Friday, September 24, 2010

our work, explained for kids

One of the ministries we work with is called Bethany Bible School (BBS). BBS is a school for pastors who don't have very much formal education. Many of them have not gone past third grade! Our former chairman had never been to school at all and could not read or write. And yet they are leading churches and want some education to help them do that better. We read the Bible together and talk about what it means. They are all very grateful to get this education and some of them come a long way to school—some from 3 or 4 hours away.

After the group session, we break into small groups to discuss a particular scripture. In this picture, a group was meeting under a particularly nice tree.

Between sessions we always sing. Sometimes we get to dancing and sometimes dancing/running around a circle.

The symbol of the school shows a person rising up from a Bible. We hope that studying the Bible at Bethany Bible School will give them confidence and will help them to rise up from their difficult lives. The slogan of our school is “we are growing in the knowledge of the Son.” What do you think this means? Who is the Son? How do we grow in knowledge?

Mama Dokolwana is wearing a t-shirt with the BBS symbol and the words "Siyakhula ekwazini uNyana" which means "we are growing in the knowledge of the Son."

We also work with a small church called Harvest Time Ministries. This church is made up mostly of kids and youth. Most of the kids come by themselves without their parents. We met the dad of two of the kids once and he said that whenever his kids hear our car, they run out the door because they know that church must be starting! Church usually lasts about three hours and often the kids sit still for the whole thing. They usually have Sunday School before the service so they are often there for 5 hours on a Sunday! Sometimes the kids leave for the sermon and go play outside. One time there was a bull roaming around outside the church and all the kids had a good time running away from it. It wasn't a dangerous bull but it was still fun.

In this picture a lot of the church members are standing outside the church building. Most of the kids are not in this picture.

But here are a bunch of the kids, singing a song for the whole church. They perform as a choir every week.


marbles, part 1

Isaac and his friends at school like to play marbles. At break time, they find a suitable dust patch and proceed to play. It is an incredibly complex game with almost incomprehensible rules and its own language. I'm sure that each school and group of kids plays it differently but this is a simple version of Isaac and his friends' way of playing.
  • Up to six people can play. The goal is to hit another player's marble three times.
  • You begin by digging a little hole in the dirt or grass.
  • Each person announces their position by calling "firstys", "secondys", "thirdys", etc...
  • You begin with each person shooting their marble as near to the hole as possible. Whoever is closest gets to go first. The order then proceeds as first announced.
  • Let's say that I was that closest person. I now get to try to get in the hole. If I get in the hole I am now "poison" and can hit other players and try to take their marbles. On the turn that I get in the hole, I can shoot out on the same turn.
  • I now go after other players.
  • If I hit a player that player then has to "place themself" which means that they choose a place to be shot at. I now get a chance to hit them again. If I hit, I get another chance. If I hit again then I get that marble and that player is out.
  • If I miss, the other player is back in the game but has to go back in the hole to become poison again. If the player was not poison to begin with, they have to get in the hole twice.
I hope that this makes sense. It took me a while to make sense of it. I will add all the calls and how to play with multiple marbles for each player in another post.

Here is Isaac demonstrating the three ways to hold a marble for shooting.

For a big marble, you use an underarm toss like this...

For a small marble, you can hold it in either of the following two ways.

Here the marble rests on the tip of the index finger and is shot by the thumb...

Here the marble rests in the crook of the index finger and is shot by the thumb...


Thursday, September 23, 2010

elwandleni, at the sea

Two weekends ago, we enjoyed a break at Mdumbi, our favorite spot on Eastern Cape's Wild Coast (Indian Ocean).

Mdumbi's wonderful, expansive beach (Can you spot three boys leading the way?)

heading down to the beach

our accommodations at Mdumbi Backpackers

View across the river with Xhosa houses (rondavels) perched on the hills overlooking the sea

tromping through the "squishy" sand in the estuary area

And finally . . . a picture of each boy enjoying their beach holiday



Moses (with crab on "crab island")


Monday, September 20, 2010

the upside-down kingdom

In the middle of the service, Pastor Ntapo stopped in mid-speech, looked out the door, and announced that “the man of God has arrived.” I could not see the door and waited to see who would enter. I expected the headman or another very important pastor—someone important enough to pause the service for. In came a young man from the community, a mentally-challenged man who mumbles to himself throughout the service. He entered and was given a seat of honour at the front of the church.

The service was a special farewell for Erica Yoder who has been living and worshipping with us for two months. After the service we were to share cake and coke to mark the occasion. The steadfast and unshakable rule of this sort of an event is that the men are to be seated at the head table, the married women in chairs around the room, and the young women are to serve all the men and the older women, only themselves eating when everyone else has been served. But this time, Pastor Ntapo seated the young women at the head table. He then seated the young men and the married women to the side. He took no seat for himself.

As the people were being seated we sang “makube njalo"-- “let it be so.”

On earth as it is in heaven.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

tyre rolling

Several churches have asked us for South Africa-related activities to do with Sunday School groups or Vacation Bible School. In an effort to respond to this I will try to regularly include suggestions of children's activities. Here is a first installment.

Moses and Isaac with tyres in 2006
Photo courtesy of Dan Nighswander

A favourite activity at Isaac and Moses' preschool was tyre rolling. The school had a pile of tyres which the kids ran around with at break time. You can use car tyres or bike tyres. An added skill is to push and balance the tyre with a stick. Take a look at Isaac and Moses rolling tyres and then try it yourself.



Monday, September 6, 2010

birthday-cake communion

Yesterday at church we celebrated the 18th birthday of Andisiwe, one of the young women who has become active in the congregation. The idea to celebrate came from Erica Yoder, our American helper these last two months, who has herself become active in our congregation. Erica and Anna baked a cake for Andisiwe which the whole church shared together. Each person got a small piece—with some left over.


The whole celebration time became for me a witness to how community is built within the church. Though the event was ostensibly for one person, Andisiwe, the good things it brought overflowed to all. Though the cake had her name on it, circumstance—one small cake shared among many—required that Andisiwe receive no larger portion than any other person there on that day. Likewise, though we sang to Andisiwe, we went around the room and listened to each person, young and old, inform us of his or her own birthday. One woman did not know her date; yet her very not knowing brought home the importance of the event. In a world of shattered worlds, in which people are searching to know and be known, the unknown woman can have her cake and eat it too—among those who have opened themselves to share the love of Christ. The celebration of the one overflowed with blessings for the many, including, and perhaps especially, for those who are "least" in the world's eyes.

The apostle Paul said something similar in describing the work of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:15). And though Andisiwe was not herself in the position of Christ, the celebration of her birthday within the church hints at the power that the regular celebration of Christ’s “life laid down”, “unto death”, “for many”, has to unite those who “remember” it (Jn 10:18; Php. 2:8; Mk. 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25). Just as the “unleavened cake” of Christ’s righteous life was prepared for us in his broken body and blood out-poured, so birthday cake on this day became the one “body” through which we expressed our love for one another in the Lord (Ex. 12:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17).


As Erica prepares the cake, the congregation sings (translated), "The name of the Lord be praised"/"Jesus is exalted".


Friday, September 3, 2010

stumbling blocks to transformation

On our way back from Botswana in June, I witnessed a scene that reminded me of how difficult true transformation in South Africa really is.

We had stopped at a Steers (fast food) which was connected to a petrol station to eat lunch. There was a young black man at the table beside us. He had no food but was writing to someone on his cellphone. He got up and went out of the restaurant and over to the petrol station to buy airtime for his cellphone.

While he was gone, a middle-aged white man came and sat at the table that the other man had just vacated. Soon the black man came back and sat in the chair that he had been in and began to activate his airtime. The white man told the black man that he was sitting there first. The black man told the white man that he had been there and just gotten up to buy airtime. The white man protested and the black man got up and left.

It was a heart-breaking scene. Each thought that the other was rude. The white man, valuing personal space, thought that the black man had invaded his. The black man, valuing connection, didn't understand why he would have been asked to leave. Each went away feeling wronged.

While the structures of apartheid have been dismantled and most claim to desire unity, there remain cultural differences that divide. Racism is no longer saying "I don't like him because of the colour of his skin." Racism is an unwillingness to move out of your own culture; an inability to see how someone else might think differently. South Africans will need a lot of grace toward one another to move forward in the building of a nation.