The past few days have been full, especially for Courtney, as he has been meeting with young men each evening for one-on-one sessions. In the mornings we have been traveling to schools to share with some classes about setting and achieving goals. We have mainly been speaking to middle school students, but yesterday we also met with some high schoolers. The sessions that we have been leading are interactive, keeping the students very attentive. We have been asking them what their dreams are for their lives and what steps they must take in order to get there. Surprisingly the kids were responsive, almost all raising their hands to participate. They dreamed of becoming doctors, pilots, actors, singers, artists, social workers, and engineers. Then they went on to give many wise answers of the steps they must take in order to get to where they want to be in the future. It was encouraging to hear that the kids had so many goals and dreams for their lives. Each session I tried to encourage the children to stick with it no matter what may come along. Anybody can accomplish great things, it is just a matter of working hard and not giving up when failure or difficult times come.
At the end of each session we had the children sing for us in Zulu. I have already mentioned how the Zulu people are some of the most naturally gifted singers I have ever encountered. Every time they sang I was amazed. One of the days I even had tears in my eyes because of the power and passion with which they sang. Yesterday was especially moving as nearly 60-70 kids (maybe more) sang enthusiastically with clapping and stomps that shook the foundation of the building. The other day one of the boys mentioned how he wanted to be a professional singer so we had him lead the class in a song. Normally the women lead songs so this was a little uncomfortable for him at first, but once he started to sing his confidence returned, and I couldn’t believe the glorious sound that came from that young man’s lips. These times will be with me the rest of my life, there’s no doubt about that.
Courtney decided to teach the kids a Jamaican song each time as well to return the favor. We sang “one love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright,” by Bob Marley. The kids loved it and we held hands and belted out the song of unity together. Many times after leaving the classes we could still hear the kids singing those lyrics over and over.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoon Courtney led a small group discussion with young leaders at Seed of Hope. Seed of Hope has a program called LOL (Live Out Loud), which is made up of young leaders that come from the schools within the township. There are two levels to this program, one for the early teens and the higher for the older teens. Each day the discussion was laid back and filled with many great insights and talking points. Tonight and tomorrow Courtney will be leading a larger conference for young adults speaking on some of the same topics. Tomorrow after the morning session we are planning to feast together as well, playing games and just spending time with the young leaders.
Along with our ministry there have been many other great times this week as well. I mentioned the other day how there are monkeys everywhere. Up until a couple days ago I haven’t seen any monkeys where we are staying, but only out by the road. Each day I have been waking up between 5:30-6 am because the sun comes up at that time and the roosters are also up. Usually I will stay in my bed for a while until I actually start preparing for the day. Just the other morning, however, I heard a strange noise up in the trees above my cabin, which is at the top of the hill on the property where we are staying. I quickly jumped from my bed to see what was going on. The tree branches rustled, some up the hill, others right above my head. There were monkeys scattered all throughout the trees, leaping from branch to branch down the hillside. As I watched this spectacle I slowly walked down from my cabin to get a better view.
Every so often a monkey would stop and turn, looking curiously at me, peaking from behind a branch or some leaves to see what I might do. As they were concerned about me I was also concerned about them. We stood there motionless looking into each other’s eyes, then without warning the monkey would rapidly turn and jump to the next tree. There must have been nearly 40-50 monkeys that morning. Young and old traveled in a large group that was spread out over a number of trees. This surreal experience lasted for about 30 minutes before they had finally all passed. It was absolutely amazing, and slightly terrifying.
The next day more monkeys came to the property. The last few days there have been scattered storms. The thunder and lightning have been harsh, yet the rains have been gentle. The other night I watched the lightning race across the sky, illuminating the valley below. The thunder consistently startled me as it echoed throughout the hills. All of the creatures around were frightened. Dogs ran wild through the streets crying and barking at each crash of thunder. Birds took cover in the dense vegetation of the hills. The monkeys made horrific noises as if they were being killed. It was complete chaos. As the storms moved on the hillside became calm. The birds returned to singing their beautiful chorus, the monkeys went back to searching for food, and the dogs found their way home. In that peaceful moment I finally was able to sleep.
The last two nights while Courtney has been away with his mentees, I have been spending time with our hosts. We have had some excellent conversations over dinner, and I have greatly enjoyed their company. There is an older Zulu lady staying on the property as well. She is in her 70s but I never would have guessed. She has been entertaining us with stories of old, as my hosts have also shared in the storytelling. It has been fascinating, something I look forward to each night. Just the other evening five young Dutch girls joined us for dinner as our host has been helping them get around, touring the area. It was interesting to learn about yet another culture, and also to listen to the work that each of them has been doing here. Each of the girls (nearly the same age as me) paid for their own way to come here and serve in different communities, working with orphans, AIDs clinics, and a variety of others. This night Buli from Seed of Hope cooked us a traditional Zulu dinner and it was delicious. I also had an interesting chat with the girls about different types of cheese, as cheese is a big thing in Holland, and they said I have to visit so I can go around and try all of the specialties in the area. Maybe one day I will reach the country of cheese, but for now it will remain a dream.
As you can tell this week has been wonderful. It is hard to believe that I only have about 10 days left in Africa. This next week will not be quite as busy so I am hoping to see some sights before we head up to the UK on the 12th. As my time here comes to a close I have started to reflect on all of my experiences, trying to comprehend all that has happened over these past few months. This process will take some time. I must thank everyone again for helping to make all of these experiences possible. Without you I never would have made it here, fulfilling some of my childhood dreams. I appreciate all of your prayers and messages of encouragement. I look forward to sharing stories in person isoon, but for now I’m going to enjoy the remainder of my time here on this beautiful continent. Peace.