A lot has happened since my last post. There have been a number of wonderful experiences marked with a few discouraging times. Saturday provided another beautiful, cloudless day. Courtney and I spent the afternoon strolling along the beach, watching surfers enjoy the warm, spring air, and the children running along the shore, splashing one another with the cool waters of the Indian Ocean. The sunshine was pleasant and everyone was taking it in. When we returned I found that I actually was a little red and burnt, the first time since being here in Africa. It may finally be time to use the three bottles of sunscreen that I packed.
On Saturday evening our host family was going out to spend time with their extended family, no uncommon thing here in Africa. We thought when we returned from the beach we would be in the house alone for the night, either reading or writing. Sure enough, when we returned, everyone was still at home and they invited us to come along for the festivities. The family was having a braai, which is a barbecue, for the birthday of Chris and Jeremy’s brother Donovan. When we arrived at the party we were welcomed with great enthusiasm by all of the family and friends. It was a loud and lively place filled with laughter and smiles.
The eating began right away once we set foot in the house. Chris and Jeremy’s mother greeted us and showed us to the food. We started off the feast with some cheese, sausages, and veggies. Obviously I loved all the cheeses and ate a lot. Soon after this we were served some Rooibos tea, one of my favorites. After tea came, what we believed was the main course. We were the guests of the house so we always had the first pick of the food. We went to the table and noticed some bread, fish, and salad out on the table. Not knowing that this was yet another appetizer, we grabbed the large plates, which were for the next course, and filled them up. At one point Courtney discovered some potato salad and other dishes in the kitchen and went in to grab some. At this point one of the elderly ladies yelled in that those dishes were for the chicken and main course. We all laughed at the confusion. We consumed this course with delight, and then the main course of chicken, sausage, and the other dishes was served. And of course cake followed soon after this.
We were dinning in the home of Chris and Jeremy’s mother. Her husband passed away not long ago so now she lives in her home with her son Donovan. She is a wonderful, hospitable lady with a big heart and even bigger smile. At the house that night were two of her single friends who live in the same cul-de-sac. The three single ladies were hilarious and brought much joy to the party. One of the ladies was so witty and quick; every word that came from her mouth had us all laughing. When she was leaving she had to say something to each person, each time sounding serious, but layering her speech with comedy.
In the midst of the feasting there was great conversation, both joyous and serious. At one point we all gathered together, family and friends, and sang for Donovan. Then he gave a speech and the joy brought tears to his eyes. It was very moving, and I, too, was beginning to tear up. After this Courtney blessed Donovan, the family, and the feast that would follow. While we ate, the lively Pastor Clive, cousin of Jeremy and Chris, entertained us. Courtney and Clive picked on one another all night, which brought about so much laughter that I’m sure the entire neighborhood could hear. There were times of serious conversation as well.
On the drive over to the house, we noticed a large crowd of people gathered by the side of the main road not far from where we are staying. Chris told us that a man had just been shot and killed, right there in the open. There were no police in sight. He went on to mention how this is a common occurrence in that part of town.
At dinner that night we discussed this and Clive told us of the drastic living conditions of the blacks in Cape Town. Many are staying in small rooms, no privacy or comfort. He mentioned that some rooms will hold up to 20 people, and they have to sleep in shifts because of the lack of space. There is still much work that needs to be done in terms of racial reconciliation here in South Africa. This conversation was painful and saddened me greatly. I had a difficult time sleeping that night thinking about the dead man lying on the side of the road and the many families crammed into a tiny room just trying to survive. It was even more difficult to think about how few people actually cared. Then I began to think about the children and the dangerous paths that they follow. Many have no parents so they seek gangs to take care of them. Drug lords become their fathers, leading them into a life that ultimately ends with a bullet, a small crowd, and thousands of people passing by. Sleeping has been a challenge with so much on my mind.
Yesterday provided some hope and light. In the morning we drove into the mountains to Wellington to visit one of Courtney’s spiritual sons from Jamaica, Templa, who is studying at a leadership school. The school is called ALICT, which stands for the African Leadership Institute for Community Transformation. The school is small and is located up in the mountains at a camp. They enroll students from all around the globe, young leaders seeking to pursue a career in community transformation. Currently there are 20 nations represented among the 24 students. This is so incredible! While we were there we met people from Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, the USA, Romania, Ukraine, St. Lucia, and many other places that I can’t think of right now. The training sounds intense and fulfilling, and may be something I pursue in the future.
We enjoyed our time with Templa, eating breakfast and driving through the mountains. It was wonderful being able to meet another one of Courtney’s spiritual sons, expanding my family even more. He has so many sons and daughters around the world, and still more to come. This week Courtney actually is gong out to lunch with two of the young men we have met in our time in Cape Town. One is from Vodocom (the main phone company) and the other is the waiter we met at the gardens. The family continues to grow.
Last night we had our first session. We drove over in the evening with Jeremy. Again, we had no idea what to expect. As Jeremy guided us he led us into a parking lot with a string of buildings that looked like small shops. I was searching for the church building but didn’t seem to find one. Then I heard singing coming from one of the little shops. It was in fact a church, compact and loud. We walked in as the band was playing and the people were singing joyfully. We were greeted with smiles and hugs. Once the singing finished and introductions were made, Courtney went up to speak. The plan was to do some teaching about mentoring and discipleship, but the teaching rapidly transformed into preaching. The people were receptive and eager to listen. I loved when Courtney would say something profound and challenging, and you would hear someone in the crowd shout, “Oh my God! Yes!” This introductory session was exactly what was needed for the people last night. The teaching will continue Monday and Tuesday night.
Tuesday and Thursday I will be traveling with Chris into one of the poor areas of town to help with his children’s ministry. We will be serving the kids a meal and then do a few activities with them. I will probably share a lesson each day as well. I’m looking forward to this time.
The weekend has been filled with many emotions and sleepless nights, but as the ministry begins again I feel energized. The next week will be full of opportunities to serve and learn. This trip has provided me with so many unique experiences, each one teaching a new lesson. Please continue to pray as we get back into the rhythm of ministry these next few days. As always, thank you for your support and encouragement. We are feeling extremely blessed, and I often find myself thinking about how I even got here. How did a Jamaican who grew up in poverty and illness in the mountains meet up with a young man from a rural town in Indiana, and then end up in Africa serving in multiple countries? This never ceases to amaze me, and I’m grateful each day for the opportunities that I have to serve and learn. Peace.