Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 23rd 2008 South Africa Update

Hello again from South Africa! There's less than a week left before I leave, and there's still so much that needs to be done here! It's been wonderful to be in Soshanguve. It's been wonderful to love hurting people, and to see so much love returned. I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to come back to the American reality. I'll be returning to comfort, to safety, to family, and to my home, but I'll be leaving behind so many people I've grown to love here. So many children are fatherless here, as I've shared with you before. After seeing my interaction with one little fatherless girl of 5, Ammu, another girl asked me if I was her father. When I replied that I was not, she asked if I loved Ammu like a father. I replied that I did love her (which was lost in translation as a full affirmation), and she asked if I could love herself as a father as well.
On the 18th, our team was among a group of 30 or 40 who watched the documentary entitled Not for Sale. I cannot help but highlight this seemingly insignificant activity that could be done anywhere in the world. Recently it has seemed as though everywhere I go, this ongoing tragedy of immense proportions highlighted by the film haunts me. I truly hope that I can be of some service to at least a few of the many enslaved people of the world highlighted in this film, particularly those in the bondage of sexual slavery. The documentary described many of the people trapped in this particular brand of slavery as men, women, and children with only death in their eyes. We learned that as the third largest criminal industry in the world (next to drug and arms trafficking), and fastest growing, human trafficking currently enslaves more men, women, and children than any other time in human history.

I did not hold back from weeping throughout much of the film. While objective callousness is a cultural norm, whether it be emotional callousness or apathy towards ever changing one's normative activity when called upon to do so, I did not revert to maintaining a cynical distance on this occasion. For such a horrific abomination as this, destroying so many lives even as I write, it simply seemed too inhuman to hold back my tears.

After the film the people present prayed. We prayed that the film portraying many others' everyday reality would not simply touch our hearts without ever penetrating our lives. I believe that helping the enslaved is a large piece of my future.

The night of the 17th was a night of celebration. There was finally a working toilet in the house next door to us on the left, after 3 years of Ezekiel, the landlord on our left who rents out some rooms of his home and a few shacks behind it, desiring one. He had been working for close to two weeks, first spending days trying to find the pipe buried underground by digging in various places around his yard, then digging trenches for the pipe, getting the materials, beating a hole through the wall, etc. The last piece of pipe, which he hadn't thought he would have until the next week due to running out of funds, was something that Kevin and I were able to surprise him with as a birthday present, for the 17th was also his birthday. I worked with them digging, beating, brick throwing, and even playing with some of the kids that lived there, from all but an hour of two PM to nine.
After the toilet was working with all of the leaks in the pipe repaired, Kevin came in about 9 with a cake and some neighbors, and we began to celebrate. People's favorite activity seemed to be coming at various times to smear pieces of cake on Ezekiel's head! He was so happy, and kept saying, "This is too much!"
In the new bathroom, we saw a list of goals that Ezekiel had for 2008. Included in them were things like "stopping my bad drinking habit", "getting better morals", etc. It was very encouraging to see.
After the festivities died down, Ezekiel, I, and another man who I met that night talked about God. The other man believed in many gods, and was fairly confrontational because he knew that we were missionaries. Ezekiel came to my defense, saying that "Jesus is King", as he says sometimes when I'm around. It was very encouraging to hear from Ma Selepe, that he had indeed been doing better since we came, and I pray that he continues to grow in Life and Love after we leave Sunday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

July 15th 08 South Africa Update

Hello again from South Africa! By now you can't tell that I had bronchitis for the most part, and I'm doing very well! Once I introduced some of the kids to boxing with the big gloves I brought, they immediately got hooked, and I'm afraid that they're addicted! After the first time, which went til it got too dark to see each other well, they were at our house asking if they could box the morning of the next day, and have asked many times since then when I haven't had time! Thanks for the suggestion to bring them Dr. Buis (a South African professor I had at Wheaton)!

I've been learning and seeing through many more experiences since my last update, too many to cover in an email! We have weekly mentoring sessions, and in my mentoring time with Paul Nix, the US co-team leader here, he told me how he had had an encounter with one man who said, "Thank you for being brave enough to come here… Thanks for not being afraid."
Andrew and Aimee leave today to both go back to the UK. Andrew is studying to receive a masters in disaster management. Aimee is studying to be a doctor, and spent quite some time while here with Petunia and the NGO she works with which visits homes to help treat them for sickness, much of which starts with AIDS. They'll be greatly missed, by our team as well as those who they impacted and who impacted them in return. Last night we had a parting dinner for them, which their host parents attended. Pastor Sampson, who Andrew was staying with, spoke about how he had been serving in Soshanguve for 30 years, but had never known of anything like what was going on in Soshanguve with our team. He said that he's seen white people come into town to do ministry, but they always leave at night. Seeing our team not only doing ministry, but playing soccer with locals, sitting down on concrete to have conversations, and essentially living with the people here meant so much to him. He now considers Andrew like an adopted son, and hopes to see him again, because he's family now.
Ma Selepe and Pa Selepe (as we call them) have opened up more and more to us. Pa Selepe told us about his experiences in 1976, when he was in 8th grade. I asked him if anyone he knew had gotten hurt. He responded by telling us how he was beaten and stomped on by a white cop simply because he was available. He told us how walking alone could get you shot, for no witnesses might be found, and walking in a group of 2 or 3 you could be accused of conspiring, then beaten. He told us how in effect all white people were cops, because they could all get you arrested for nothing. I learned about tires being burned around black people's necks prior to coming here, but Pa Selepe telling me about what someone had screamed amidst burning was different entirely. He told us, "I saw everything."

So many people want to come to America. So many struggle to find a decent job, and commonly ask me to help them find one. The landlords who live and rent space on our immediate left are both jobless, although they've been thankful to recently find part time work for a little while helping to build a house nearby. I'm afraid the house will be built too soon, and they'll be jobless once more. The man of the house of my next-door neighbor on the right, Dikaledi's home, is jobless. A vendor here called to me and said something I don't believe I've heard before. She said, "please come, I need business." While I don't believe it sounds that meaningful in writing, her expression and tone conveyed far more than I can on paper. Too often we forget how blessed we are to be born in the land of opportunity (for those born in America reading). It can be easy to ignore the pain and struggle of others who aren't so fortunate.

Thanks again for all of those among you who have been praying for me! I so appreciate it, even if I won't have time to respond to practically any of your encouraging emails until I return. Ma Selepe knows the power of prayer as few do; in fact, the effective power of prayer is actually one of the primary reasons why she went from ancestor worship as her family had done for a long time to Christianity. She told us how her payers to her ancestors never worked, but when others prayed to Jesus, "this, and this, and this" all happened. Members of her family couldn't believe that she had become a Christian at first, for it appears as though she was involved in witchcraft.

Please pray:
For Aimee and Andrew as they go home to the UK today. Pray that they would be able to process the experiences they had while here, and that God would put into places those people who could best help them process things when they do process with others. Also pray for those they leave behind, those they ministered to and lived with while here.

For John Hayes, the leader of Innerchange and the man who was essential to my being in South Africa now. Medical complications made him unable to come and visit, encourage, and serve with us as he had planned. Please pray for his mother as well, for she is also suffering medically.

For Pastor Selepe: She so wants to help the people here that she sees physically and spiritually hurting. Kevin was comforting her that she has something to offer that many rich churches don't have, true love and compassion. Pray that sustainable support would arise that would enable her to help people more, including building an orphanage and finding staff who would love the children that come to her as she does. Pray that she would feel better physically as well; she has had difficulty sleeping as her teeth have hurt greatly while Pa Selepe probably would have difficulty coming up with the money to pay for a dentist while so much of their finances are used to help the less fortunate. Love expressed in such a manner seems ludicrous to the world, Her body aches as well now, probably due to lack of rest.

Thank the Lord: For what He is doing through our time in Soshanguve; For the impact of this time on the lives of those that Andrew and Amee came into contact with, as well as the continued impact on their lives; For those that are giving to the people here, such as Pa Selepe, who works so hard, some night shifts and some day shifts, providing for his family, the church, and the hurting people here. He is the primary reason that Ma Selepe is able to give what little she can. In a place of few fathers, a father like him is a rare thing to find indeed.

Thank you all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 8th South Africa Update

Hello again from South Africa! I got back to Soshanguve last night after spending time resting for a few days, mostly in solitude and some with my team near the beach! It's been great in helping me to recover from bronchitis.
I've gotten into the swing of life here, and have seen quite a bit. The church that Mrs. Selepe pastors is composed of sheets of metal primarily, what most in the US would consider a large shack. The congregation is composed of the poor, although many want to contribute a significant portion of what little they have to help serve others. Mrs. Selepe's home lacks quite a bit, such as a ceiling between the rooms and the roof and no running water in the kitchen, yet she too wants to give what little she has to help serve others.
Pastor Selepe goes to various poor people's homes to pass out food and pray with, and counsel people, and I've been blessed with some opportunities to join her. We've visited one mother sick with AIDS, giving her some food. We've visited and aided a few other homes with orphans and abandoned children, one with a jobless grandmother trying to care for 5 young children, which isn't that unusual it seems.
Promiscuity here combined with lack of education has created quite a problem not only with AIDS, but with effectively fatherless children. Fathers impregnate girlfriends while having little impetus to marry the young ladies even after the fathers find out about their children. This came close to home two Saturdays ago, when a close relative of the Selepe's chose not to see his prior girlfriend who lives next door or his brand new daughter after Dikaledi gave birth 1 month prematurely to his daughter early that afternoon. With so many fatherless and motherless children here, by abandonment or death, it reminds me how thankful I am for a father and mother who love me dearly.
On the 25th I was spending time with 2 brothers in their mid thirties for the first time who are some of our neighbors next door to the left of our house, and was greatly encouraged . In conversation, one brother said that my living next door to them, and hanging out with them at that time, was a dream come true. In a place where I can remember seeing only 2 other white people versus probably in excess of a thousand black Africans, and with lawfully enforced segregation still effecting the culture to a large degree after the laws have ceased, I can begin to comprehend why, and it was a moment that I will cherish. The fact that God can use our mere incarnational presence within this place to jumpstart the process of racial reconciliation to such a high degree in the life of two men is astounding to me.

Ezekiel, one of the brothers, who went 3 and 0 boxing in the past, is pictured below. We boxed, playing around, just once! When he drew a bit of blood from a nice hit on my nose, his brother made us stop, so we switched to no face hits!
Please Pray: For the poor in this township, including more care for them from the outside world that would mostly rather ignore what they believe an ugly and dangerous place;
For Pastor Selepe and her church's ability to meet some of the needs of those hurting in the community. After she didn't distribute chicken heads, a cheap form of flavor, for a few weeks, one girl we visited was sick from the paper she had become addicted to in the mean time.
That fewer churches here would preach doctrines that include that one must be doing something wrong if they are physically and emotionally hurting;
For a father figure's presence in Dikaledi's life for her baby;

Thank the Lord: For the healthy birth of Dikaledi's little girl;
For my bronchitis that has hindered me little, and modern medicine which allowed me to suffer far less than I would have without it;
For local men and women in Soshanguve like Ma Selepe who sacrifices time and money in the service of the hurting poor.

Thank you all,

Adam Garrett