WF Report – Jan to Mar 2011
Back in the UK
I’ve been back in the UK 8 weeks after spending a year experiencing the good news of the kingdom of God in South Africa. Materially, I’m worse off than I was before I went, I can’t afford a car and I don’t have anywhere to stay. I’m currently sharing a room with my kind friend Julie, and I cleared out the DVD cabinet and cupboard under the stairs to use as a wardrobe. But I’m happy, I’ve come home to a great bunch of friends who share the same hope and some who experienced Africa with me and we’re working on bringing what was created in South Africa back here in the UK. What could be better than that! I’ll never forget the joy that the South Africans had and their positive attitude towards life, its this that I’ve also brought back with me.
My first day back I bumped into some black Africans at my local train station, it turns out they could speak Zulu, so we greeted each other in zulu and talked about how great south Africa is, I immediately wanted to cry thinking about all the beautiful people I had left behind. And what are the chances of meeting some people that can speak zulu at the train station? Im sure God made that happen. I’ve not seen them since.
Reading back at my blog it’s amazing to see how projects have developed and how I became increasingly aware of God’s presence in our lives and how he was working with us. Not only that but iv seen the local Africans growing and developing in their faith, such an amazing thing to witness! I was also blessed with an awesome group of volunteers who all shared a faith-focused life. All these people have truly inspired me.
I’m going to start by talking about Mariannhill ecclesia. This community feels like my family. Mariannhill ecclesia is 3 years old. It started with a volunteer couple from Australia starting a football project with some kids down on the local football pitch. People started to ask why they were they, interest grew and now there’s a church! We started a youth group for the older ones on a Friday afternoon in about march last year. It was successful, lots of people came, even ones I had never seen before that don’t come to church. There was a bible study followed by freelance activities, table tennis and pool – most of which had never played either of these, we had some good giggles teaching them!
And most weeks we would do ballroom dancing, Sosha is a guy who loves ballroom dancing and is very good at it, he uses the Mariannhill community centre to offer free dance lessons. He finished the class just before we started the youth class so he would often come along, then afterwards he would teach us some moves. This was a great way to get to know the youth, a common ground we could learn together on. Sadly the youth classes were drawing to an end, every week less people would come. We tried change but that didn’t work. Although the classes came to an end im sure it all happened for a reason, relationships were built between the youth and they know that they are all very welcome to the kingdom of god community hall. Vester (a sister in the church) suggested to us that we should do youth class for the younger youth (8-15). So we did and it was a fantastic success! They really appreciated us being there, and we got to know them all really well. I soon started becoming involved with the Mariannhill Sunday school. It was all the start of great relationships.
Go Visit Them!
The more time we spent at Mariannhill we realized it had a problem, one common to many ecclesias – some of the youth weren’t attending anymore. There are many things ill never understand fully in a culture so different from my own, but one thing we could do was to get to know the youth better rather than just on a surface level and so we would be better equipped to help. Katie and I explained our want to get to know the youth better to Precious (one of the regular youths). She came up with a great idea, instead of expecting the youth to turn up at the community centre all the time, we should go and visit them! So we did, one Saturday we went with Precious to visit a few of the girls at their home with an offering of chocolate and chats. The chocolate went down well, as did meeting the family and hanging out in their home environment.
All the youth have a strong community connection anyway so on our rounds we accumulated more of the girls until there was about 8 of us sat in Penny’s house. Katie suggested taking silly photos, penny not too keen on the idea piped up saying “Reading the bible would be more fun”. Much to our surprise! We didn’t even bring our bibles, a bible study and a lecture on why they should attend is not what we had in mind! She went into her bedroom and returned not with a bible but some bible trivia cards. About an hour later we had got through all of them.
Our relationship with the girls developed, we were invited for a sleepover, we felt honored. The whole evening was a fantastic experience I could write a whole page about it starting with our trek down the valley, through peoples gardens in the rain with our sleeping bags, but I had best stick to the point. We ate together, listened to music, watched Mr Bones and showed off our dance moves (this definitely earned some respect!) all fuelled on junk food. One of my favorite memories of Mariannhill was waking up that morning and standing outside the front door in the sun looking out over the lush green valley and hearing the sound of life. The valley was filled with the noise of people talking to one another, their neighbors, their friends and their family! It was the most beautiful sound.
We started to go on day trips with the girls, and were invited in to see more of their family. I was involved in a skills course for the unemployed in Mariannhill and one of the girls was baptized but no longer comes to the meeting, through getting to know her on the course we became friends, she also found out that her other friends were coming on a day trip with us, naturally she wants to come and so revisits her friendship with the girls. The girls relationships grew tighter and with God at work, they started coming back to the meeting.
Every week we sing outside the Bible Education Centre to promote the God’s Master Plan course. While everyone was off work and not at school just before Christmas I took this opportunity to bring some of Mariannhill youth along. It was to show them how they can use their talents to preach and that it was a platform linked to them at their church in Mariannhill and that it doesn’t have to be a one off thing! It was awesome, there was some good dancing and they all loved the opportunity.
We were afterwards begged by some of the younger boys to take them to the beach. A place they very rarely go yet so near, how could we refuse?!
God provided so much fun in the sea!
My last Sunday at Mariannhill I was in floods of tears and Fanele voiced that it was an extraordinary friendship we all shared together beingfrom two totally different cultures-one she had never experienced before.
Above is me and some of the girls
So there was one young boy, Sibonga, at Mariannhill who was 10 years and understood 25% of English and could speak basic English himself. His parents and sister are baptized and regulars at church, and he is a regular at cyc and Sunday school. He never said a word through any of the lessons and when speaking to him or looking at him he would look away shyly and would never smile. It was a bit frustrating but more than anything else I wanted to connect with him. As months passed and as I began to spend more time at Mariannhill I began to see him around on a social level and his confidence grew with me as he began to trust and know me. It wasn’t until my last couple of months in South Africa I really saw a change in him. I was walking down the valley to his house to see his sister, as I was approaching I shouted her name (The zulu way – my deafening loud voice finally has a purpose and I fit in with the Zulus) sadly I wasn’t that convincing because Sibonga recognized my voice but came out the house to greet me with a HUGE grin on his face “Hey na-om” (the Zulu language commonly doesn’t pronounce the ‘I’ on the end of words so my name gets shortened to ‘na-om’) I was a bit taken aback that he was so excited to see me. About a week later I had come to take a few of them for a swimming lesson, again I shout down the valley to him, he came out the house and I shouted down that I was here to take him swimming, in his excitedness he starts to run towards me, again with a huge grin on his face like he cant believe his luck before I have to tell him he might need his swimming gear.
I’m telling you this because in every CYC, in every Sunday school, there is a kid like Sibonga. It might take months or years of frustration with kids that just don’t seem to be listening, that don’t seem to care, that just don’t seem to understand. But with persistence shows love, trust and care. I know you know this already but sometimes its not for us to know all this or to get a reaction, in the end its all to God’s glory and how God works in that person through you.
Vincent and Jabu
Someone else Phil and I grew close to were a couple named Vincent and Jabu, We met them through the bible education centre and weekly we would get a phone call from Jabu requesting for us to meet them at the Bible Education Centre to chat more about God, Jesus and his plan for the earth and with us. They were like sponges just wanting to soak up information, but it didn’t stop there. They were wanting to others as soon as they had heard it themselves! Vincent and Jabu had a contact themselves, a granny they had met at a hospital many years ago. They went back with the granny to her home right out in the sticks and realized that there were many orphans in the area that needed caring for.
So what do you do? Source food in the city and bring it to them every month and feed them, any when you run out? Go get more! So Vincent and Jabu had devoted their lives to sourcing free food in the city and caring for the granny and the orphans in the area and building relationships. Now when they met us they asked if we could help in someway. We agreed to give them a lift every month and collect food from church members. Now, where the granny lives is 2 and a half hours away in the middle of nowhere, you keep driving along the road until you get to the end of it then you keep driving a bit more then you turn right and keep driving some more. The granny might only live in a mud hut, but she sure does have one of the best views of God’s awesome creation!
God’s Amazing Powers
So it’s the 22nd of December, we were due to go up to Ndwedwe on the 24th of December. Jabu had asked if we would bring some Christmas presents for the children. Not a problem, the church members had come up smelling of roses and within about a week we had a boot full of nicely wrapped Christmas presents. Sorted. I then get a phone call from Jabu asking if we would bring a months supply of food for the 50+ orphans. Erm, no sorry Jabu, you should have asked a few weeks ago, we are going in 24 hours, how are we meant to get that much food? That isn’t what I said, but its exactly what I was thinking. How foolish of me!!!! What a better time for God to show us his amazing powers!
So Phil and i approached the local mall requesting to stand outside the supermarket with some flyers asking every person that walked into the store if they would buy a particular food item. Normally they need some more information and an official letter from your charity but God was with us so the weren’t against us and gave us the go-ahead.
We started off with one trolley, and God filled that for us, so we had to get another one. It was so awesome to get the community working together and seeing what they had achieved in just a short space of time! People were asking us what we were doing and what it was all about and branded with our good news of the kingdom of god t-shirts they couldn’t help but ask! Within 2 hours we were walking away from the supermarket and towards the car with 2 trolley loads of free food! With God anything is possible!
Candu and Siyanda
I was also extremely blessed to pay another visit to the church in Candu – 9 hours drive from Durban, a land of mud huts. Here is the subject of a photography project of mine that I’m working on putting together at the moment. It’s a coffee table photography book that captures the interiors of brothers and sisters houses. All money made will go directly to the COPT. Again I was blown away by the brothers and sisters kindness as I visited them and wanted to see inside their houses.
Our dear friend and brother (he got baptised last time we were there and came back to Durban with us to join in our P2P team and was blown away at it all and how we were all working together) Siyanda was there too only it wasn’t quite that simple. He was going through initiation, a time in a young boys life where he ‘becomes a man’, he was circumcised and then had to spend 30 days in isolation away from the village. So sadly we couldn’t spend any time with him. His father understood how important it was that we see him though, so allowed us to see him for 5 minutes only and only once the whole village had gone to bed (about 9:30pm). He met us over the fence round the back of the hall, my initial reaction was to want to greet him with a hug, but that wasn’t allowed. He was covered head to toe in white paint and wrapped in a black blanket (its normally a white one but it had to be black to ensure no-one would see him entering the village.) It was the most bizaar and beautiful 5 minutes of my time in South Africa. Here’s someone from a different culture enduring a custom that will be respected by the whole village yet to me he’s just my friend and brother Siyanda and that’s one of the most awesome things about being in Christ and it was a vision of the kingdom. We are so different in our upbringings yet we have such common ground.
After our visitation we continued with our game of monopoly deal in the hall. 20 minutes later there was a knock on the window, after exploring we found Siyanda sitting in the field. He had come back for more chats! He couldn’t bare knowing that we were in his tiny village and he couldn’t spend any time with us and in a few weeks we would be half way around the world. We sat in the field and chatted until we got tired.
I’d like to thank WCF and all who support them financially and in many other ways because otherwise I would never have had the chance to experience all that South Africa has to offer, I have learnt SO much, and its somewhere I will be visiting on a regular basis, I have left behind so many brothers and sister and friends. There are so many special people out there that have all taught and shown me one thing or another that I think of so often. And thanks be to God for all I have seen him do. Come Lord Jesus!