Africa #2


I am sorry for posting so infrequently. The internet has been very unreliable here lately.

Well, for those who were wondering we did get our luggage. It’s amazing what comfort there is in knowing that you won’t be washing out the same two pairs of underpants every day for 2 weeks. I have stopped judging myself for feeling this. The lodge where we are staying is in the center of a poor village where there is no extra anything. And I am glad I have my suitcase. And my malaria pills.

We also have paper towels and “Coke Light”. Coke Light is a very curious thing to the Africans – why bother with it if it isn’t sweet? They prefer the sugary stuff so we have some on hand for them. We have been told that Arbonne herbal diaper rash cream works well for mosquito bites so we are running an in-depth study on that, like it or not. The local grocery store carries Pinotage from South Africa so it’s all good.

I finished teaching my session at the seminary on Friday. They had asked for a class on Spiritual Formation. They have had a very westernized seminary education (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) so we needed to have a bit of conversation about the difference between the Bible study and exposition that they have grown to expect, and the sacred reading of the text through the spiritual disciplines. We talked about the Pharisees who knew God’s laws perfectly and literally and had kept them all, but did not recognize God in their midst because they did not know his heart for justice and mercy and faith. Instead, we would be seeking to sit with God and the text, and to get our analyzing minds out of the way. We will sit in his mercy.

Much of what I have chosen to offer in “teaching” this time is confession. I confessed my spiritual poverty and the students seemed shocked. We did a lectio and meditation on the passage in Matthew 23 where Jesus confronts the Pharisees about their blind, cold hearts. We filled wash basins with warm water and we reverently and prayerfully washed the inside of our cups. In a country with such glaring needs, I felt concerned that they would find this little exercise to be trite. But they long for transformation. They understand Matthew 5:3. I am still learning it.

Later, we visit our friend Pastor Fernando’s church and learn how the poor feed the poor. Twice a month these sweet people make a dinner for all the children in their village. I don’t know how they afford it but I am learning that affording it is not the point. The loaves and fishes multiply. We sit in Fernando’s humble cinder block home for dinner and despite the language barrier there is much shared laughter.

Sunday morning we visited another church in an even poorer village and we are again welcomed with great love and generosity. The service was in 3 languages for our sakes – Portuguese, Shangana and English. The pastor drew a picture on a small chalk board and we strained to see what it was. He drew a cell phone and then drew a big X over it. (A movie line popped into my head: “Son, if that ain’t Jesus calling, hang it up!”) Even this village is filled with cell phones. This is an improvement for them. It’s not uncommon anymore to see a woman balancing a huge load of wood on her head with a baby tied to her back, a water jug in one hand – and her cell phone in the other.

There has been so much more than I have included in these brief snapshots. I will try to post some more before we come home! But being here with our friends truly broadens my concept of “home”. Our Africa home is our cozy little lodge in Malhempsene. That is a Shangana word that has two nearly unpronounceable syllables -for westerners. (They say they can tell who is Shangana and who is not by how you pronounce this word but I think we may give away a few other clues, as well.) It is pronounced Mackh (a clearing the throat sound) –lem psjenny. I can’t do the psj sound, though I can’t really tell the difference between what I am saying and what the Shangaans are saying, except that it sends them into fits of laughter. The “official” language here is the one of the former colonists – Portuguese. But I love how their faces brighten and their hearts fly wide open when I attempt any communication in Shangana. “God knows our native tongues,” I say. They smile broadly and respond, “Someday, we will all hear each other.” 

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