On Friday night we arrived in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, which is on the eastern coast, near to the city of Durban. As we were coming in to land I could tell that this side of the country is much different than the western coast. This became even more evident as we exited the plane into the comfortable, tropical air outside. When we arrived at our home for the next two weeks we were welcomed by monkeys, geckos, beautiful flowers, and more red dirt.
Where we are currently staying is built into the side of a hill. There are multiple layers and paths, which lead to different buildings. There are different cabins to sleep in, bathrooms, a kitchen, and lounge area. It is a property unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a bit rustic, but I love it. Our hosts are very hospitable and their two dogs are just as friendly. The two dogs have become good companions, and they seem to follow me wherever I go, and try to sneak into places they shouldn’t be. This is a great place to end my time in Africa, and I will certainly not forget it.
Over the past three days there have been many incredible experiences. The three young men that came to Cape Town have been spending a lot of time with us, and some of their friends have joined in as well. I have enjoyed getting to know them over food and conversations. On Sunday we attended Oasis Church, which is a multiracial church in Amanzimtoti. At the service we sang in Zulu, English, and Afrikaans, and the message was encouraging as well. The people were so loving and welcoming to us. It will be great to serve with them over the next two weeks. I have been connecting with many people, developing relationships that I know will last a long time.
Last night was one of my highlights of the entire trip so far. After the evening service we got Dominos Pizza (just arrived in South Africa this year) and 11 young men from the church gathered together to hear the stories of Buhle and Ntokozo (who were in Cape Town with me and Courtney last week). It was so moving to hear these young men share their stories with their friends, holding nothing back and challenging them to pursue a more meaningful life as Christ followers. After they shared Courtney had each person share a take-away with the group. Each young man shared something unique, which showed us just how attentive and eager to learn they were. It was amazing! There was so much passion and desire for transformation; all of which derived from the stories of two young men and some pizza. There is a lot to be learned from this experience. Who knew that some food and conversation could be so transformative? I was encouraged by this, and told the young men to keep on practicing this type of gathering, and also mentioned how excited I was to see the eagerness to learn and change.
Today was no less exciting. Courtney and I spent the morning at Seed of Hope, which is a community transformation center that works in the township of Bhekulwandle, right next to Amanzimtoti. The organization focuses on helping children, teens, and even families as they work through life. There are health programs, life skills training sessions, workshops on efficient farming, school programs, and much more. This morning Courtney spoke to the staff about being effective leaders with high emotional intelligence. After this I spent some time with Carl Waldron who is one of the leaders at Seed of Hope. It was inspiring to hear what the ministry is seeking to do and how they are working. I was encouraged by this conversation and I am looking forward to spending more time with Carl and the rest of the staff.
In the afternoon we were able to travel to a school with Musa (the school coordinator form Seed of Hope) to spend an hour with some 7th grade students. We were not expecting to share with anyone today, but you have to be flexible in ministry because you never know when an opportunity may arise. We went into the class and began by having the students tell us their names. The names were difficult for us to pronounce, filled with clicks and sounds that are familiar to us from the west. This brought a lot of laughter as we struggled to repeat the names of the children. From here we moved into a discussion about dreams and goal. I asked the kids to name some of their dreams in life, and then we went on to talk about what to do and not do in order to achieve those goals. The answers surprised me. The kids were attentive and gave wise answers. It was another very encouraging experience. There seems to be a strong desire to learn in this country, in all of the countries we have visited. At the end of this discussion we had the kid share a Zulu song with us. If you don’t know anything about Zulu singing I highly recommend you check it out. The Zulu people are some of the most naturally gifted singers I have ever heard. The harmonies and style are unlike anything else I have heard. (If you are interested in listening to some Zulu singing check out Ladysmith Black Mambazo, or Paul Simon’s Graceland, especially the track titled “Homeless”). The kids sang and we couldn’t help but smile. Then Courtney taught the kids a Bob Marley song and they loved it. As we were leaving the school we could hear the kids shouting, “Let’s get together and feel alright!” Another unforgettable time.
This evening was another highlight for me. We went to a meeting of church planters who are being mentored the pastors from Oasis Church. Courtney led a discussion about mentoring, and the leaders were open and engaging, asking tough questions and dialoguing about how to overcome different challenges. The conversation was deep and a lot was being uncovered. This time revealed a lot to me and I, too, learned so much. Pastor Gareth and Pastor Robert (the two pastors of Oasis Chruch) are leading this group of church planters, mentoring them and guiding them over the next three years so that those being mentored may do the same in the future. This type of ministry is so powerful and necessary in our churches and communities.
There is much more to come over the next two weeks. I am looking forward to spending more time with the young men and also the leaders of Seed of Hope and Oasis Church. These two weeks in Amanzimtoti are bound to teach me a lot as they already have, and the time here has just started. Thanks for your support! I apologize for the lack of detail in this report. There is just too much to share so you will just have to ask me about it when I return in a month. Please continue to send your comments, messages of encouragement, and questions. Thanks!
Ladysmith Black Mambazo: