So today I must say I do write this blog with a heavy heart. No, no one has passed away or anything. It’s just an experience I had the other day that has showed me what it truly means to carry one another’s burdens and how we are bound together by our common humanity and our struggles. Unfortunately, I really cannot put it all into words because it is kind of hard to do so (as it will be to try to share a whole year of my journey here in SA with people back home). Sometimes when you just don’t have the words, a moment of silence, reflection, mediation and even a prayer from the heart usually helps. Sometimes, there are no right words to say to bring comfort to someone who is hurting or in need. Sometimes, love, grace and mercy can come in the form of a hug or a smile. A laugh or a cry. There really is no perfect way but knowing that it comes from the heart can bring a little hope. It is in this that I believe we are abound by our common humanity and it is with this that even though it is hard to carry one another’s burdens, we also have Jesus who said we could place our burdens on him as well. It is with this that end this with a prayer. A prayer that comes from my heart.
As we begin a new day
may we realize that
we are all bound together
by our common humanity
May we realize that
we are not meant
to carry our burdens
that we also realize
that others should not
also have to carry their burdens
We are connected to each other
and we can help carry one another’s burdens
May we also realize that You God can also’
carry our burdens
Help us to remember to be merciful to one another
and to always pour out your grace and love among others
that you have so freely given us
Maybe one day
people can truly see your will be done here
on earth as it is in heaven
So you know there are somedays that I just get caught up in all the craziness of the world. Watching the news can be depressing a lot of times and sometimes it just makes me angry. I start to wonder as I am watching the news here with my host family if this world can get any better. I have come to realize that it takes small things for me to see this.
This past weekend, I went to Taung, Northwest, with my host family to visit one of my host mom’s family friends. When we pull up late on friday night, we are immediatley welcomed by the family. I am greeted with a big hug and I even got to see an adorable baby. We were there for the baby’s dedication at church that was taking place the next morning (Saturday). It is always amazing to me that even though I am going to someone’s house as a stranger, they still welcome me with open arms. I know that the hospitality that I have learned here will be something that I will take back with me when I get back home. Anyway, on Saturday we had a big celebration at church for the baby and even had a big meal afterwards. I was able to meet more people and I had a gogo tell me that I was her long lost family member. As I sat down with gogo, she said something that I will never forget. She said that she and I are one. Black and White we are one. Talk about having tears come to your eyes.
I realzied that even with all this craziness that I have seen, I also have seen and experienced many beautiful things in this world. I was telling someone today that I am living a beautiful life and it is true. Being with my extended family in the Taung and with my family throughout SA made me realize that regardless of all the craziness, I do still believe that I live in a beautiful world.
So I really have no words to say but that is where music comes in for me. I have a lot to reflect about (losing a close friend and having to go through the grief journey again, the resuurection of Christ, reconciliation and love) and for some reason this song keeps coming up. Maybe there is a reason for it. After all, I do believe that love will save the day.
“God writes straight on crooked lines.” Portuguese Adage
I recently started reading Made for Goodness by Desmond Tutu co-written with his daughter Mpho Tutu. This title caught my attention because I honestly had no clue what he actually meant so naturally I want to dive in and explore why he has decided to write such a book with a title that can make you think. As I start reading it, I start to realize that he is talking about that we are all made for goodness by God. This is something that honestly I have never been sure about, but as I keep reading my mind starts going into a questioning mode.
You see, as I have been in Bloemfontein for almost 7 months I have been exposed to many issues. Racism, violence, justice, drug abuse, poverty and homelessness just to name a few. Being exposed to these issues, it makes you wonder where in the world does goodness and love exist? Surely it has to be somewhere. Seeing these issues right in front of my eyes has been an emotional experience for me. It just pains my heart to be in the reality of these issues. It’s one thing to care about these issues seeing them on the news in the comfort of your own home but actually seeing them in reality will just tear at your heart and just baffle your mind. Honestly, it has made me wonder if we are made for goodness at all and are we really made to love one another. It is easy to get caught up in all the ugliness that sometimes you can miss the beauty that is right in front of you.
I say this because today at Towers of Hope, I saw a glimpse of what Desmond meant when he said God has made us for goodness (he does talk about choice so again we do have the freedom to choose to either do good or evil). Here in Bloem at the local university (University of Free State), there are a group of students (members of the psychology association) who decided that every friday they would come to Towers, take the street children to the local sports park to do activities with them. These students wanted to be involved in making these kids life a bit better and to get them away from the streets by doing all sorts of fun and games with them. Now it may not seem like much, but to the kids it means a lot to them. It actually shows that people do care. It also made me realize that there is goodness and love and that there are people who do take the time to show it. It may be by doing something small, but usually it takes a simple act of kindness to remind us that goodness and love does exist.
Do I still think we are made for goodness? That I am not sure of and I am sure that I will continue to struggle with this, but I can say that by seeing a glimpse of that goodness it has given me hope that kindness, love and goodness still exists you just have to look a little bit harder.
Don’t stop, echoes the older Liberian lady’s voice. Don’t ever stop.
My answer to her: I never will.” Leymah Gbowee
“South Africa is reportedly the ‘rape capital’ of the world. According to the Crime Information Management Centre of the South African Police Services 52 160 cases of rape were reported in 1997. This reflects an increase of 10 000 cases since 1994. Unfortunately, according to POWA (People Opposed to Women Abuse) these alarming figures are only 2.8% of rapes that occur in South Africa annually. If 52 000 reported rape cases reflect only 2.8% of actual rapes, it means that actually more than one million rapes take place in South Africa annually.” http://rapecrisis.org.za/rape-in-south-africa/
My question… How many more women and young girls will be raped and/or killed before action will be taken? How long will we be silent?
All I can say is that it will not be solved overnight, but we can scream and shout until our voices are heard! We will no longer be silent! We will not stop until sexual violence against women stops once and for all!
Although I will not participate in a protest, I will not stay silent. I lend my voice along with many women all over the world to say Enough is Enough!
Will you remain silent or will you scream and shout with women all over the world?
So do you remember saying at the beginning when I first arrived in SA that I wanted to share stories of reconciliation in this blog? I bet you might be wondering what happened to that. Well, let’s just say that I put a higher expectation on my blog. You see as I have been here in SA I have come to realize that not everyone has experienced reconciliation. As I was thinking the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (which started in 1996 and ended in 1998 as a way to help heal all of South Africans) was all throughout SA, I found out that it actually wasn’t. So then I thought well maybe I can just ask about Apartheid and what it was like and have people been able to forgive, but I then a friend of mine that I worked with said something that really struck me. She explained to me that Apartheid was just a horrible time in people’s lives. It just caused so much pain and the memories are so painful to even bring up that people just do not want to talk about it anymore. They just want to move forward. When she sad this it totally made sense to me. How hard must it be to bring up painful memories that you would rather forget all because someone wants to know about the history of Apartheid? As much as I do want to learn, is it worth causing someone pain just by asking them questions? Would it not just be better to wait on them when and if they are ever ready to share their story? Would it just not be better to just grow a relationship with the person and just get to know them for who they are and not want to get to know them just because I want to hear what their life was like during Apartheid?
All these questions have made me realize how powerful stories and memories can be. I know that is someone asks me about certain parts of my life, I cringe at the thought of bringing up those memories again. Why would I want to put someone else through that painful process? Sometimes, it is just better to get to know the person that you are talking to and grow a relationship from there. If they want to share their story, great, if not, than that is ok too. For me, I am realizing that the more I get to know my community, the more that I love them. Regardless if they share what their life was like during apartheid, they are still letting me in to their hearts and homes. I am slowly realizing how powerful stories can be but I am also realizing that their story is their story and not mine. They have the power over their story and I do not nor do I ever want to seem and feel like I have that power. Stories can be very powerful but remember that it is up to that person to share their story because it is their own and not ours and they have the right to share or not to share.
As I have arrived back in Bloemfontein from my holiday in Limpopo, I have been doing a lot of thinking. My mind really has not stopped and I am not sure why. I realize that time is going by a bit fast and that soon it will be time for me to leave. Being here for only 5 months, I never would have thought that I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. My mind has been filled with so much about the history of South Africa, the culture and the language (Sesotho) but most importantly, I can tell that I am slowly being transformed.
You may wonder how in the world can I tell but believe me I know it is happening. I can see it in small ways.I can see it by the way I interact with my family, the way I interact with my fellow friends at Towers of Hope and even during Sunday Church Service. I have learned so much about myself and one thing that I have noticed about being transformed is the way that I have been able to open my heart to receive love. I have been so good at giving love, but I was never good at receiving it. I have my family here to thank for that. They do not know it (I am including my host family, extended host family, Dean Monama’s family and my YAGM SA family) but they have been very instrumental in helping me in this process. I really do not know how in the world I could ever thank them.
Being taught to open my heart to receive love will be something that I will always remember about being in South Africa (of course I will have other memories as well). Was this what God had in store for me to learn? That I will never know, but he knows what he is doing. He has made me realize that love really has no boundaries. Experiencing love that has no boundaried is a beautiful thing that I have been able to experience. It is hard to put into words, but I feel that maybe words will not be able to expalin it in a way that showing this love can. I guess The Beatles were right… “All You Need Is Love.”
Luke 2:8-12 “There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all people. This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born-Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Good News Version)
As I am serving as a YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) in Bloemfontein, South Africa, celebrating this Advent season in the summer and working at an NGO called Towers of Hope where we work with vulnerable people (the homeless and street children), I was struck by this passage for a few reasons. One of the reasons is because of the way that I am experiencing Advent in a different country. South Africa has been coming through a very dark history with Apartheid and trying to move forward to a South Africa that is unified. Second would be because of the social issues that are currently going on today (HIV/AIDS, Economic Inequality, Corruption, Xenophobia). The third reason is even with all of the issues of the history of Apartheid and the social issues that are trying to be addressed today; I still see a glimmer of hope in the people’s eyes. Hope that the future of South Africa can be a better place for all people to live. Hope that people will work together regardless of skin color. Hope that people can get along and that this nation can be a nation of reconciliation, love and forgiveness.
Isn’t that what we all need? Hope. Hope that this world can become a better place and that we could be a world of reconciliation, love and forgiveness? When I read this passage in Luke, I can see this hope when Christ was born and that this hope still exists today. In fact, it is Christ who gave and continues to give me hope. Hope that with his help, this world can be at least a better place for all of us to live in. The question is are we ready to accept and spread this hope that Christ has given us?
As I sit in the pews listening to the singing
I close my eyes and picture what it must have been like during the Struggle
I can hear the singing
I can hear the cries
I can hear the shouts
I can hear a woman saying
How long O’ how long Lord must we suffer
I again picture youth gathering together
Planning a peaceful protest to show their frustrations
I can see them doing the Toyi Toyi
A dance that has become a symbol for freedom
I can hear them shouting “Amandla!!”
All they want is freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
I open my eyes and I can somewhat still hear the cries
Cries from a child who has lost a mother to HIV/AIDS
A mother who is crying because she cannot feed her child
A father struggling to find work
Cries of demanding fair wages
Cries for an end to injustices still continuing today
All the cries and I still wander “How long, O’ how long Lord must we suffer?
So the concept of family here in Bloemfontein reminds me a bit about my family life. It does not contain the nucleus family (The parents and children) but it includes everyone. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, extended family and family frinds are all included. It is a beautiful thing to see when you just see a big family together. It shows me just how important family is to people here; at least to my family that I have here it is important. It just makes my heart smile when I see the love that my family has for everyone.
It also makes my heart smile to now that I am included in this beautiful family. They have welcomed me with open arms since I arrived here in Bloem in September. I can say that I am truly happy to be here. I am always happy when I see both of my mom’s (Mama Conny and Mama Monama), Papa Monama (Dean Monama) and my brothers and sisters.
I even feel more close to my family because I have been given a beautiful family name. Nthabeleng Ngoetjana. It means Be Happy and Welcoming. I feel much honored and also blessed to have been given this name. I have started telling my friends and family here to call me by my South African name. This is a name that I will always carry with me and will even have people back home call me when I return.
The more that I am here and being present in Bloem, the more I can tell that I am being transformed. I am being transformed by God’s Love, Mercy, Grace and Community. I can’t really explain it all in words, but I can tell that this year is really helping understand what it really means to be transformed by the renewing of your mind and that is something that I will never ever forget for the rest of my life. God placed me here for a reason and as I always tell people when they ask me why I am here “South Africa Chose Me To Be Here.”