Sunday, July 19, 2009


it is hard to find a word or even a sentence to describe this trip. It was good and discouraging and beautiful and sad. There is so much potential. There is still such a big economic gap. The final word has to be hope, not in the government structure but in the lives of individuals. Babies are cured of HIV/AIDS prenatally or at birth. Generations of poverty are, in a few places, overcome by hard work and good people. Nothing stops that from spreading. As usual, the compassionate people are connected to the body of Christ. Nothing will stop that from spreading, either. It is not easy or quick, and we run the risk of discouragement and disinterest. I cannot look again at news from South Africa without memories of open homes, warm smiles, and gracious acceptance for my differences. If, in following my journey, you, too, look at this part of the world differently, then truly hope and time are the answers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Air Time

Touch down in Chicago on July 9 was followed by a crazy family weekend. Safely home, but it will take some time to sort out the thoughts and feelings as well as the pictures.

Plus somewhere over the Atlantic, I lost my voice...

In the Jo-burg airport a guy was taking surveys of visitors so they can upgrade the services for 2010 World Cup. I did not exactly attend any sporting events, casinos or even bars and had no opinion on tourist infrastructure. But he took my He commented at the end that he meets lots of people from US and Canada who come to build or teach or nurse in South Africa. Then he asked, "So why do I never see anything like you are doing on the TV?" Good question. There is plenty to do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Heavy thoughts

How to describe HIV-AIDS statistics that now have names and faces? How to bridge the gap between the town and the Township now that is no longer law, but still reality? Which layer to start unpeeling first: employment, education, politics, transportation, housing? This has been a trip with many questions. Perhaps the only real answer is there is no way anyone who is not here - and here for a long time - can know. It will take some time to get it all processed in my head and filtered through my heart.


The South African word for BBQ - meat on the grill - and we mean meat! Steak and chicken and something I thought was identified as "War Horse" but I have learned not to ask about anything until after I eat it. Turns out it was "Boer Wurst" - kind of a Brat. Come to think of it I never knew what was in those either...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just for fun...

Who all is out there? If you are following this blog, just "comment" with your name, OK? Then I won't bore you with the same stories! (Except Bob.)Thanks!


80 clergy, three Bishops, fully robed and hated, headed out of the Bishop’s house across the street at 8:45. We processed to Holy, Holy, Holy – only they have a lot more verse than we do. There were over 1500 Zulu (Black) gathered in a large meeting space and spilling out onto the lawn and porch.

In the kitchen for 2 days have been women preparing to feed them all – both sit down and Take Away. Metals tubs of raw chicken and beef. Mounds of onions and beets.

I was honored to read the Old Testament lesson and then called on to sponsor one of the ordained! What a joy to place a stole and lay on hands in blessing. I was a white American woman but the title Pastor surpassed all that.

Singing went on non-stop. There was a leader but the best songs were random – just a group started and pretty soon ½ the place is up dancing and the rest know all the words. Amazing energy and community.

The Bishop lived in Chicago - in fact he and his wife and I overlapped one summer at LSTC! He is very fluent in English, but even in Zulu it is easy to se what is going on. We are Lutheran – “The Lord be with you” looks pretty much the same globally!

At 2:30 (yeah – pm) we concluded and headed for the food. It was a thrilling and amazing event. And somewhere in the middle the Bishop said the sponsors are responsible for our pastors for life…

Sunday, July 5, 2009

USA through other eyes...

I asked some of the kids what they thought the USA was like. The said we are all good looking and rich and have fast cars. And lots of land. And guns. I showed them I was unarmed...


We spent 2.5 days in Pietermaritzburg talking to those “on the ground” trying to help with any small part of several huge issues: unemployment, education, HIV/AIDS, motivation to self responsibility. The new government has suffered from factions and continues to struggle to address the basic issue – whatever that is. The longer I am here the more I realize how little we know of what is needed.
After apartheid ended most of the Lutheran missions that had hospitals and schools were turned over to the government and the perception is that the church stepped back and moved on to other geographic areas. But is not clear what role we should play next. The German Lutherans are more active here than the ELCA as far as sending volunteers and supporting various projects. One has even established his own self contained community in the rural area that asks members to give up family and all possessions. That is the answer for that group, but the South African run church as a whole is still looking for its role and the ELCA is working to support them as they do so.


I assisted at the local congregation today. It was all in Zulu, of course, but it is amazing how familiar it is. Lutheran the world over. Pretty much the same liturgy in the same order as at home. However, offerings are different. They sing as each one comes forward to put money in the general offering, the special offering, or the Sunday school bank (shaped like a white church with a green roof!) Of course no one can be seen sitting in the pew while the line files by!
The ushers carried that offering out and we had communion. After the benediction a different basket come out and there was what must have been a Stewardship moment – a man carried the church’s ledger of offerings around and stopped by certain people. No amounts were read but it was clear he knew and they knew…Then we sang again and everyone came up and put in the basket again. When that song ended a woman ran up with another basket for the women’s rally offering and they did it again.

New News

Beginning in 2010 all cell phones in South Africa will need to be registered so they can cut down or trace all illegal activity. Given how many I have seen that will be a daunting task!


I stayed for a few days with a teacher from grade 3. She has 45 children in her class. The one next door has 48. They have 4 subjects: English, Zulu, Math and Life Skills. Her class is one big room with ½ a broken chalkboard and stacks for workbooks. They had a computer in the office but it was stolen. That is true in homes and churches as well. Theft is a constant fear and there are barbed wire fences around every home and building. Another Grade 5 teacher says it is hard to get kids to complete assignments or care about school when they don't see a future in education. Still they are committed to trying and there will be success stories.


Gogo is the Zulu word for Grandmas. In the midst of one of trips into the poverty areas we met a woman who had lost 5 out of 7 children to HIV/AIDS. She was HIV positive as well and caring for several grandchildren from the generation that was lost. We admired her extensive garden and then, as we were leaving, her 1 year old granddaughter waved bye-bye to us. Gogo clapped and raved about the little one’s accomplishment in a language any grandma could understand!


Whoosh – a weekend with the Youth. About 600 of them at an ELCSA rally in a school with the usual energy and teen trauma and a lot more singing. Youth Rallies are always a little on the rugged side – sleeping in a gym and sharing a shower with 70 of your closest parishioners. We were housed out of the melee in a home nearby where we did at least have a heater, a private outhouse, water from an outdoor spigot to heat for a sponge bath. The kids were the whole spectrum of polite to “naughty” with 1000 ways not to sleep the first night and utter exhaustion the second. Food is prepared in huge oil drum sized cans over open fire and the meetings are all in a massive tent. What’s “offal”? Or Palogna? It was on the menu for breakfast. There were several speakers and Bible study and a huge music competition. But the best was the offering! Each church had its own song and dance and they processed in to their dance singing and each placed offering in the plate. Way more energetic and fun than just sitting there! By the second evening many were so tired we were all asleep during even the loud singing in our plastic chairs. Someone pointed out the clergy have the ability to sleep seeing straight up and appearing to be in deep prayer. Must have learned it in seminary – and it is international!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Weddings and other dining events

Last Saturday - yes we are just now getting those thoughts processed! - we went to a wedding in Stanger. It started at 9am - the bride arrived at 11 am for the "white" or church service. Completely western dresses and tux.

We got there at 2:30 to the reception and the speeches were about 1/2 way done. Still they had not eaten. So we grabbed chairs and they added plates and we got there for lunch and cake. They have 3 cakes - small ones on each side of the big one. After the cutting, the bride takes one cake to her new mother in law and kneels to present it. The groom does the same. Very nice.

After that we all drove about 20 minutes to the grooms home where massive tents were set up. We sat in one and before long the bride's family filed in with bags of mats and blankets as gifts for the new home. Eventually - I am told - the bride make sup a bed of these in the tent for the groom and they do all kinds of ceremony stuff, but we had to go. Among other things the bride and groom had not yet arrived and it was going to be some time yet.....

Food is a meat - usually chicken in spices that have Indian influence but not as spicy - plus rice or mealie-meal (corn) and vegetables. Spices or not for any or all of those. The host family I have now does not even use salt so everything is very "American" and highly digestible. I am still trying to get a serving of Bunny Chow which is an Indian dish I understand makes your eyes water...

Coffee - the elixir of life - is easier to get if yo know what to ask for. "Coffee" gets you instant - and that is pretty much all one has at home. "Filter Coffee" gets the real thing - and it is good.