Bumps in the Road

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I think our adjustment to life in South Africa has been incredibly smooth…We have been here less than three weeks, but are getting to know many people, have gotten involved in several things, have done some sight-seeing, are driving, and feel quite settled.  I am grateful for this relatively easy transition and appreciate the many people who have prayed for us.

Intermixed with the good experiences, I expected that we would hit some difficult times or disappointments, some “bumps in the road”…

Rebekah came home today and said, “I am so confused about Africa.”  I know what she means!  She gets confused because everyone here writes the date in reverse (today is 3/2 rather than 2/3), they use 24 hour time and Celsius.  At school there is a different uniform for every event, and today she was told she needs to wear her “jersey,” and we don’t know what that is!

Beyond strange terms (Kokis rather than markers, tea rather than snack, and costume rather than swim suit) sometimes it is just hard to be here.  Another man came to the gate today… He asked me for a job cutting the grass or painting, and when I said I did not have work for him he asked for old clothes, food or money.  I gave him bread and fruit and 5 Rand (50 cents).  The kids have learned that when a black person comes to the gate they can go get some food to give.  Is this what I should do?  Ruthie and I went to the store to buy some more bread and fruit, and as we were leaving the store a man came up to us and asked if we had any food for his family.  I gave him the loaf of bread.

What are we to do?  Everyone here has a story and a need.  I have mentioned a family from Zimbabwe who we had lunch with after church… Thembi came here several weeks ago looking for work because there is a 94% unemployment rate in Zim (you read that right!), and her husband is coming soon.  But they had to leave their young daughter in Zimbabwe with Thembi’s sister because they can’t afford the passport fee (equivalent to $450-$600 American dollars).  Should we help them?

We met a man this week at church who had arrived hours before from Zambia.  He is a pastor there covering a 250 mile area, but has no training.  He left his wife, 2 year old, and 3 month old to come here for theological training.  He arrived for 10 months with one small suitcase, and is unsure how he will pay his monthly rent.  Should we help him?

And then of course there are the kids at Bonginkosi Preschool.  They all have financial needs, as does the school.  It costs $300 to sponsor one child to go to school and have two meals a day for the year.  Should we sponsor more children?  The preschool has a specific financial need of $6000 related to the new school building… It goes on and on.

Another “bump in the road” related to the preschool is that I have been unable to determine what my role could be there.  I had hoped Ruthie and I could spend significant time with the children, but the language barrier makes it hard to interact in any significant way.  It has also been hard for Ruthie because when we arrive the 30+ children swarm us, want to touch us, and all start talking to us in Zulu.  She gets overwhelmed.

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I think the most rewarding part of our time here so far is getting to know people different from ourselves.  This past weekend Rachel and Rebekah each invited two girls from school to our house to swim.  Rebekah invited a Zulu girl Aphiwe and an Indian girl Samira.   They are actually from fairly affluent, educated families but from different cultures.  They had a nice time and it was neat to see three girls from entirely different cultures giggling together.

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Here is the “bump.”  Friendships are important to Rachel.  She is a loyal friend and desires close relationships.  She has been drawn to the quieter Zulu girls in her class, I think mostly because the white girls already have an established “group” but the few black girls are intrigued to get to know someone white.  Only one girl, Thembile, was able to come Sunday.  She lives in one of the low income black townships, so of course does not have access to a pool.  They had fun swimming, but once they got out of the pool they could not find a common interest.  I heard Rachel trying to ask Thembile what she would like to do, what she enjoys, etc. but Thembile just shrugged her shoulders.  Unfortunately by reaching out to someone very different from herself, Rachel hit some cultural barriers… After Thembile left Rachel went to her room and cried.

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As I said, the bumps (or “humps” here) are just part of the picture.  If you could pray for encouragement, wisdom and opportunities, we would appreciate it.

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1 Response to “Bumps in the Road”


  1. 1 Robyn February 11, 2009 at 6:30 am

    I was so overwhelmed just reading this article, I can’t imagine living it! I can’t fathom seeing such need each day and wanting to do something every time, but knowing the impossibility of helping everyone.

    In addition, it must be a constant difficulty to overcome cultural barriers (times 5 people!). We will continue to pray for all of you.

    We miss you all!


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