Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Today, for the first time, I bought clothes pins and they aren't for a preschool craft project."

That is what I wanted to put on my facebook status update today. (funny how everything seems to come back to facebook these days!) or I thought about saying, "My choir kids can handwash clothes much better than me!" But I thought that too many facebook friends with good intentions would misunderstand and make sympathetic comments about my simple life here in South Africa. I don't think I could handle that at the moment.

I have just moved into my own place here and because of a recent visit far into the village next to our school I now have a different perspective on my living conditions. Finding a place to rent here in Komatipoort was a bit of challenge as it seems as if everything is either really nice and too expensive or really cheap and in an un-safe area. But God is faithful and has provided a wonderful place for me to rent that is in a nice neighborhood and has a reasonable rent. It is what the Africaans here in town call a "rondoval" (not sure of the spelling) but I would call it a round brick hut with a thatch roof (which I have now named "Hide-away Hut"). It is more than enough space for me even though it is just 3 rooms. It has a bedroom, a huge bathroom (with a big tub AND a shower.... anyone remember my tiny bathroom in Bloomington?) and a big room that is the kitchen and living room. The kitchen has a single sink and stovetop burners. Kind friends here in Komatipoort have let me borrow a table and chairs, a couch, a TV and DVD player on a stand, a bed and a night stand. All of this is MORE THAN ENOUGH for me and I feel greatly blessed. Did you notice that their a few "normal" things missing.... washing machine, dryer, oven, and fridge (not to mention a desk, book shelves, artwork, comfy lounge chairs, decorative pillows, and all the other things that fill up our western houses)? No washing machine or a dryer means hand washing and hanging clothes out to dry. I thought about taking my clothes to the boarding school to use the washer there (which maybe I will do once in awhile) but I can't really justify doing that often considering that the majority of employees at the school don't have washing machines either. I never see them using the machine for personal use. I thought about buying a microwave but I looked at the price and then thought of the people in the village having only an open fire to cook over then I remember to be thankful for my electric stove burners and the new toaster I just purchased. Right now I am using a cooler with ice as a fridge. Not convient or easy but it works. Honestly, I probably have enough money to buy a little dorm-size fridge and will get one in the near future but for now I am just cooking simply. (and trying not to have leftovers!)

Last week MFL had a day camp for the children who live in the village next to our school. I have drove by the village 100's of times and even gone to church there but I had never been very far "into" the village. The day before camp we took the Land Rover and ventured in to invite children to come to our camp. First we saw many of the houses that are made of concrete blocks that they make and sell in the villages here. They have corugated metal roofs. Lots of them even had some kind of electricity hooked up. We then drove by the "public toliets". Think of what you might see at a State Park Camp Ground. These homes don't have indoor plumbing. Thankfully, every few houses or so there were water spikets in the middle of the yard that the neighbors would share. In this part of the village we saw many people. Women were sitting outside on a mat braiding each others hair with children running and playing all around. Most of the yards were neat and tidy and we saw some pretty nice looking vegetable gardens. Men were working in the yard or sitting and chatting with one another. Many people we walking along the dirt roads with some sort of purpose in mind. Then we took a road that went to the back of the village. It was very quiet here. No one seemed to be around. There weren't houses anymore but shacks. The people had made their homes out of trash.... card board boxes, old tarps, old pieces of wood. I couldn't believe the conditions that these people were living in. It is hard to describe. I would have liked to take photos but it didn't really seem appropriate. I did sneak in one photo of these little boys who were just hanging around. You can see what types of homes they live in when you look in the background. (Click on the photo to make it bigger)

My experience that day was very "real" and it changed my perspective of how I should live. Honestly, right now, I really feel guilty living the way I do when my "neighbors" have so little. I was originally going to post pictures of my new house here but now I feel too embarrassed show the "mansion" I live in. It is most definitely a mansion compared to where these little boys sleep. In their eyes my bed (a bunk bed from the school with a foam mattress) is a luxury. So is my comfy couch. The shower and tub are meant for a princess. In reality I know that God has given me a home so that I can bless others with it and I honestly know I shouldn't be "embarrassed" by how God has blessed me. But at the moment it is too hard to get my mind around it all. I think I'm going to look and pray for ways to sacrifice in order to be a good neighbor. and maybe handwashing my clothes is just the beginning.

Monday, June 07, 2010

glimpses of reality

Some days it seems impossible to process all the differences between my life here in South Africa and what my life was like in America. In the past week I have drove up and down the dirt road to our school many times. Tonight I passed lots of people carrying firewood back to the villages that they will use to cook their food or maybe keep warm in the cool winter night. Last week I stopped on the road 2 times to give some children bread. The first time I paused to give out bread to about 6 little children playing outside of their home. They were kids about 2-4 years old playing next to the road without an adult in sight. Later the same day I stopped by the trash pile by the side the road were 2 boys were digging through the trash. When I pulled over and rolled down the window and began to speak they immediately started practicing their english by saying "fine, fine" knowing that I was going to say, "Hello, how are you?". :) I asked if they wanted some bread and one of them jumped off the trash pile, clutched the bread in his arms like a prize, and ran away with his friend with a huge smile shouting "siyabonga" which means "thank you". I also spent countless hours this week going through the clothes that our children keep at our boarding school. Most of the clothes were something no one at home would even bother putting out at a yard sale but yet it is all these children have and they are thankful for them. I wish I had some profound words to share about these experiences but honestly, maybe it would be silly to try to make lesson out of these glimpses of reality. Paul said, "When God's people are in need, be ready to help them." (Romans 12:13) and I pray that we can each find a way to do this wherever we live.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

In March we had a team of two Americans, two Canadians,
and one South African come to Nkomazi to serve
with Music for Life. The team and MFL staff
worked together to organize and facilitate camps at
two of our Music for Life Centres.

I was especially blessed to discover that two of the
western team members were people I had met while
touring with ACC30 in 2007/08! Lisa is from Rich-
mond, BC and she remembers me talking with her
after a concert about short term volunteer opportuni-
ties. She has now come to South Africa twice to
volunteer! Jen was Detail Person and host family
member when ACC30 was in Omaha, Nebraska!
Honestly, I don't really remember talking specifically
to Lisa or Jen but I am now thankful to have confir-
mation that at least two out of the thousands of con-
versations I had had while touring were actually
important and possibly life-changing!

Lisa and I

Jen teaching Music with my friend/co-worker Selby

The camps went very well! There were around 300
children each day at the first week of camp in In-
jabulo and 200 children attending camp at Mzinti
Primary School during the second week.
The western volunteers along with our SA Staff held
Dance, Music, Bible Stories, Science and Games
Activities for the children. It was also fun to have
five of our former Choir members—who are now in
Secondary School—to come and help during their
school holidays. I really enjoyed playing with the little
kiddos and had a great time blowing bubbles with these
small kids!

The community seemed happy to host us and there
were children waiting for us to arrive each day. We
received a letter from a student's mother after the
first day of camp. It said,

“Dear everyone at Music
for Life, We would like to thank you for giving our
children this opportunity. They are very excited.
They woke up very early and are very happy. And of
course the Bible lessons teaches them to be obeying,
respectful and responsible children. We thank you.
Please continue to do the good work.”

This letter was more than enough encouragement to
keep us going to finish the week strong! 􏰀