Mission work in Durban during the Easter School holidays is a strange experience. We work amongst and are supported by church members of two main churches in and around the Durban area. There are predominantly three main “Township” Churches or Good News Centre that we focus the majority of our Community Outreach Work around. From these three townships we are also involved with local public schools, Hospitals and Clinics. This is where you come face to face with the real Zulu people, their traditions and their cultures. It’s also during school holidays times you see both the white and black cultures merge !
During Easter Holidays, the two main Churches become Ghost Towns. It’s like an air-raid sirens sounds on the first day of the school holidays and almost everyone heads for the hills …. The hills being the Drakensburg Mountains, Cape Town and its wine district, the South East Coast Beaches ….. anywhere & everywhere but staying home ….. so like ants on a food rummage rampage they jump into their cars, their 4WD’s, their planes and wind their way out of Durban as fast as they can. For the unsuspecting overseas volunteers who turn up to Church on the first Sunday of the holidays, the place is deserted and you have this strange feeling that you have missed the warning siren to evacuate. Fortunately, a closer look reveals notes and messages have been left advising us how to look after things while they are all away …… on holidays !!
A similar coincident (or is it a sign) has occurred right across Durban and even into the Townships. A quick check of the “Township Churches” reveals that they too have heard the evacuation siren and mysteriously disappeared into the country townships and farms away from the hustle and bustle of city life in Durban …… but alas, there are no notes or messages left ….. just the occasional child seen wandering the streets or sitting in the gutters whittling away on some abstract piece of wood or cardboard !!!
Most Zulu’s have family farms away from the city which consist of a traditional small – medium size city block of land that they grow vegetables and crops on. The whole family shares a humble home or shanty house / room. This may involve 2-3 children returning to the farm with their partners, children and even friends. A small farm home comprising one room may sleep up to 12 – 18 people on any given evening during holiday times.
So who’s left in Durban ? ….. Not many one would think !
But after a brief reading of the notes and messages left, all is revealed. Our mission, should you decide to accept it, is to accommodate and entertain the “few” children that are left in the Durban townships. Therefore, it’s suggested that the volunteers run a “holiday” program for the kids. “Oh Joy” !
Fortunately, amongst our volunteers, there are some very creative and talented people. A program starting on Monday through to Friday is created commencing at (the unearthly hour of) 9.30am is produced and the creative talents of the team move into action … while I move out of their way !
While the Volunteers go about preparing a fun full-filled week of activities including biblical drama plays, arts & crafts, ball sports and swimming days, I retired to the comfort of my Umdlotie Beach apartment for Easter Friday and Saturday and start on my double speaking appointment for the Durban Church on Sunday, that is if anyone is going to be there.
What I thought would be a relatively short preparation with longs stints of reclining on the couch with other times spent mindlessly staring out at the beach proved to be another fantasy thought of mine. With the daily readings being on Ephesians I thought some background of Ephesus could be helpful … especially as I had been and visited ancient Ephesus a few yeas ago. Thoughts moved into action and before long I was deep into research and even deeper into making a short video to show what Ephesus is like today.
By 3.00AM Sunday Morning, and now totally sleep deprived and with a week of children’s activities awaiting me the next day, I rolled into bed knowing the next four hours sleep was going to be as good as it gets for the next six days !
A beautiful relaxing Sunday lunch with Barry & Wendith and Graham & Daniel Berry’s at an artists Restaurant called “Green with Eny”was the perfect distraction to the five consecutive early morning starts that awaited me. I know 8.00am wake up calls is not early for everyone ….. but I have just never been able to understand how someone can compare a sun-rise, a walk onto the beach, or a coffee at a cafe at 7.00am, to pulling those blankets up around your neck for just another hour …. or so !
Like a bride on her wedding day, I arrived traditionally late (each day) at Lamontville, Westville a Mariannhill churches for our Holiday programs during the next five days. The work that the volunteers had put into this program was amazing. Props including a life size whale that swallowed Jonah and the Walls of Jericho with Rehabs house built into it were all amazing. The volunteers acted out and sung their way through the two plays and then engaged all the children in art and craft activities as they made their own whales, complete with little “Jonah’s” and seaweed inside, trumpets for the Joshua play and many other art and craft activities. Morning tea’s and lunches were made and served each day, ball sports, games and even a swimming afternoon were all squeezed into these five days.
I don’t know where all these children came from. The Church and the Township people had all left for their holidays !!! But the children came, ten here and ten there …. another five here and another ten there. Before long the rooms were filled with loud, noisy, (did I say loud) excited children. The volunteers did their best to quell the noise …. I resisted knowing it was a lost cause !!!
I’m not sure if the locals hear another siren when it’s time to return to Durban, but I certainly heard a siren sound to end the holiday week. I’ve had my time running Youth Groups, being a Sunday School Superintendant, arranging arts and crafts and sports days etc. I have ran, worked and played with the best of them in my prime ….. but I am well past my prime when it comes to children’s activities. These days a half hour rocking and rolling with my grandkids equates to the need for a minimum two hour nap. After this week, I need a four week rest …. and I hardly contributed to anything. The other volunteers were the stars of this show !!!
Easter Holidays you say …. I say “what holidays” ???