A hastily arranged trip by Barry and myself out to the Ananda Township in Durban’s northern suburbs last Saturday to continue some of our initial preaching work in this area brought another packet of wonderful surprises to both of us.
Due to Barry’s wife (Wendith) recent cancer diagnoses, much of our planned projects have become a day to day proposition, depending on Wendith’s health and Barry’s ability to feel comfortable being away from her at this very sensitive time. But on Friday evening, and with Wendith feeling well enough to be left alone in the afternoon, Barry and I drove out to Lithlie and Rosie’s home in Ananda, only to find the class had been moved into a more rural part of the township where Rosie’s mother lived. As Lithlie directed our little car along firstly a sealed road, and then onto a dirt road, and finally down a path that also served as a water way, Barry and I could not help to firstly smile and then laugh at the situation we were finding ourselves in at times on our journeys together ……
We parked the car on the side of a path and then walked along eroded paths, dirt tracks, waterways and finally after 2-300 meters we came to this humble home with a large group of happy and excited children, teenagers and adults sitting in a circle in an open dirt area enclosed by sheets and blankets that Rosie had strategically placed to give us some privacy from the busy walking tracks beside and around her mothers home !!!
These times are even more special to Barry and me now, especially Barry, given the turmoil in his life with his brides’ illness. When Barry and I arrive we are swamped by all the children. When we left them last week, I made a point of giving all the kids, young and old a goodbye hug …. now they came at Barry and I like long lost friends to hug and greet us. It’s a beautiful and warm welcome into this outdoor amphitheatre in the dirt and dust of Rosie’s mother’s yard.
These children are unlike any children I have ever experienced before ….. They range in age from about 5- 6 through to a group of teenagers about 13-15 and then a few older boys of about 18–20 years of age. There are also about 5-6 adults there as well. But all these children and teenagers sit quietly and politely for up to three hours of bible readings, study and role enactments from the Bible passages we are looking at without complaint.
We all sat in a circle outside. We sit on anything that resembles a seat … chairs, benches, unstable stools, logs, anything …. but there is one seat, one special chair that more resembles a throne …. and this is reserved for Barry !!! From the moment Barry opens his mouth to talk about Gods word, to talk about the Kingdom, he is his old self again. The worries, the pressure, the stress in his life all evaporates and he sparkles and revels in his calling as a teacher of Gods word.
During the course of the next 3 hours the children and the teenagers listen carefully and patiently to Barry’s message. During the course of this time they perform a play direct from scripture that many of them have memorised long lines and verses too from the previous week …. They also presented to us some homework that I had given them from that week. We have been talking about the Kingdom of God and I asked them to write a letter to Barry and me about their vision of the Kingdom. Their responses were compelling, inspirational and touching. These are children from homes and parents with very very little, but they had drawn up and coloured pages with headings and idea’s thoughtfully expressed in their own words from what they could recall from the previous week.
They are not shy to answer questions either …. they are eager, sometimes almost to eager to read from the word of God when a reader is asked for at times. Their ability to retain information and understand some deeper things of the bible is truly amazing …. and Rosie helps them in all this by consigning the lessons to a play to summarise the lesson, usually by each person being given a part of the bible chapter to read, memorise and then re-state at the end of our class … all this in just one afternoon in a dust bowl !!!
After the class and with Barry and Lithlie talking further about the lesson, a few of the teenage girls had quietly come to me and asked if they could also come to our church tomorrow. They had over-heard me organising a Durban Taxi for Lithlie & Rose & their son for tomorrow and they didn’t want to miss out. Their genuine sincerity and desire was not something I could deny, even though their parents are members of other churches around the Township. On the basis that they had their parents permission, which had to be given directly to Rosie, we arranged for additional taxi fare money to bring them all, ten people in total, to the Durban Church meeting the next day that Barry was speaking at and then to stay on in the afternoon when I would be giving a Bible Education Centre talk as well.
The excitement on their faces was touching. Their quiet whispers and personal words of thanks and appreciation for being allowed to come to hear the word of God was priceless …..
As Jesus said ….. “suffer little children to come unto me”