Wednesday, July 19, 2006

aweful communication

Many more stories to post up for the rap-up of South Africa, but my email access these last two weeks has been terrible. For a couple of highlights to come:

-Met up with the UNC/Duke group here for 9 days of camping and safari. Charged by a giraffe while on a drive in botswana-- was within touching distance and had elephants run in front of our car. Saw lots of crazy animals and got to sit in the co-pilot seat of one of the tiny planes as we flew around botswana, namibia, zambia, and zimbabwe. Also got to whitewater raft the zambezi (and swallow enough to give me all kinds of interesting creatures)!

-said my goodbyes to those I worked with at the warehouse and to the HIV support group I have come to love. Closed things out by being sent forth with an amazing blessing of "besuka bamlamdela", a song about the disciples leaving to follow Christ. And got to see my bros from Khayelitsha for the last time-- and watch as they each ate 8 pieces of chicken on my bill :-) and the bones too...

-Met up with UNC friend Crister who has been working in Mozambique and surfing for the last few days in Cape Town. Reminisced of our times in Southern Africa that have changed our lives in so many ways (including majors, life paths) and dragged him along all day through cape town hoping to make a hike that never happened.

-Been spending the last four days in Simon's Town (near capetown, on the water) right off the navy base with 6 of the most incredible duke div students. I've had a chance to go sailing in the Indian ocean, see Robben Island for the first time, break all the rules and go hiking on forbidden parts of Cape Point-- even after we were told multiple times to turn back (it was definitely worth it), and enjoy my last chance in the markets of downtown Cape Town. We have also run up table mountain (living hell of a hike but gorgeous) and spent the nights in amazing debriefing sessions with Dr. Storey hearing stories from all over south africa, of both pain and hope, weakness and power. THOSE STORIES TO COME!

Sorry for the lack of interesting and fun details. My time has run out but I will fill the last in when I get home in two days, leaving this sunny, springlike weather to return to the Memphis heat. AGH! Look forward to catching up with all of you!


aweful communication

Many more stories to post up for the rap-up of South Africa, but my email access these last two weeks has been terrible. For a couple of highlights to come:

-Met up with the UNC/Duke group here for 9 days of camping and safari. Charged by a giraffe while on a drive in botswana-- was within touching distance and had elephants run in front of our car. Saw lots of crazy animals and got to sit in the co-pilot seat of one of the tiny planes as we flew around botswana, namibia, zambia, and zimbabwe. Also got to whitewater raft the zambezi (and swallow enough to give me all kinds of interesting creatures)!

-said my goodbyes to those I worked with at the warehouse and to the HIV support group I have come to love. Closed things out by being sent forth with an amazing blessing of "besuka bamlamdela", a song about the disciples leaving to follow Christ. And got to see my bros from Khayelitsha for the last time-- and watch as they each ate 8 pieces of chicken on my bill :-) and the bones too...

-Met up with UNC friend Crister who has been working in Mozambique and surfing for the last few days in Cape Town. Reminisced of our times in Southern Africa that have changed our lives in so many ways (including majors, life paths) and dragged him along all day through cape town hoping to make a hike that never happened.

-Been spending the last four days in Simon's Town (near capetown, on the water) right off the navy base with 6 of the most incredible duke div students. I've had a chance to go sailing in the Indian ocean, see Robben Island for the first time, break all the rules and go hiking on forbidden parts of Cape Point-- even after we were told multiple times to turn back (it was definitely worth it), and enjoy my last chance in the markets of downtown Cape Town. We have also run up table mountain (living hell of a hike but gorgeous) and spent the nights in amazing debriefing sessions with Dr. Storey hearing stories from all over south africa, of both pain and hope, weakness and power. THOSE STORIES TO COME!

Sorry for the lack of interesting and fun details. My time has run out but I will fill the last in when I get home in two days, leaving this sunny, springlike weather to return to the Memphis heat. AGH! Look forward to catching up with all of you!


Thursday, June 29, 2006

iqaqa liqabele uqongqothwani

I realized the other day that I have probably never explain well the context of where I am living and what I am doing on a day to day basis. So for an explanation before the few stories for the week:

-I have been living in a house in khayelitsha (one of the bigger townships) with 6 guys, all about my age. They all grew up in different parts of khayelitsha and were connected by an amazing counselor. This counselor grew up in the eastern cape and became extremely involved in the ANC during apartheid. He became one of the regional directors in the late 80's and early 90's-- even being tortured a number of times for his involvement. In 1994 (year of the end of apartheid), he had a dream that he was talking to an Afrikaans man and that the man talked to him and connected with him about Jesus and the need for reconciliation. He woke up the next day and went to one of the churches, to find that exact man from his dreams there, who sat down with him and talked to him about the same things he had dreamed about. Even after years of pain and what he describes as hatred for all white south africans, he was overcome by his experience of Jesus and this powerful dream (which is hard for me to describe). He ended up taking the path of forgiveness and deciding that he wanted to work with youth as a counselor in khayelitsha. He helped put together safety and leadership camps and was also a normal school counselor. THrough all of that, he became attached to the five guys I now live with, and their hope and potential despite the hardships they had all grown up with. He ended up becoming a mentor and spending more and more time hanging out with them and working with them. In the end, he got a house nearby, found funding (through both organizations he had worked with and new connections with those he had reconciled with...and some interesting americans), and got all of the guys to live together in community, to support each other through the struggles (especially family related) and to live with all of their best friends. And amazingly, I have had the chance to live with these guys, to experience that community, and to hear their stories of perseverence...and of course to play soccer in the middle of the night in the street and have juggling contests and create all kinds of inside jokes and eat LOTS of bread.

So, this last week:
-stayed at Craig's (the boss at the warehouse) this weekend while the guys were again on retreat. He has a family very similar to my own (but at a much younger stage) so I spent my weekend playing soccer at the park with little kids and monster games with two of his kids. I also got the chance to have a number of amazing conversations with him about experiential learning (new ideas for working on the wealthy community in memphis and chapel hill that I will have to share)...and watched more world cup.

-made it back to my real home here in khayelitsha, to return to the soccer craze, the bread overdose, the great conversations, and all kinds of xhosa I am trying to learn despite my time running short.

-went to bophapumele orphanage for church on sunday (they have a lot of singing and dancing for the kids). Again, I understood little of what was being said but loved being packed in with the kids...though I had a headache, so the 90 energetic kids singing loud praise songs certainly didn't help improve that. I can't imagine what it would be like to work there day in and day out; how much respect I have for those who do. and how much more are needed. This orphanage is one of the more staffed ones in the area and still there is like a 1 to 9 ratio and it is impossible to give individual attention that is needed. The kids really have to learn to grow up quickly and take care of themselves. I have talked to a lot of social workers at the warehouse who talk a lot about the program here that seeks to find homes for the children in these orphanages because as wonderful as they are, the kids really need a family to be present. It is such a huge thing here many kids without homes or who are neglected. I have never really opened my eyes to similar things in america. One story I heard, for example, was of a one year old and five year old who lived in a leaking one room shack and whose mother did not take care of them. The five year old took care of the one year old, and the social worker found both sitting in the dark, starving, covered with dirt, water, and their own excretions. How can we as a world let this happen to any child? And how can we stand in the gaps and change it? The social worker then had to drop the kids off at an orphanage, where they will be cleaned and cared for-- but never to the extent that they should be, that all should be.

-visited youth in prison here (with two staff members from the warehouse who work with the youth and an incredible preacher who used to be a gang leader). The first time we visited, the preacher talked to them about his transformation and the hope they could still have for the future. The concerns the guys replied with were so hard to hear though: we will be killed by our gangs if we drop out of them; we have nowhere else to go; our families aren't around and we don't have alternatives. The preacher's witness and honesty was amazing but still I can imagine how hard it was for them to hear-- and how it could easily just sound like a 1 in a million kind of thing...luck if you will. The cycles that I talk about too much are so present here. I have learned after visiting again that many of the guys have already been in prison 4 or 5 times by the age of 20 (started around 14) and have no support, nobody to care for them, and no system that will help restore them back into community. The retributive stuff does not work at all-- at least for these guys. In fact, it digs them deeper into the holes they are already in because the prison community is full of punishment and more gang activity and when they get out, they come back out to more pressure from gangs, more pressure to get money again, and little substantial anything about how to choose an alternative route. Yesterday, they all painted their life dreams, and every one of them was an escape from life in a way-- a car, a boat, a cricket field with people cheering him on. One even said half jokingly, "why care about that? we are just born to die." So what is the best way to respond? Could I have done something that would have helped? Honestly, I think what they need most are people like grant and jonathon (warehouse guys) who care enough for them to visit them week in and week out and listen to them. Again, how important it is to LISTEN and to receive the gifts that these guys in prison or the women in sweet home can give. They have so much to share but the world often just shuts them off. I also keep wondering how it would be different for these guys if they had families (especially fathers) who were able to fully show them that love, which always leads me to the question of, "and how many of their families-- and especially fathers-- were limited in this because of the destruction and fear of apartheid?" Things are never as simple as they appear, and the system of fear that resonates from apartheid is clear in every facet (and we have very similar fear in america).

And for little funny notes: they all ask me if I have met puff daddy or 50 cent (who they call fifty cents, which makes sense) and always want to know what it is like in America. learned about some interesting cultural differences as well. One is that in the colored (again, what they refer to people of mixed race as) community here, many youth use dominoes to knock out their front teeth. I am yet to figure out why and nobody seems to be able to explain it.

I am off to the safari this monday. It will be interesting rapping up things here, right as I feel like I am getting my foot in the door. And I don't know how a safari will be when I feel such a connection to working and living with people in khayelitsha. It is a learning experience though, and can always fuel more in this crazy journey. I will try to post a shorter rap-up of work before I go.

Well, this has gone on far too long, though I will have more to tell about soon. Sorry for the gigantic posts!

As for the title of this post, it really has no great meaning. The guys in the house have been teaching me funny tongue-twisters (the q's are all clicks) and that is the first line of one and thought would make me sound like I am quite fluent, though I probably have learned enough to make good conversation with a one year old. Let me take that back. Even they still laugh at me :-)

Friday, June 23, 2006

succulent salads for a song?

(from an email to my parents)
I write you in the best mood I have been in in longer than I can remember. Imagine me making a goofy face with this awkward red hat that says, "succulent salads for a song" (don't ask, cuz I don't know...the things people donate to the warehouse that they put off on me...sarcasm) and beaming from every part of me, and you will about see what is up with me today. Let me explain, if possible.

I have felt God working today in so many ways. First of all, the days started off with a frustrating prayer group (good start to the story eh) in which one of the warehouse staff expressed fear about stuff in sweet home (where the hiv support group is). She asked the question, "should I expect God to be protecting me? or what is God's role in it?" something to that extent where she admitted that she was
afraid of the prospect of rape. One of the women responded right away, "that is fear and that is a sin, so I think you just need to repent and rebuke the evil in you." I was pretty angry at that point, thinking that was about the same response that the woman from our HIV group who was raped got from the counselor-- so I thought about what response I thought God would actually give, and that I had witnessed the support group give that woman.
After a prayer time of frustration and having to sit through repenting of a very human fear, I got into an amazing conversation with a person in the warehouse where so much about my own faith and beliefs became clear. All of a sudden, I realized the problem that I have with this whole "living freely" and repenting business. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for repentance. But what is missing is
the realization of our humanity, our imperfection, and God's grace. If we are always trying to beat out evil spirits and say any fear or anger is from the devil, then we are failing to realize that we will engage in a very human battle with ourselves that drives for quick fix answers and a cycle of frustration. Jesus never comes and says, "repent of that fear. It is a sin and an evil spirit." Jesus says,
"i am here with you in that fear. My light can overcome that fear."
The fear doesn't have to be rooted out, thrown away. Fear of rape in a community plagued be rape is ok to have. It is part of being realistic, part of being human. What I realized is that God doesn't promise to rid us of fear like that and of anger that we often have-- because those things are a part of our humanity. God says that he will be with us, that the comfort can be greater than the fear, that
the fear does not have to control us. I don't know if this is making sense, but a lot more did this morning as I explained the problems I have with all of this, "god answers quickly if we listen, puts pictures in our minds, frees us of fear if we repent." I realized the power of God's love in my life-- not because I do a good job of repenting all of the time-- but because God is with me in that pain,
in that fear, in the overwhelmed feelings I have had by the hurt, the disparity, the extremes. The darkness will be here. I will hurt and I need to hurt. And God is with me in that, not telling me always to repent of my sins (though there is a need for that at times) but telling me that love will overcome. Well, anywho, email is
insufficient. Needless to say, I finally think I realized (though
this doesn't explain) what exactly grace means, and it goes way beyond
all of this evangelical stuff. And I was able to talk to the girl about it that had been vulnerable, to say that I thought God's love works in a very different way and it wasn't about some evil spirit in her, that it was about her being her and needing to feel the fear that people like the woman in sweet home must feel quite often-- and legitimately so. but also that God is with her, that she doesn't have to be paralyzed by that fear but also doesn't have to try to fight it all of the time.
Anyway, it was about the first time I have really voiced beliefs of
mine and actually felt like I really believed what I said. Not to mention great conversations about challenging our educational systems and reforming them in whole, which I would love to continue on some time...

And then we made our way to sweet home. And God was alive in that place. Asonda was beaming, her smile having returned almost more than ever before. The women wanted to read scriptures, and picked ones (in xhosa) from romans 8 and psalm 31 and on and on. Then they prayed, sang, "I am going home, to die no more, to die no more," proudly held up necklaces and bracelets they have made out of beads for me to take pictures of, laughed as I told them my name was bulumko, and shared bread and coffee with all of us, giving us big hugs as we left. For the first time in weeks, I did not feel a heaviness about it all. And I wasn't overwhelmed when they told of many of the struggles that others in the group were going through because I could feel the joy and see it in each of their eyes-- and the hope of the prayer
"sipuxolo" (give us peace). Ah, how the burden was lifted, not because the place was
void of the darkness, the pain, the struggles, but because there was a
stronger presence among it all. and the community, the honesty, the
love was there in many forms. how beautiful it was (the waterfront on
monday was nothing to all of this).

Anywho, so I feel quite alive today, even though I will not being
going to my newfound home (khayelitsha) but will be staying with craig
for a few more days (guys still on retreat). It is nice to have the
family atmosphere for a few days though, to play crazy monster games
with the three little ones (1, 4, and 6 years old).

Oh and to quickly mention: I met up with fellow UNC student Matt Craig at the waterfront this week. It was the first time I had made it in my month here to the tourist center, and after waking up to gunshots in khayelitsha that morning, I really felt like I was in two worlds in the same day. Something felt awfully wrong about the resorts and all of the flaunting wealth. I must say that I missed my khayelitsha home immediately and felt almost wrong just walking around the waterfront and then that night going to a part in constantia (rich area). It is amazing the kind of work that South Africa and America have to do. And the part we must play in that change...but today, all of that doesn't seem too overwhelming. There is hope in each smile of the women in Sweet Home today...hope is alive.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

storytelling, walking manenburg, and more world cup

My two measly stories didn't quite fill in life of late here, but for once, my post was pretty short, so maybe I should learn a lesson from that.

More happenings here:
-As I have said a bunch in the previous posts, I am loving staying in the house with Siyasonga, Sebu, Charles, Nfundo, and Tulani who have taken me around Khayelitsha from the churches to the taverns (crazy beligerent drunks shouting Xhosa at me and then at the tv is quite an experience, try it sometime), cheered on multiple world cup games with me, challenged me in soccer, taught me bits of Xhosa, and on the list goes. The other day, we were cheering on Ghana in the house and started jumping around and screaming with joy so loudly when they scored that a bunch of little kids ran up to the house to make sure everything was ok. But alas, it was great, for Ghana had won. I am struggling between rooting for Ghana or the US in the next game. I think I am feeling a bit more spirit on this side of things :-)

-I got to visit Manenburg (a poorer "colored" community known for its gangs) with two of the youth workers from the Warehouse. They took me on a walk through the neighborhood, and I was struck by the great similarities it had to many of the poorer American communities. Instead of the more obvious shacks in the townships, this had rows and rows of broken down flats, just like our projects, in which the poverty is much more hidden but seemingly as pervasive. For this community, it has almost been worse than a lot of the squatter communities, obvious by the dozens of fights I saw by little kids as we walked through the streets. But again, people were very welcoming and shocked to see us, and a huge group of children gathered around me, begging me to come back and play soccer with them. How could I explain that I could not return the next day? I tried to be saying I lived in Khayelitsha, which brought up a whole new interesting subject. "you live with BLACK people? You have got to be kidding. Aren't you scared?" And what was even more shocking was that many of the people saying this were of about the same skin tone as the guys I lived with. When I told some of the guys that I had been to Manenburg, they were equally surprised, "It's dangerous there. I wouldn't walk those streets." How successful was apartheid? VERY. Enough to cause a huge rift to this day between people over nothing, enough to incite extreme fear even between oppressed communities to seperate from one another. How disturbing is that? What can I do, if anything, to help break that divide? It is like the story of the two fish, seperated by a piece of cardboard in a tank-- once the cardboard is "lifted" the divide has driven deep enough for the fish to remain in their opposite sections...How do we get over those fears, heal the wounds, address the bases of these cycles of violence, poverty, seperation? Jack (man of god) and I discussed this for quite a while the other night, as I tried to say (in response to a thing about roots being personal sin) that I thought it was very much an issue that the wealthy have to deal with-- especially the wealthy who call ourselves Christian but fail to give up our comforts, fail to even ride a bus with people from Khayelitsha out of "fear", ignore the hundreds of pages of scripture that address the issue. but we pick and choose.

-"Mulungo, mulungo," a guy on the taxi from one area in Khayelitsha to another said to me. I had no idea what this meant, but was told by Siya that it meant "white person." The man then proceeded to ask rhetorically why I was in khayelitsha and answer with his own question with "To be able to go home and say that you saw poor blacks living in shacks." And I didn't respond, but thought about it...thought about the fact that I had been looking up a cape point trip online and came across a "township tour" in which people ride a bus and view people in places like khayelitsha as if they are a zoo. Thought about how true that could be on so many levels, and prayed that it wasn't. No wonder he asks, but what could I answer? I sat in silence for a while, thinking about why I was there-- to live where I was working, to try to immerse myself instead of seperate myself in American culture, or rich privileged white culture, to get to know people who understand community, to learn things to confront stereotypes with. I want to live in a place like Khayelitsha! Could I explain that? But there was a part of me that still had to question my motives. There was a large part that hurt-- not only for that questioning but for the fact that it is often true-- his statement-- of me and of so many of us. We have a long way to go for reconciliation.

-On Friday, we all (the guys from the house) went to a place called "Hoops for Hope" with a group of visiting Americans who help fund this mentoring program. We spent the afternoon playing soccer on the basketball court, and then playing basketball as "South Africa" vs "America". I got to be an honorary South African which would have been nice had Sebu not played basketball as if it was american football...

-Went to church Sunday in Khayelitsha and got to enjoy a worship in which nobody attempted to translate for me. I understood very little, but I almost got more out of it than when people did translate. There is something wonderful about letting loose, listening to rythm and feeling spirit without having to understand everything in my own language. I know now how important it is to learn language to connect with people. Good to remember for the future.

This is long, slow, and boring. My apologies. I try to keep things in stories but end up going on long and rambling tangents. I am moving today back to town for a few days as the guys are going on a retreat. I'll get to catch up with emails some and meet up with Matt Craig and some of the other UNC students as well. WRITE ME EMAILS! I miss you all. Hope you didn't make it this far :-)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bulumko and Blessed Assurance!

My access to computers has been about as great as my healthy diet of bread, butter, and donuts of late, so this will be a short post with many stories to follow tomorrow.

In the almost weeks time, much has happened here in Cape Town, and particularly Khayelitsha. To name a few:

-BULUMKO, or wisdom...I received my Xhosa name from the six guys that I live with in Khayelitsha (before they got to know me as well as they do now). Now I walk in and Sebu (house clown) hollers, "MR. BULUMKO!" And we all laugh. They also introduce me as Bulumko as we go around Khayelitsha and visit their families.

-The mentorish-character in the house is a 27 year old preacher named Jack. Everybody in the house calls him "Man of God." We have two bedrooms in the house (3 rooms total) and I am in the bedroom with Man of God. Every night, he plays a Gospel (almost opera-like) song on repeat. Imagine going to bed with "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is MIIIIIIIIIIIINE" in a loud, burly voice playing in the background when you go to sleep, oh yes, AND when you wake up...and dream of it too. I guess I should feel assured. The other popular song goes, "JOY, JOY, JOY in my SOUL." So everyday, I start singing "JOY" and all of the guys in the house fall over laughing as they do their own impersonations.

AGH! SO many more stories, but my ride back is calling. Many more coming with more of a general idea of what has been happening here. I am alive and well, though, and loving life in Khayelitsha, though we've had our moments! Until tomorrow!

Miss you all!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

a world of extremes...and of the world cup, of course

I haven't posted in a while, and don't have time to write the many stories down, but this is from an email I wrote earlier today that I think covers things of late pretty well. Sorry to that person who has to read this twice :-)

Life here has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am so overwhelmed right now by the many seemingly contrasting extremes (though I did just finish "let your life speak" and realize that both winter and summer are a part of the journey, but I don't yet understand how to deal with both at the same time). The extremes of
going to church in gugalethu and worshipping with people from the smallest shacks, then being given a full meal of food, and having people dance and sing praises with all of their hearts outside in the mud, with the community (30ish people from 2 year olds to grown ups) joining in-- such a sense of love, community, giving despite a lack of resources. To the other extreme of having a woman from our HIV support
group who has the most beautiful smile being gang raped on Saturday, and visiting her to see her broken and wounded forced half smile. Never have I had to see
somebody that close to when something like that had happened....and it
happened one day after she had suggested the name for the HIV support
group be "sipuxolo" (give us peace).

Back to the "but god moment" of having the HIV support group gather around her and having somebody to sit by her bed with her day and night, willing to be there in silence and suffering with her. To the opposite extreme of having a counselor lecture her about her not being married and how she should be thankful she is alive, when it all had no relevance and if anything was just filling that woman's own needs. And my being so sad, hurt, angry, overwhelmed to see and hear all of this and
be able to do very little, if anything at all other than sit beside
her (and the others who were there) and wonder, "where is the peace?".

Again, to the other extreme of living in a township now with five amazing
guys, all my age, who are teaching me Xhosa (slang included!), taking me around the townships, sharing their home and the three rooms they are already packed into, letting me squeeze in the middle of the couch with them to watch the world cup and play crazy card games. I am loving it even despite having to share a common cup and eat off a dirty plate and learn to bathe in a tiny and dirty tub (yeah, even me. good lessons to learn-- that good community trumps that desire for sanitation). But all of it together has been overwhelming. I am so confused with what all of
this means, knowing that God is clearly in these places
but being so overwhelmed by the simultaneous hurt and pain, joy and hope, laughter and tears....

Newho, so that is my life of late, in short. I have learned more this week
than in much of my life but processing it all is quite a difficult
thing. And my faith has been broken and turned upside down and
hopefully being remolded in a very real way. But that is the
struggle, the journey, always full of question and very rarely of
answers :-)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Hello all,
I am determined to make this a bit more succinct so it doesn't take you hours to read, or a few boring moments of scanning. These last two days, the whole staff here at the Warehouse has been participating in a conference of sorts, or a training on "Living Freely", taught by two evangelical guys from the US. The cool part of it all is that it is taking place in Khayelitsha, one of the larger townships (but now as of the conference, will be called the eastern suburbs), and worship and everything around the talks is done by the community leaders. Thus the singing and prayers at the beginning and end are full of spirit, life, and dancing. As to the talks, I wonder how most of you would take all that I have heard in these last few days, and I wish I had somebody here with me to debrief it all with because it has at times been quite overwhelming, and I am kind of the lone person not swallowing it whole and not believing that everything done is directly from God (though I do admit I could be wrong). Some quick stories, thoughts, critiques:

-the first day was a lot about "casting the demons away" with authority :-) Quote of this section, "90% of children's books are witchcraft and we must repent and keep our children from it. (to amens)" I kept thinking that I agree that there are a few books and certainly video games that have a negative influence but to say there was that many that are "witchcraft," including the likes of Harry Potter, just makes me laugh. Can we not have imagination and fantastical creatures? Is that really a sin?

-The speaker has an extremely powerful witness, of realizing his own total brokenness and transforming a church community to really believe in God's power here in each of us-- and in the power of prayer. When he started doing some of his more controversial things (casting out demons, believing people could be healed, emphasizing being saved, using prophetic prayer, etc) he lost more than half of 2000 members of his church community and was called crazy. But now, years later, his community is EXTREMELY dynamic and is made up mainly of old gang members and drug adicts and the people one would least expect in church these days-- and really has, according to many, transformed the life there and made people believe in God's healing power. The things that I find moving about the community (because many things I am critical of): recognizing that each of us is broken and needs healing, in many different forms; stress on encouraging individuals and letting them know that no matter what, they have a number of gifts that are with them and will be with them always; letting people know that Christianity is not simply a title but also a way of life and calls each of us to get out of our comfort zones and spend time visiting prisons and broken communities (which is pretty much every community or lack thereof), give up our idols of wealth and whatever else, and believe in the power of prayer...

other things that bothered me:
- "saving souls of africa" and "bringing Jesus to the townships" type stuff. As you have all heard from many of my stories, maybe they could learn more about Jesus by spending time with the people in Sweethome, many of whom already have the most incredible faiths...but we from America think we know what they "need" before we actually listen.

-Economics of God can cause problems here... preaching that believing will allow funding and things to appear can be dangerous-- though it often does happen-- because it can put the poorest into the position of believing some sin or unbelief is their reason for being in the position they are.

-"prophetic" prayer is very moving and miraculous, but I have a hard time with it. For instance, one persono went to the front and they began to pray. They said, "you have five underlying gifts. They are... You have two strongholds of sin blocking you. They are... Let us pray and repent." It allows a few people to say that God speaks to them in less than a moment's time and tells them about others and about "generational sin" and what each of us needs to repent of. Again, I have a hard time with it because it doesn't give time for others to listen and to pray in their own ways. Yesterday was all about emphasizing repentance, and was moving in the way that it recognized our need to admit our brokenness and realize God's forgiveness and new life in us, but was very "your sin is..." type stuff. And people followed right along.

-battle for the Lord language. Lots on spiritual warfare, "take back ground from the enemy", "soldiers killing all in our way" and the likes of that. Somewhat disturbing to me...

Needless to say, it has been interesting from my perspective, especially as I have tried to be open-minded and l think about how it applies to my own life. I love some of the themes and the idea of taking faith seriously, but the ways are not quite my cup of tea. Though I am getting in some fun debates and learning that there are ways that I need to open up some to my own brokenness and the likes...

-Yesterday, I got to speak for quite a while to a preacher that is participating in all of this and lives and works in Gugulethu (another township). He started leading a gang from the time he was 12 until he was shot at 17. At that point, he was sent to live with his father and was strongly influenced by his step mother to embrace the Christianity that his grandmother had taught him as a small child, and that he had seen as he followed one of the community leaders (also a former gang leader) to preach in the trains every day. As he healed from his gun wound (in the back), he began to be transformed, and has now returned to his own community to preach God's love...and he is one of the most genuine people I have ever met, so it was great to hear his story and be motivated by a faith that is very real and alive.

Anyway, tomorrow I move into Khayelitsha with a group of five guys my age, all of whom are big soccer players! It will be nice to live with an active group of people (instead of a middle-aged couple, though they are great). Ah, this is longer than it should be. I tried to separate for scanning, and I am determined to get better :-) This conference thing is almost over and then I get to return to be with people of true community...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Table Mountaineering, granny, and

Saturday was the perfect day for Table Mountain, as I hope all of you will be able to see when I can get the pictures up. I had called to go on the Cape Point trip with the other Robbies, but alas, there was no room in the van and insurance wouldn't take me. So when one of my newfound friends at the Warehouse, Jemima (not spelled like the pancake mix), called, I was excited to suggest that we hike table mountain on a winter day that looked a lot like our spring or mid-fall days in Chapel Hill. Luckily, her host family was willing to provide a ride to and from the mountain (transportation can be hard to come by) and I was able to get information about the best climbs. On the hike, I kept thinking that I wish my brothers were there, for the rock climbs, ladders, and stream obstacles would have provided much entertainment and certainly beat chimney tops in North Carolina. Some of it reminded me of the days Jason, John, Matt, and I climbed Sugarloaf the back way, realizing that if we happened to slip, it would be our end...but what would life be without risks, eh? Despite our quick paced hike, it took much longer than I would have expected because I wanted to stop every second for pictures. And I'm thankful now I did. Not only was it a gorgeous and clear day, but I had thoroughly enjoyed a theological conversation/debate up and down the mountain. At one point, we were passing a couple climbing the mountain and the woman said, almost in disgust, "You guys are having a deep conversation while we are just struggling up in silence." Sounds like a Hudson thing to do (yay for referring to myself in third person), doesn't it? wanting conversation up a rocky mountain. It's a good thing Jemima put up with me :-)

It was good though because we were able to talk a lot about the theology and approach of the warehouse, most of which I find very sound but some of which bothers me (more metaphorical prayers as I said in the last post, and telling people that God told you this or that). I particularly had a hard time with one of the prayer times in which one of the women was struggling with figuring out what to do with life and the group prayed for the "blocks" in her life. It quickly turned into a time when we would pause for one second and somebody would say, "you have three blocks." Another second. "God's telling me the first is insecurity (or whatever it was)" And so on. What bothered me was not praying for the woman, which I actually found quite powerful, but the tell-tale way of doing so. Without even a minute of silence people would say how many blocks she had and as a group name those three blocks. What if I heard differently? How do they know three and not five? I felt like maybe my faith was weak but I really just think that that kind of prayer can be dangerous because- although I am sure God talks to people in many different ways-- it is so easy with that approach to say what we are thinking as what God is saying. And then all of a sudden people take it as the word of God. Anyway, so it was great to have Jemima, who is also new to the warehouse, to discuss all of these questions and to argue a bit about the theology of conversion(or speaking to others in order and with the purpose to convert), which I am no fan of, as you all know. No more theological stuff for now though :-)

Sunday, I got to enjoy granny's (my host grandmother if you will) company again and plotted with her to take off with Erica's car and leave her at the grocery store. Granny thought it was a great idea, but reminded me that she was 88 and couldn't drive (and that I couldn't drive either, at least on the left side of the road).

And Yesterday, I had one of the better runs of my life, dancing along a scenic 5K route with my Rudy soundtrack pumping me up, to end right after sunset in the middle of a soccer field with the mountains rising in front of me (more pictures to come). It was good times :-)

Much more interesting stories to come..."revival" today and I now know where I will be staying in Khayelitsha. Until tomorrow...

Miss all of you (and you can comment now...hint)...


Saturday, June 03, 2006

rugby under the stars, whoda thunk...and finally getting to move to a township!

Well, I can say I would never have imagined writing that I have gotten into touch rugby but when you are desperate to play a sport and it is by far the most available, that's what ends up happening. I met up with friends from UNC a couple days ago (lucky to see Nitin a second time and have an awesome conversation as always about our experiences thus far here before he headed back to Kruger. we also ran into the other UNCers as well) and on the walk home, I passed by a field of soccer and rugby players. I hurried back so I could change and get to the soccer, but when I returned, the field of soccer players was cleared. Instead, I played a little basketball and then joined in the touch rugby, having no earthly idea at first what I was doing. Of course, the rules were quite simple because it was pickup touch, but I am so used to running long wide receiver routes that it was not used to adjusting to laterals. Nevertheless, I had a great time dodging huge guys with English accents (or South African accents I guess would be more correct) and even scored a couple times. The greatest part of playing was that the field on one side has a crystal clear view of table mountain, so it is like I was playing on a field bordered by the some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen...I kept thinking, I can't wait to play soccer here-- talk of a dream come true.

As I put in my email to many of you, I have noticed a number of funny differences in the meanings of words. You will often hear people say, "I hope to make it into your diary today." Sounds like a weak pickup line but actually is just a calendar. It is also common to have somebody in the office say, "Will you please give me a stiffy?" The greatest was that this girl I knew had her boss say that to her and gave him a dirty look before he explained... and of course, the one I have already used quite a few times is, "honk your hooters," which means car horn. It is also odd because stoplights are called robots. But anyway, food here is pretty similar and diverse as it is in America, though I enjoy the more popular uses of pudding and custard, the chocolate is much better, and people LOVE their meat here (though the ribs lack the memphis bbq sauce that I miss so much). I learned that quickly the first few days when I was in Jo-berg at the seminary and we had a huge braai (barbeque), or braai-bq as we called it (for we had both South Africans and Americans grilling together and we are all about community). We were grilling pounds and pounds of meat of all kinds (4 full buckets worth) and I kept saying, "this is way too much for the twenty people here." I could not believe it when one of the guys who grilled the stuff with me mocked me for my failure to believe how much meat people could eat- and every one of the hundreds of pieces of pork and beef and chicken was gone.

Back to newsy stuff, one exciting development here is that I get to move into one of the townships (kayelitsha) this week for the last 4-5 weeks here in Capetown, to live hopefully with a group of guys about my age who all live together in the heart of the real action and community. I got to be in Kayelitsha a few days ago to work in an orphanage called Bophamalele (spelling probably wrong, but it means "progress" in Xhosa), which was started by a woman from the community who realized she had a heart for the kids who were left on the street. Over the course of about 11 years (five years as an orphanage), it has grown into a full orphanage of around 100 kids of every age. I was taken around by a guy named Jeff, who is a graduate of UNC! He and his wife (also from UNC) came almost two years ago now to stay for around a year. As they got involved with this orphanage, they decided that they were called to stay for longer, and have ended up adopting one of the girls from the orphanage, as well as help the orphanage grow to a much larger and more organized staff. Even with a number of staff members, I was quite overwhelmed by the magnitude of kids and the confusion of trying to sort out who was supposed to be doing what, especially during homework time. But the kids were amazing, and I had a great time calling out spelling words to the 4th and 5th graders (and remembering the spelling days) and helping the toddlers get snack. The cool part of this connection is that the orphanage has its own service on Sundays, in which all the kids participate. Because I will be living nearby, I will be able to see what the service of these many kids is. And I look forward to learning even more than I already have about what it really means to praise God and worship as a loving community.

Yesterday was also an eventful day. I got to go back and be with the HIV support group at Sweethome farms (stories from the last post-- one of the informal settlements) and took my journal so that I could write down Xhosa. I am finding that I can learn it much easier if I get them to write down words and go over the pronunciation that way. So again, they laughed as I struggled through "ungubani igama lakho?" (what's your name?) and "mingaphi iminyaka yakho" (how old are you?). Xhosa is no easy language, especially for me who has a hard enough time with English. But we had a great time eating, singing, and talking about blessings and struggles. They all named a number of thanksgivings, and again I thought how interesting it was that we often have a hard time naming things we are thankful for. It sure opens my eyes to a lot.

I also got to sit in on a meeting with three people at the Warehouse trying to brainstorm how to create a program (or prayergram as they call it) that could lead to the development of thousands upon thousands of new businesses for the townships and money flowing from resourced churches to under-resourced areas (restitution of sorts) as investments into these new entrepreneurships. It is a fascinating process because they are really trying to transform the whole system, based on the success of one of the unemployment initiatives in which guys from the townships have created up and coming businesses of all sorts-- from garden services to woodworking to a goat business. At the warehouse, everything is done very much around prayer-- starting with an hour of prayer each morning and lots in between. I have always believed prayer was extremely important but have never been a part of something that it was such a central thing. It has been an amazing experience in many ways to have a community that is so faithful to prayer as a group. It is also odd sometimes when the language changes and people talk of seeing us riding a boat with god at the front and odd metaphors of all kinds. But, the group is incredible and I have learned more in two weeks that I could ever have imagined. Time to reform the system in Memphis and America? I think so!

Well, I am about to head out to hike table mountain on this beautiful Saturday morning. I will continue soon and love and miss all of ya!


mulweni! (hullo everybody)

hey everybody,
So I have failed miserable to blog and I am now almost two weeks in. I have, however, kept up pretty well with emails, so I am going to use this first post for many of the stories I have already written and many of you have already read. Prepare for a long one, but they will get better and shorter from here...
Anyway, to a FULL update of my experience thus far in Cape Town.I think I will do it through a number of different stories, so bear with me here :-) On Friday, I went with one of the workers here named Joy to an informal settlement called Sweethome farms. Notice the name and you will later understand how fitting it is. This informal settlement, or squatter camp (or shanty town as I have heard americans call it), is like nothing I have seen in America. It is rows upon rows of tiny shacks, made of scraps and wood and mud and metal and anything else they can find to use. There is no sewage or electricity(though both are coming with new construction) and running water is brought back in buckets usually balanced atop the heads of the women getting it, and often with their babies strapped to their backs as well. Trash is piled up outside and when it rains, it is extremely cold (it is winter here) so not only did many of the shacksflood but they have no heat and very little to stay warm and dry. And the crazy part is that it sits in front of the beautiful mountains, so as you look at the community, the magnificence of nature rises behind it all (as well as the mansions on the mountain). Anyway, Joy (a fitting name as well) has started an HIV support group of women in the community. They meet in one of the little shacks, share a meal and tea, talk about struggles and blessings, and are now trying to figure out what else they want to do. They were so welcoming, teaching me some Xhosa (and laughing at my miserable failures), offering us food and tea, and showing me a little of what real warmth in community means. At one point, Joy was asking them to talk about some of the needs they have in terms of small material things. The Warehouse will help with things like pots and pans, warm clothes, and stuff like that. SO they were naming things like plates and spoons in Xhosa, when one all of a sudden shouts in English, "DVD PLAYER!" They all start falling over with laughter and carrying on the joke (again,there is no electricity). Then later in the conversation, they were talking about what they wanted to do as a support group. One of the woman, without a seconds pause, said, "I want us to go to the places with children that do not have mothers, so we can spend time with them, love them, and sing to them as a group." My mouth dropped. These are all women who have tested HIV positive and live in these tiny homes with little supplies, but yet they are so willing to give,to love, and to see the needs of their community regardless of their lack of material goods. As I have said many times already in myjournal, we have MUCH to learn about what it means to be faithful and to give from your heart. Joy has also taught me so much. He focuses on the relationships andthrough those, community is built. He knows everybody in thiscommunity that we come across and is so warm. His story is actuallyvery powerful as well. His family was forced from their home in 1986and stood on a street corner as their house was bulldozed. Now helives in a township here with his six, soccer playing boys, and isstudying divinity, working to create all kinds of things in sweethome, and building incredible relationships.
-Story two: we were still in this home and I went to play with some of the children in the back room (there were two rooms, a tiny livingroom/dining room/kitchen and a bedroom where the children were). They did not speak any English, and at that time my Xhosa was to the extent of greetings, so it was almost impossible to communicate. They played on a little area next to the bed that was probably about three feetwide and five feet long. It was dark, cold, and they had no toys but a single marble. Nevertheless they all sat there with huge smiles,waiting for me to create some game. I had no clue what to do because they couldn't understand what I was saying. So, I started teaching them little hand games, making funny faces at them with weird voices to make them laugh and carrying them around the little area as best Icould. My ideas were pretty weak, but they were so content and just played right along despite the communication barriers and my genuine weirdness. Again, they had such a sense of both community and joy that I don't know that I have ever seen. Here they were in the dark with nothing but a tiny space and a little marble (that they lost because of a game I tried to teach them) and they were so willing toplay, to smile, to create. I am prepared to return with some new ideas...
-Story three: I went back to sweethome yesterday for a seniors support group that Joy has also started. They met to talk aboutdifferent activities they have done and will be doing-- everything from beading to running RACES. In fact, two participated in these"Golden games" here for people over the age of 60 and won gold medals in 100 meter dashes and relays. It is hilarious.
-Story four: I am staying with one of the workers here in a prettywealthy suburb not too far from this extreme poverty (the contrast here is completely in the open). I am actually planning to move in with Joy in the township pretty soon, but for now, I am staying with this middle aged white couple who are very great to talk to-- about everything from politics to sports (I have learned cricket and rugby)but are not very active people, as their kids are well out of the home. Newho, Erica's (the woman I am staying with) mother comes on Sundays to hang out, and she reminds me lots of my great grandmother Mimi. She has kind of lost her mind in many ways and is quite forgetful. So we were allsitting in the living room reading the paper, and I had just finishedthe main section of the paper, which had an article on the back of it with the headline, "English Woman Ellie has disease which gives her 250 Orgasms a Day." When I had handed off the paper, I saw the article and kind of laughed it off on my own, but as Graham (Erica's husband) was reading the paper, the article was facing out towards granny (Erica's mom). She turns to Graham and asks, "Does Ali (her son in law who has cancer) have the same thing as that Ellie? Does he have the same organism?" Graham turns the paper around and we both just fall out laughing. Imagine his face as he responds, "No, granny. This is not the same organism. Ali has cancer and is in chemotherapy."
-Sexual things are talked about a bit more openly here. They took meto a relationship talk for singles at the church so I could meet someyoung adults like myself. Instead, it turned into a two hour panelabout marriage that I could not really have been less interested in.The line of the night though was with a couple in their fifties when the woman says, "Don't worry about sex now. You will have the chance to BONG for the rest of your lives." I just about fell out of my seat.
-Back to a serious note, here, they take prayer very seriously and do it as a group for an hour at the start of each day. Yesterday, Craig(my supervisor and the head guy here) led prayers and had me talkabout the Sudan crisis. The hour was then spent praying about it and about the things which God could be calling all of us to do. It was extremely powerful to be with a group that believes so strongly in the power of prayer and was willing not only to talk, pray, and do things about poverty here but also realize the connections elsewhere. The staff is really amazing. There was a staff meeting monday with updates on all of the things that go on, and then they have time totalk about struggles and things that as a staff they need to improve on. Yesterday, Craig began to talk about the need for the staff to continually address problems like racism in themselves. He said that he had never realized what that meant until a friend told him about a time of prayer in which somebody apologized to her about apartheid. Of course, Craig is very much like our family back home and has in many ways gone against the mold, so he said he had always assumed that it was kind of an unspoken thing. Finally, he said he had realized that he needed to apologize to his friends and to others for apartheid, for his participation and benefit from it and from any hurt and pain others went through and for his white privilege. He almost broke down as he talked about the change that had happened in him since he had done so out loud, and it was amazing for me to see the reactions of people like Joy who lost so much to apartheid, as tears came to their eyes. It struck me how much work we have to do in Memphis, how much work I have to do in my own life. I always take it for granted that I have worked against things like racism, but rarely do we admit and apologize for the hurt and pain that our families had and that we have benefitted from, no matter how indirectly. Reconciliation very much starts with the realization of what is inside each of us because as soon as we say, "ah, we were not and are not one of them" we are often doing exactly what caused the problems in the first place. Enough of my sermon, but more thoughts on that process to come, because it is a process here which is just beginning here, so I am lucky in that I have gotten here in quite a time of reconiation for this place, both outside the walls and within.
That's it for the stories, but much more has happened as well. I have been to work with the unemployment initiatives where four businesses have been started by some amazing characters, I have been back to Sweethome for youth projects, and to one of the orphanages with two UNC grads (who are incredible people) and a prison sometime this week. This first week was so interesting because I have just been seeing what all of the different programs are doing. Then after this week, I will start to be a bit more focused, and may even work on some type of documentary as well. I went on Saturday with my friend Nitin (from UNC, here forenvironmental work) to the District VI museum. We made our way arounddowntown and had a great time catching up. He has been gone all semester doing environmental work and following baboons and all kinds of interesting things. he had some very interesting stories from a different side of life. The museum was yet another powerful experience, and did a good job of mixing individual stories with the context of things, as well as presenting things in a very confusing fassion, supposedly to represent the confusion that many experienced during that time. It is another wonderful example of the way that people are working here to remember and feel the pain, and in doing so, also to move forward with a reconciling spirit. It is disturbing though the extent to which the move toward reconciliation if most often from the side of the oppressed. We went to a nursing home last week in Jo-berg with two black students fromthe divinity school. At the school, they have to go to a placement with a different culture, so these two have to go to a nursing homewith Afrikaner (white) women. When they first arrived, the nursing home had made out a list of all the things they could do-- take the women to the mall, form relationships with them, and on the list went. Once they saw that the students were not white, the list narrowed todoing a short devotion for them. They were welcoming of me and wanted to talk to me, but not the black American with us. Isn't it interesting that they are so closed off to it, yet when I go into theblack townships, people are so welcoming to me, despite the fact that I come from a race of those who have oppressed them? And speaking of welcoming, Joy has taught me some Xhosa, and people love it when I try, even if I cannot even respond to their simple responses or have to repeat something ten times. They have even agreed to give me a clan name, without having to go through the painful process to get one :-)
Last funny: I also got an offer for marriage from one of the people in the community :-) we all laughed together as she joked, and then she cracked up when she found out I was 20, "way too young."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Away to Africa

Dear Friends and Family:

I'm off to Africa! While I'm down where the sun says winter I'll be blogging here at The Hudsonian. Stay tuned for more!