For months and months now, Travelling Tuesdays have brought you the beauty of South Africa. Well a small slice of the beauty anyway. I really hoped you’d get a different perspective on Africa. There’s more than one story to tell. More than one picture I hope will resonate in your mind. There is indeed devastating poverty. There’s also great beauty. And I’ve been hoping to share both.
I unwrapped an unexpected gift this Easter Sunday, that I thought you might enjoy seeing and hearing about this TT. I didn’t wear a dress. The Bear didn’t munch any peeps. And we didn’t have a spiral sliced honey-glazed ham. Sigh. But we did enjoy something really special this Easter. We visited a church in one of the townships nearby, and I measured up the feet of some kids who will be receiving new shoes in less than two weeks.
We are really excited about our first distribution taking place this month. About finally getting to do some of what we came here to do, after months of paperwork and fedexes, P.O. Boxes and charity-registering-signatures, and lots of heart-tugging tough moments, we’ll finally be blessing people with a message of hope and a new pair of shoes.
What unexpected gift have I to share this Travelling Tuesday? Don’t worry, first the photos and then I’ll explain!
Before we visited the church where we’ll be hosting a distribution, the pastor gave us a whirlwind of a bumpy tour through some different parts of the township. These are some areas where some of the children who will be receiving shoes live. I suppose it’s a little slice of the Africa you’ve been expecting to see all along. But I hope you’ll let it touch your heart in a fresh way.
Just for perspective’s sake I’ll remind you these shots were taken while riding along in the pastor’s Kombi. (What South Africans call a big 15 passenger van.)
It’s hard to know what to say. I’ll let you come up with your own captions a little.
Coca-Cola is everywhere.
This children’s centre had brightly coloured outdoor potties that I really wish I could’ve gotten a picture of. They were green and yellow polka-dotted. Just close your eyes and imagine!
This church was very holey — not in the religious sense of the word.
Sometimes unexpected colour brings me unexpected joy.
Where did that horse grazing way back there come from?
And this is part of the group of kids who’ll be receiving shoes soon. Shhh! They’re at Sunday school!
(I’m in the corner getting ready to measure some footsies!)
So…in between the stray dogs and barbed wire, the bare feet and the bright colours, I unwrapped an unexpected gift. The gift was a glimpse of the lovely things God is going to do in South Africa through Samaritan’s Feet — lovely things that I get to be a part of. I received the gift when my hands were tickling the bottoms of rough little feet, bearing toes that had been squished into too-small-shoes for too long. I untied the ribbons when the Sunday school teacher told me some of these kids borrow a pair of shoes just to have something to wear to church. I gently pulled back the paper as I came face to face with the scenery I’ve been riding past for months, concerned that my heart might be growing insensitive as these months have worn on. I peeked inside as I lifted these precious children onto a chair, removed and replaced a shoe, and gave and received sweet smiles.
It was a gift to be reminded what all these struggles have been about. What I hope to be a part of doing here. The hope of having a great impact in the lives of even a few children — that’s the hope I’ve been missing for a while. And along with the gift of the Resurrection, a constant remembrance for an Easter Sunday, there was the gift of remembering that Jesus lives in me. What a gift and a privilege to be hands and feet to a world in need.
Was that the Africa you’ve been expecting all these Tuesdays? I hope it still touches a spot in your heart, to make you grateful for what you have, perhaps moved to do something for others who don’t. We can find unexpected gifts all the time, if we’re willing to look.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey of today this Tuesday!
I shared this post today over at Chatting at the Sky’s Tuesdays Unwrapped. I recommend a venture over to enjoy some more reminders of the giftedness of life!
My humblest apologies that all has been quiet on the blogging front for a few days now. I was SICK SICK SICK! One of those crazy 24 hour things that makes you despair of life and wonder if it’s really worth going on. (Don’t worry, my one reader with emetophobia, I won’t go into detail!) Fortunately, I am on the other side and incredibly thankful that (yes I did the math) I’ve lived well over 10,000 days so far, and I’ve only had one like that. One in 10,000 — no cause for complaint!
Anywho, after that lengthy introduction, it is Travelling Tuesday! As promised, I have some stories and shots from our travels up to Bloemfontein, where we are spending the holidays with Mark’s parents (and his sister when she arrives!) The roads are very busy and therefore a bit dangerous this time of year, so we decided to come early to avoid the traffic, since we can still do a lot of our work getting Samaritan’s Feet started from here. Modern communications are a wonderful thing! We thought breaking the trip up over three days (staying overnight in a couple different places) would make it an easier journey with the Bear. We were wrong. Yes, it was still cheaper than flying, but dern, it was a lot of travelling! I don’t think the Bear enjoyed his tent being pitched in a new spot each night or finding himself in the car seat again each morning. So next time we’ll probably do the 10+ hour journey in one day. As they say in the South, we oughta just git ‘er done. Lesson learned!
As mentioned, these travelling adventures brought us face to face with many dangerous wild animals. This is Africa people! We stopped off in a place outside Oudtshoorn called Calitzdorp the first night. And just outside our little self-catering hut we spotted a big, scary…
Okay not so scary. Still, a little creepy. You’ve heard how vociferous the females are, right? Well then, we went for a walk, and we came face to face with a huge, and very dangerous…
Behind a fence.
But if he got near the fence…and we were too close…seriously people, they can kick like ninjas, beware!! Â Then it got really dangerous. I’m not even joking this time. We came face to face with a grumbly…grizzly…
You’ve given up on me, haven’t you? Africa’s not as wild as you were hoping, mayhaps? Let’s give it one last try. Â The final creature to give us a fright appeared as we were journeying to Nieu Bethesda for our second night’s stay along the way to Bloemfontein. And you do not want to come face to face with one of these. It’s a big, scaly…
This creature kind of looks like a gila monster…and was probably like 4 ft. long! The Afrikaans word for it is likkewaan, pronounced LOOK-a-vahn, but the English word is leguan. I wasn’t familiar with either, but the Afrikaans is more fun to say. Sure, I took this picture from the window of the car, but still, he could’ve gone T-Rex on us at any moment! Grrrr. We actually think maybe it was a her…do you think she looks preggers? I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
Well, that’s a taste of our dangerous travels from Gordon’s Bay to Bloemfontein with Calitzdorp and Nieu Bethesda in between. Thank the Lord for Mr. Potato Head safely navigating our passage and never stranding us in the wild among these dangerous creatures!
Happy Trails to you, wherever the road takes you!
While Mark and I were back visiting his parents in Bloemfontein, we visited a big church there called CRC (Christian Revival Church). The place was packing out as we arrived for the mid-morning service, and we slotted in sort of to the left of centre in this big building with a huge stage and big TV screens and lights and effects and cameramen. The worship started off similar to what weâ€™re used to in non-denominational churches in most parts of the world â€“ the charismatic, joyful, powerful voices and drums and keys and guitars so on, and then there was a transition, for just a single song, where we were singing in a language which was â€¦ I think Ndebele or Tsonga. I obviously had absolutely no clue what the heck we were singing about, other than I was fairly sure we were singing about the Lord.
The Words were on the screen and I just followed along and did my best with:
WA NYAMALALA NGANA
UMTHWALO WAWA SIZE
Or something of that sort. But then the joy broke loose! The rest of the congregation began getting into it, doing dance movements associated with the lyrics, singing with such joy and passion (and an occasionally what I would call a Latino tongue trill, which I had to join in on).Â I was overjoyed to join in wholeheartedly, although I still had absolutely no clue what we were singing about. Mark and I did our best at our white-folk-canâ€™t-dance version of the dance movements, I was adding in a Latino trill or two, and we were just singing and smiling and joyful to worship God with a couple thousand complete strangers in a language we didnâ€™t understand.
Afterwards I asked Mark if it was perhaps Zulu we were singing in, but his best guess was that it was Sesotho. (Googling the lyrics I remembered didnâ€™t bring about much success. Shame! But we think weâ€™ve concluded it was probably Ndebele or Tsonga.) The guest speaker for the morning was, funny enough, from Seattle, Washington, and we were encouraged by his message. I occasionally felt like I might be one of the only ones there who got the jokes, but everybody laughed. It was altogether such a special and delightful experience, and I hope the next time weâ€™re in Bloemfontein, we can enjoy the fellowship at CRC again.Â It is a blessing to know that if you are in Christ, wherever you are, if there are believers there, you can feel right at home.
Sing it with me nowâ€¦
WA NYAMALALA NGANA
UMTHWALO WAWA SIZE!
After arriving in the country, Mark and I began the difficult task of trying to find a church to call home. It’s really really strange to suddenly feel like you’re “church-hopping” when two months ago we staff members at a church back in Scotland. During our explorations so far, we had a good experience at one church but weren’t sure if it was the right one. (We were bummed they didn’t have a creche/nursery).
I cried as we left another church because I was overwhelmingly bummed that NO ONE talked to us or welcomed us the whole time. And then we visited a third church this Sunday, and the theology and message being preached was so stinking dodgy Mark wanted to stand up in the middle of the service and say, “You’re wrong! That’s not what the Scripture says!”
That is a long long story that probably deserves its own blog post, but for now, the short of it is, it was not a church that was faithfully preaching the Word of God. I don’t really know what exactly they’re preaching. Something from the Book of Second Opinions I guess. It is funny that one of my recent posts discussed how God’s Word can be misconstrued to say what people want it to say if they come to it with an agenda, and and not with the desire to understand the Truth. Anyway, we left the whole ordeal with a rather yucky taste in our mouths, so to speak. And then we had some realisations.
One simple commandment that is easy to forget is “Seek first the kingdom of God.” As Mark and I left the service and began to talk about the experience we’d just had, we realised we should’ve first asked the Lord… “Where do you want us?” And then listened for His leading. How simple is that? Seek His kingdom first. Seek His will first. Seek His way first.
Instead, we just started floating around visiting churches on the recommendations of others and on personal whims. We were just looking at things based on our own opinions. This church doesn’t have a nursery. Nobody spoke to me at this one and it made me cry. (Mind you guys — moving to a new country might give you a few tough moments here and there!) This one is preaching heresy. Ugh…great.
We probably could’ve saved ourselves a lot of hassle and heartache if instead we’d first said, “Jesus, please direct our steps. By Your Holy Spirit, please lead us to the church where You would have us added.”
While I don’t think the Lord will be leading us to settle in at the church that is preaching heresy, I do think He has a way better idea than we do of the right way, and the best way, which is His will. If we’re not listening to Him, then we’re just choosing based on our own measuring sticks. We might as well be asking, Do I feel comfortable in the seats at this church? Does their carpet match most of my church clothes?
It is GOOD to be reminded that His ways are higher than our ways… So now instead of using our own measuring devices to figure out what we think is best, we have asked God to forgive us for not seeking Him first, and we are going to actively seek Him, and ask Him where He would have us put down our roots. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂
Top of the week to you again! We’ve decided to add a new feature to the site, with more posts about visiting South Africa. We have several friends planning to visit us over the next few years — including some coming quite soon. And, a ton of people will be piling into SA in 2010 as the FIFA World Cup gets underway in awesome venues all around the country!Â Look for a new page and some great changes coming soon!
We thought we’d begin to prepare our friends (and folks we don’t know) for their trip. Even if you’re not sure when you might be making your way ‘way down South’ we hope you’ll enjoy the photos and suggestions, with some good humour thrown in. Hope to see you here soon!
Photo Courtesy of Waynne Meintjes
Top Ten Things You Should Know About “Going on Safari” in SA
10. You are going to have to go to a national park or a game reserve to see a lot of the animals you probably want to see. I am sorry if this news disappoints you. Elephants and hippos donâ€™t walk through town as often as you may have imagined.
9. It is good to know that whilst in South Africa, you should say youâ€™d like to go â€œgame viewingâ€ or â€œgo see some gameâ€ or “go on a game drive” instead of â€œgo on safari.â€ When in Rome…try not to be a touron.
8. Some folks will be excited to know you can see game on horseback in some game reserves. I, on the other hand, rue the day I thought this was a good idea. The leisurely two hour jaunt was actually three hours, I still have a scar on my hand from holding the reigns so tightly because my horse was a ninnymuggins, and I walked like a cowboy for the next three days.Â Itâ€™s an idea, I just donâ€™t know if itâ€™s a good one.
7. There are some game reserves relatively close to Cape Town (a lot of folks would like to kill two birds with one stone and see Cape Town and the Big 5). You will still most likely need to rent a car to get to any of them. Most of the best game reserves, however, are in the northeastern part of the country, near the Kruger National Park. You might therefore consider flying into Johannesburg, seeing some game at a reserve nearer to there, and then taking a domestic flight (Kulula and Mango are good options) to spend some time in the Cape. Problem solved. Alternatively, there are tour groups that do trips to certain reserves, like Aquila, from Cape Town. This is also a good option.
6. All game reserves are not created equal. Pay attention to their websites and what animals they boast on their properties. And then go to Trip Advisor and see what other people thought. A lot of the reserves are like big zoos with tame animals that you have to drive to see.Â This is okay and will give you pretty pictures, but itâ€™s not quite the authentic experience. To get the authentic experience, you need to go to the big reserves in the north east of the country, or pay the big bucks at the posh reserves in the Cape.
5. The best time to view game is actually during the winter, when the bush is lower and less verdant, and the temperatures are cooler. In the summer, the bush is high and thick, making game viewing more difficult. The game spend the hottest part of the summer days sheltered in the shade, and normally out of sight.
4. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere! So spring and summer run from September to April, and autumn and winter from May to August.
3. Malaria is only a concern in the northeastern part of the country. If you fear malaria, pay the big bucks and go to the posh reserves in the Eastern Cape. However, you can take malaria medication in preparation for your trip, and you should really be fine. Medical Care in South Africa is very good, in case youâ€™re concerned.
2. You have the option of going on a field-guide led trip, where youâ€™ll be taken on the back of a Land Rover and driven around, or on a self-driven game drive. Guide-led trips are often the popular option because the field guides are usually in contact with one another by radio, and so have a good idea of where the game is at a particular time. A self-driven trip will be less expensive — you should find information at the entrances of most reserves as to what game has been seen in which areas of the park. Youâ€™ll miss out on the knowledge of the field guide, but youâ€™ll save the cash. Iâ€™d recommend doing at least one game drive with a field guide. You don’t have to stay on a reserve to go to the reserve and see game. If you decide to do a self-driven game drive, please see the next point for very important details.
1. If you go on a self-driven game drive and the signs say Donâ€™t Get Out of the Car, then Donâ€™t Get Out of the Car. Seriously. Many Asian tourists have lost their lives trying to make a peace sign beside the lions. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb, whether there are signs or not: On a game reserve, Donâ€™t Get Out of the Car. Remember, this is Africa. The Cats donâ€™t meow. They roar.