also a huge generalization to just say “black” people since there are at least 11 people groups that make up the “black people,” all with very individual languages, foods, and traditions. The coloureds are a group of people all their own. It’s truly a RaiNboW NaTioN.

Today was my second twinge of homesickness. I was in the Shopright to get a notebook to make a calendar for the next 3 months. Downstairs, lit by nasty florescent lights, there were Christmas decorations up everywhere I started looking at the fake Christmas trees (actually thought about getting one for like 5 seconds) then heard Christmas music playing Really It’s holiday season here. There in the store, I felt it....that’s right....the Holiday SpiRit. As soon as I stepped out of the store into the 85* weather, it was gone as I sweated my way back to the Lerato House, but for a moment, I could have been anywhere in the world...and wanted to be home....tucked into a sweater and waking up to frost on the grass.

The next few weeks should be fairly “normal.” Next weekend some friends and I may go for a drive in Mmpumalanga (beautiful countryside and nature reserves). It would be a welcome break from the city sounds and smells.

All that about WHAT I’m doing quickly, the HOW am I doing here....
Of course there are adjustments that have to be made when you go and live in a new city but these have all been okay. Mostly it’s food or living arrangement stuff. I”m used to living in shared space so that’s been fine. There are the usual struggles of kitchen and bathroom time. Getting used to the normal food...pasta and vegetables for dinner, granola, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. I feel good though. God has been so faithful to walk with me and teach me during this journey. He has provided friends here to enjoy things with and amazing friends at home too who have been great at emailing, sending letters, and just little words of encouragement. I miss my family and feel more connected to them now than I have in a long time. I am learning so much about the importance of those relationships and really want to be investing in them, even while I’m here. Family is a precious gift that many of the people I’m working with don’t have. The hard part is to process all the things I see with the girls and the women. It’s hard because the intensity the pain that is in most people’s lives is so different than in the US. The abuse, rape, and crime rates are so high here that almost everyone has been directly affected by these somehow. God is quick to remind me to hand these things over to Him. I cannot fix people and it’s not my job. I can and will walk along side people, love them, and offer whatever I can. After work during the week, I’m tired. Trying to get in a routine of running or working on some project but usually there is a really good balance of work and play

Alright, as always, thank you each for your support. I hope that you are blessed as you are such a blessing to the people around you.

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