Sunday, July 27, 2008

TIA [This is Africa]

Occasionally, I feel the need to remind myself that I live in Africa. It would be easy enough to only go to the malls and drive from one friend’s house to another and never really encounter true African culture. South Africa is certainly more westernized than the surrounding countries, but once I depart the city the Africa I came to experience is there, waiting for me.
Here are some things I’m learning about South Africa.
1) If I want to do anything in town I should probably get there before five o clock otherwise the chances of anything being open go down to almost nil [except the bars of course and the movie theater that’s an hour away and they’re only open to about ten or eleven]. I used to think that this lack of nightlife was because people get up so much earlier here than in the States, which is partially true, but the real reason is that its really too dangerous to stay out after dark and year round the sun is gone by six. This is a difficult thing for a girl who used to work at a twenty-four hour Starbucks. I’ve tried to suppress the night owl within me and not get too terribly angry when people call me at ungodly hours of the morning, constantly reminding myself that This is Africa. Not really working so far, but I’ll keep trying. Everything is a process.

2) Gas [about $6/gallon], cars, books, and electronics are much more expensive here. Movies, restaurants, amazing wine, are all cheaper. Probably something to do with importing, but I’m not positive.
3) If you want something done in a timely manner, you should probably bring your husband [which is bad news for me]. Women haven’t quite received the level of independence here than we have back home.
4) If someone says they’ll be somewhere at ten and they show up at eleven, you grin and remind yourself that TIA. Time is not a commodity here.

I am constantly trying to stop myself from comparing Africa to the U.S. There is no comparison. Africa is Africa and I wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter how frustrated I get. I know this is a normal reaction for an American girl in Africa and I’m trying to get beyond my own stereotypes and expectations, both of the culture around me and those I place on myself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jesus in Mozambique

I don’t exactly know where to start describing my last few weeks. I have seen a new country, experienced new cultures, and wished for the comfort of home repeatedly and with all of myself. I learned that I am stronger than I believed and that I have the power of life and death at my fingertips or rather, at the tip of my tongue. I am in the process of learning that life is completely about the process and am so grateful that Jesus is relentless with me, because I would have willing abandoned myself by this point, dusted my hands off and left with some dramatic exit line. Fortunately, Jesus has so much more patience and love for me than I do for myself and I can see His movements in my life. I love His creativity and the different ways He whispers of His everlasting devotion to me, which is another thing I am slowly learning to accept.

It’s been a busy month.

I left to join an outreach team from our base in Mozambique over three weeks ago. I needed to leave the country to renew my visa and it seemed like a good opportunity to add a new stamp to my passport. Maputo [the capital of Mozambique] is only a couple hours drive from our home in South Africa, but seems worlds apart in every other aspect. Once colonized by Portugal, Mozambique is a unique mix of African and Latino influences. In general, the people are much more friendly across the border. Of course, they haven’t had as bad experiences with white people as black South Africans have. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I found definitely wasn’t it. We visited extremely rural villages and I witnessed people who had next to nothing tithe the best portions of their crops. They danced, sang, and laughed as they laid their offerings of chickens and vegetables at the front of the church. The pastor turned to us and said with tears in his eyes that this year had been a very bad year for crops in the village and that he was blessed to know these people. For the first time in all my years of being a Christian and attending church, I saw what it truly meant to tithe and joyfully give back to God, even when it hurt.

I have never been treated with such thoughtless hospitality as I have been given in Africa. We attended weddings and birthdays and churches and at each we were given a place of honor and their best food was laid before us even if they themselves went without. At first I struggled. Was this only because we were white people? But it didn’t take long to realize that all guests were honored and the fact that we had spent our own money to come and visit them touched their hearts deeply.

I wish I had more pictures and videos to show you. I wish I had more evidence of the beautiful memories I hold of Mozambique, but in my effort to be respectful of these people all I really have to give you are words and descriptions. I hope you can see my heart and through that the wonder that is Africa.