WF Report – September-October 2010
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my experience in South Africa is to be just like the Zulus. I aspire to be like them in every way. They are the some of the most overwhelmingly friendly, loving, caring, patient, kind, joyous, happy, believing people that I have ever met. I’ve met some who, in the space of a few minutes, are holding my hand, hugging me, and singing or talking to me as though I’ve known them for years. There are just no barriers with them. Many show more love to strangers than I do to the people I know. They are a very inspiring and beautiful people.
One of the many places I’ve experienced is a place called Candu. It is a beautiful rural village that is a nine hour drive from Durban. Here, there is an ecclesia of about 25 members, one of which is male. We stayed for three days, during which time all of us had different tasks to do. I’d had a new idea for a project and Candu was the perfect place to start it. I’m creating a photography book with photos compiled of the poorest brothers and sisters living in South Africa. The book concentrates on the interior of their houses, which are simple, but beautiful in many ways. Thus, there is an artistic element to the insight that this book will provide.
In the eight months that I’ve been here, I’ve never been inside a round house. Today was that day, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. My plan was to visit each sister in the ecclesia, to chat with them, and take photos. I had no idea where any of them lived or how to speak xhosa, but dear sister Dorothy was on hand to help. She was my guide and translator for the next few days. I can’t describe how welcoming and embracing all the sisters were. I asked them to teach me cultural things I didn’t know. I learned much, and we laughed together a lot at the things I was learning and seeing. And, although they have little, they were keen to provide food for me in order to teach me about what they eat. They showed such kindness to me! On my return, I sent them a letter expressing my thanks. They replied with the most heartfelt letter I’ve ever read, which brought me to laughter and tears!
Recently we had P2P. There were five teams; I was on the Happy’s team (a school for the physically and mentally disabled). When I visited the school, one of my first thoughts for a project for that school was to take them swimming in order to give them the movement and the freedom that otherwise they don’t get to experience. It just so happened that Annie Abson from the UK was coming over for two weeks and was a physiotherapist that does hydrotherapy. It really felt like God was sending the right person at the right time! She could show us the ropes and how to handle moving disabled people in and out of the pool. Sadly, we didn’t, at first, find a suitable pool, since there are so many factors to consider when taking disabled people swimming. For example, the pool must be heated, with a shallow end and a chair lift to get them in and out of the water. It must also have disabled access, with suitable changing facilities. We diligently searched throughout Durban for a suitable pool, but couldn’t locate one. We continued to search throughout the summer, since Annie was returning in September. Our patience was tested, as P2P drew nearer, and we still hadn’t found a pool. In the nick of time, God showed us a pool! We were driving along a road that leads towards Mariannhill and our conversation was about how we see God working in our lives and directing us. I had my head in my bible the whole way reading the story I was about to teach at youth class, when I suddenly looked out of the window and saw a sign that said ‘heated pool.’ I couldn’t quite believe what I just saw, given the topic we were discussing. A couple of days later, we tried to find the sign and the pool, but completely missed the sign even though we were looking for it. The sign is difficult to see because it is hidden behind a grass hill and there is only a few seconds to see it before you’ve driven past it. It’s amazing to think that God directed my gaze in those few seconds!
We did find the pool, and it met all of our requirements! So, over P2P, we had six swimming sessions with some of the kids that Annie had assessed. Finally after all this, we got to witness the joy these kids experienced while in the water. The first girl we took in was called Phila. She is known for getting over-excited about things and squealing excessively when she is happy. Seeing her face light up and listening to her excited squeals brought me so much joy that it was worth the wait. She would be shouting at us “look at me! Look at me!” and trying to splash us with what little arm movement she had. It was so beautiful!
One of the other girls, Ntokozo, struggles to walk, but when she was in the pool, she could walk so much better. Bring on the kingdom when the lame shall walk!
Happy’s always brings so much joy to me and others, because they are so joyful at the simple things we do. Seeing their faces light up is priceless. One day, we organized a fair. We had different stalls around the grounds: fishing, coconut shy, lucky dip, card-making, stocks, nail painting, etc. The whole afternoon was so much fun, and the kids had a fantastic time wandering from stall to stall. By far, my favourite stall was the stocks. Ed was kind enough to sit in them for the afternoon, while I found some small children who would enjoy throwing wet sponges at him. One small child spent an hour amusing himself (and me) by throwing sponges and drenching himself in the process. He had joy in his face the entire time!
Two years ago, a project was started called “Afrikhono.” This project involved brothers and sisters making greeting cards, which were sold to ecclesias worldwide. Proceeds from the sales provide an income that they otherwise don’t have. I’ve been busy designing some new cards for this project; they are in the woodcut medium, which is popular here in South Africa. It also gives an African feel. We (Phil and myself) met Malibongwe in an art centre, which also doubles up as a working art studio. We established a good relationship with him, as we loved his work, and we also commissioned him to design the artwork for the CD cover Phil is working on. He was kind enough to let me use his studio and materials for printing the woodcuts. (Without him, I don’t know what I would have done!). I was in my element there, since I used to spend my days at university in the print room; it felt good to be back in one!
We started a skills course at Mariannhill for those that are unemployed so that they can be self-employed. Adam will be teaching them how to make jewelry, Phil will be teaching them how to screen prints onto t-shirts, and I will be teaching them how to make the greetings cards pictured above. Our aim is to get them to a point where they can begin selling the cards themselves, either at markets, on the street, or locating shops that will allow them to sell their products. In this way, their employment will become sustainable.