Sunday, April 29, 2007

I don't have a clever title

It's been a while since I've written an update, and it feels like the days are flying past. The weeks have grown more and more full, the weather is growing cooler, and it's strange to realize that I only have a little over 6 months left here. I'm realizing just how much time it takes to build relationships and to really engage in the culture here--and I feel like my time is so short!

Sarah and I have been meeting more regularly to dream and plan our writing project, and we've decided to each spend some time in the other's place of ministry, so that we can both get to know the women in each place; though we'll each invest more deeply within our own ministry location. It's been difficult for me to get to know the women at Potter's House (a women's shelter in downtown Pretoria) over the past few weeks, as the activity that we've planned to take part in has been cancelled each week! We've been able to chat with some of the women in passing, but that side of things seems to be coming slowly.

But, the past few weeks have been wonderful for me in getting more connected to the women in Soshanguve. Each Wednesday, I head out to Soshanguve with Doug and Sarah to hang out and read the Bible with Granny's family. The past two weeks, I've driven out to Sosh myself, and though the process has involved a bit of trial and error--and children pointing and shouting "makua!" (white people) as they ran after the car--I think I finally know which dirt roads to turn on in order to get to Granny's house, as well as the home of her daughter, Emily. But more important than my improving directional skills, I feel like my own friendships with many of the family members are growing--I don't feel quite so much like I'm just tagging along with Doug anymore! That's been exciting.

This week, Anna (one of Granny's daughters) asked when she and her sister Emily can come and visit me at Pangani. I was really excited to have her do that, as I've connected with her more and more the past couple of weeks. I've been looking for an opportunity to spend more time personally with the women in this family, but haven't really had that opening yet, so this invitation was really cool. I'm hoping to take this time to share a bit of my story with them, to start opening the door for them to share more with me about their lives & experiences.

Another thing that's been exciting for me during this past week has been seeing God moving among our community in so many ways. Our discussions this week have really connected with issues I've been struggling with personally as well as things we've been dealing with as a community. I feel like we're all moving closer and deeper as a community--both corporately and in individual friendships--and I'm looking forward to continuing that journey with the team as the year goes on.

A group of seven of us will spend Monday through Wednesday of this week at a conference just outside Jo'burg, and then next week will be our first week off. It's hard to believe we're already this far along in the year! The five of us apprentices will be off to Cape Town May 8-13, and I'm excited to go see the penguins. ;-) It will also be wonderful to see the coast--I've missed the ocean!

Please pray:
-For my friendships with Anna and Emily and the other women in Granny's family, that these relationships would deepen and that I will be able to begin meeting with them personally on a regular basis.
-For our community as we continue to grow closer as a team, that we might be perceptive of each others' needs and to how God is working among us.
-For our upcoming week off, that it would be a good time for the five of us to grow closer, and that it would be a great week of both relaxing and reflecting on our time here thus far.
-For me to continue to deepen both ministry and community relationships here, especially as I feel like time is growing shorter.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Day in the Life

I've had a few people ask me what a typical day here is like. I don't think there is such a thing as a typical day, really, but here goes!

Wednesday, April 11th

I wake up just in time to get ready and grab a mug of tea before our community check-in time at 8:30am. We have a couple of visitors from the CRM office in town for the next 10 days--Peter and Lori. They introduce themselves before we split off into two groups of about six each. We each share a little about what's been going on in our lives the past week, and take time to pray for each other. Usually, we would follow the check-in time with a "conversation" (our learning/discussion times together), but these times have been abbreviated this week as we're taking time to focus on a project observing culture in more depth.

After hanging my laundry on the clothesline (Wednesday is laundry day for Pangani Room 4), I settle onto the couch in the coffee house to get some writing done. I keep getting interrupted with conversations, and as much fun as talking to people is, there are some things I want to sort out in writing, so I move outside to the stoep (patio). I have a little time to write before Sarah tracks me down and we start talking about our writing project ideas. This leads to a long chat about diving into culture and ministry and relationships here. My writing is abandoned as I explore some of these issues more deeply in conversation with a friend. We are interrupted periodically when the dogs, Chippy and Jessie, come over and beg for attention. And sometimes, they drool on us. Eeew.

Sarah and I continue to talk over lunch (leftover biltong salad--go ahead; look it up!), then I drag another load of wet laundry out to the clothesline. I'm not sure where the rest of the afternoon goes--I try to get some reading done, but end up talking more with other apprentices--this is the danger of hanging out in Pangani's common areas during the day!

At 3:00, five of us head out to Soshanguve: Doug, Peter, Katie, Sarah, and me. We drop Katie off at the Home of Joy, an orphanage for AIDS-affected children. The rest of us travel to Block KK, where we stop at Emily's house. Emily is one of Granny's daughters, and we're going to give her a ride over to Granny's house. Peter asks to take a few pictures, and Doug shows him where they plan to start a community garden behind Emily's house. We take a look at the handmade pillows and shoes that the family is selling in front of the house. There are also some snacks for sale, and one of us finally asks a question I'd been wondering for a while: what are the little plastic bags of rocks for? Emily and her friend Francine explain that people snack on these. I think we all wonder briefly if this is an instance of "play a trick on the white person." Both Emily and Francine make faces when we ask if they like to eat them, but Emily insists that we have a taste. They're soft clay-ey rocks and sure enough, you can nibble little chunks off and chew on the powdery rock dust. It tastes pretty much like you’d expect a rock to taste; it's kind of like eating dirt, actually.

Sarah and I talk to Francine and eventually wander down the road to visit her home. She invites us in and pours us some cooldrink (Coke, in this case). We talk a little bit about her life, and she shows us pictures of her children and her white wedding--and her husband, from whom she is separated. She says that he looked nice on the outside, but that the inside was not so nice.

The afternoon is wearing on, but Doug encourages us to stay and visit with Francine while he and Peter walk to Granny's with one of the boys. We leave soon after they do, and drive to Granny's with Francine, Emily, and Emily's daughter Michelle. It's an interesting drive. A couple of the dirt roads are blocked by bulldozers and large piles of dirt because the city is in the middle of the slow process of putting in a sewage line. We wind our way through an alternate route, Sarah doing her best to keep the car out of the worst of the holes and bumps in the road. We arrive at Granny's just minutes before Alex shows up with Doug and Peter.

Granny and the family welcome us warmly--Anna calling me by my African name, Lerato. After we spend some time chatting, the family gets out their Bibles and Doug starts asking some questions about what they all thought and felt after watching The Passion of the Christ on Good Friday. We combine this discussion with reading and talking about the account of the crucifixion in the book of Luke. The Bible passage is read in English and then Sotho, and Doug asks questions as we read each section. We finish our time together in prayer, and have some time to talk a little bit more before we head back to Pretoria North.

Back home, I grab a quick dinner and then Sarah, Katie and I head for the lounge and watch the latest episode of Lost. (The third season just started up here about a month ago.) Afterwards, I retire to the coffeehouse--now a much quieter place, since the staff have gone home and it's just us apprentices around Pangani. It starts raining outside and Sarah and I put aside our reading for a few minutes to go outside and play in the rainstorm. But I do finally finish the next chapter of Sub-merge in preparation for Thursday’s book discussion and then call it a day and head for bed.

There you have just one day out of one of my weeks. A small slice of life here...