Thursday, July 5, 2012

I LOVE Botswana

July 5, 2012
 My very dear friends,  I do apologize sincerely  for my lack of communication these last three weeks,  but  I’ve been absorbed with interviewing people and writing  my ethnography, which I loved, but  which I’m pleased to now say is now completed and has been turned in to my professors!  What a freeing relief that is!
 In this blog I will do my best to sum up some of the highlights of the last few  weeks, things that I did  when I wasn’t consumed by my ethnography!
        Botswana National Olympic Team Send-Off Service
   On June 15th my good friend, Susan Mogwera invited me to her church,  Open Baptist Church just outside Gaborone. They were having  a praise and worship service as part of a  send-off for the Botswana National Olympic Team, going  to the 2012 London Olympic Games.  It was so cool to come together like that and to pray for them, bless and encourage them and spend time in the Lord’s presence with a whole LOT of other Christians!  It was really good,  because one of the speakers said that even though the team might not win a medal,  they actually are already winners because of how far they have come, and with what integrity. I loved that.  Another person prayed that the players would have a love for Jesus that would outshine ALL the medals put together!!  I just love that kind of attitude.  I love all the praise and thanksgiving. I love it when Jesus is the center of everything.  I loved it all. There was a lot of singing and dancing, of course! I love Botswana. Have I said that before?!
 St. Peter’s  Last Day of  School
   Thursday June the 28th was a really bittersweet day,  because it was the last day of the fall semester at St. Peter's Day center. It was also, obviously, the last day for me to be with “my”  beloved children, who have taught me so much about what it means to be a simple servant of the Lord, patient with myself, and loving young children.  I’m going to miss these kids terribly. Each of them were bright lights, reflecting  God's unending love in my life.  We had a pizza party to celebrate the last day, and I hugged so many little ones who said such tender things to me – and I cried.  And laughed.   This “service project”  (which became a whole lot more than just a school project) was one that showed me a glimpse of the plan God has for me to speak His love through theatre, art, and drama. I cry as I type this.  I’m so thankful  to all the special  people who made my six months such a wonderful and joyful experience. Many of them were at St Peter’s.  I’m so grateful to Mma Gladys Mudereri and Father Andrew Simbarashe Mudereri  for allowing me the honor and privilege of working with the kids and their  amazing staff.  They  all have increased my desire to come back to Botswana – Actually, I wanted to just stay, but I know I can’t do that now.
    My ethnography was a lot of fun, some hard work,  and a great experience,  because I got to interview a lot of people.  People are so interesting – and I love seeing how people think and what they perceive.   One was an elderly chief,  82 years old and full of knowledge.  His name is Kgosi Rramabi Mashiskgomo Rrabaska Gaborone.  I loved listening to his soft voice as he told me about the history of the Batlokwa, the music, art, and traditional dance and ceremonial costumes.  He reminded me a lot of my 94 year old grandfather who is also so gentle and full of wisdom.  Another interviewee was a 68 year old woman named Mary, who’s a  “traditionally built,”  funny lady with large round glasses and thick black hair. She really was so full of enthusiasm.  Mary told me all about the indigenous, tribal churches and the differences between them and the westernized churches that were begun by missionaries.  But really, I enjoyed every single person who gave me their time and their insights. There were so many – I talked to everyone I could.  I know I didn’t get to the heart of everything, but it wasn’t their fault!  This is a wonderful culture, but it is also complex – well, that’s part of why it is so wonderful!  It is also changing rapidly. Higher education, access to TV and internet, all  do affect people, even in small villages. So there is a confusing mixture of the traditional and the western-contemporary in both activities and in thinking.  I do pray that they will have wisdom to keep what is rich and beautiful  in their culture, especially in the churches, and not be ashamed of what is not “western.”   It is not an easy tightrope to walk, I know.
  We are all made in God’s Image
    On June 29th  I spoke to a group of doctors and nurses at Princess Marina Hospital. I had been invited by my friend from India,  Dr Gureja.  He is the one who has had me working with Malebogo, my  Motswana friend who lost her arms and  legs due to illness.  (By the way, I have more Indian friends in Botswana than I ever have had in the US! That has been really good for me, too – and I have loved it!) Anyway, the topic was,  Living with a Disability. I wasn’t sure how to prepare, so I just prayed. God told me to simply be myself,  and not even to prepare too much. I KNOW about this, and they know I do – and it wasn’t that formal anyway, but it was serious. It was one of their teaching times when everyone had to come. Dr Gureja spoke first about the medical aspects of my particular disability, then he let me have 20 minutes to speak before questions.  So  I  shared about the love of God for me and for all persons, I told them how I know that – because of  my loving Christian home and Christian friends of all denominations who have encouraged me to see myself as God’s child first of all. I spoke of  being encouraged to do things for myself,  to try what seemed impossible (like painting,  like going to college and doing  this degree, and even this six-months abroad!)  and I told them about  all the things I’ve accomplished in my life because of knowing that God has called me to do them.  I spoke about trusting God to  give me my identity, and that as professional they can encourage the disabled, but if the disabled persons don’t know WHO THEY ARE in God, it won’t matter. They will still feel badly in any society, like a burden and a “problem” to others. But when they see that they are made in God’s image too, THE WAY THEY ARE, then they can listen to see what God wants them to do in their lives and stop being sad about their disability.  I wanted them to see that even the disabled can give back to society. No one wants ONLY to be the object of someone else’s care and concern. We want to GIVE it, too!  We want to find meaning for our lives like everyone else does – like they do. We are all created in God’s image. They wanted to see what I can do, so I demonstrated how I draw, type, brush my hair and teeth etc.  And I talked about St. Peter’s and Cheshire working with the children, and helping them to come to see that disability is nothing to fear.  Malebogo was present for the lecture, too – and by the way, she  is making a lot of progress, and trying to do more and more for herself! Dr. Gureja talked about my work with Malebogo and showed her what I had been teaching her. He showed a picture of her writing, and how it has improved since she started almost a month ago.  In the end I shared my art work, and gave people some of my note cards – A lot of people asked me to sign them, and I think there was real interest in hearing about all of this. It is easier to talk about God here than you might think. No one thinks it is weird to being God into ANY conversation. It is just natural for them to do it, even if they are not Christians, and especially if they are.
The Wedding
The very next day, June 30, was  Rudo’s wedding, and of course I attended!  Rudo is the daughter of Mma Gladys and Father Andrew Mudereri, whom I know from St Peter’s.  It was a really beautiful wedding ceremony with lots of Setswana music and dance (of course!)  There was music that was  played, and several  and songs that were sung before the bridal procession. I love it that no one here is in a big hurry to get weddings or funerals or ANYthing  over with.  Everything  lasts a LONG time, and I love it! Rudo was married in the Anglican Cathedral, of course, since her father is a priest in the diocese. In the wedding procession  there were  acolytes, bridesmaids,  priests and deacons from the Diocese,  the Bishop of Botswana (Trevor Mwamba,)  then the bride and her escort! Rudo looked beautiful. She was  adorned in a long, full white silk dress with a snowy white veil.  The wedding colors were  those of Botswana: blue, black, white. So the bridesmaids’ dresses were blue silk with a white sash.
Her dad, Andrew Mudereri ,was the officiant for the ceremony.  The bride/ groom were first blessed. Then there were several  readings from Bible, then more singing.  Then  came  a full sermon about marriage - how the couple must respect and honour each other in Christ.  After this more singing, then the couple came forward, the groom on the right, bride on the left, and exchanged their  vows and the rings.  Rudo cried through her vows, because it was all moving – not just to us but to her.  When this is finished they  went up to the altar to sign the marriage certificate in front of everyone and then everyone cheered wildly,  and the bride/ groom are officially married! They took their sets,  sitting next to each other holding hands. The bishop celebrated the  Eucharist  and during it all there was music. All of it was wonderful, all the way through  Communion, and of course everyone participates, and sings (again!)  Then there is even more singing  and dancing during the dismissal.
Then a big feast followed – I have never been to such a great wedding, where there was so much involvement of everyone, so much joy and freedom and spontaneous worship as well as the regular liturgy, and so much fun as well as seriousness – I LOVE Botswana. Again. I love everything about it.
But now I am in my sad  Week of  Lasts… the last time I will do this…the last time I will see her … Pray for me as I begin to say good bye.   I am just plain not ready to leave. I am really struggling to have to let go of so much that has become dear to me, and so many people of all ages, from all different walks of life, people I love.         I am going to miss doing real work – It is hard to go back to being a student now, after seeing that I CAN do real and helpful things myself in this world that can matter to others – that God really can use me. I knew that, but now I have seen it. 
 I am finding comfort in the book of Jeremiah esp. 29: 11 For I know the plans) I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray) to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

“I have a dream"

June 6, 2012
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made one of the most powerful speeches in history on August 28, 1963, when he stood on the steps of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. Among the many wonderful things that he said there was something that always stood out to me, which  was this : “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…….I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
                I would like to add to this thought, by taking the line “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” and say that I myself have a dream that “one day the disabled will live in a world where they will not be judged by their physical/ mental disability but by the content of their character”!  God is making it happen already!
                These last two weeks I have had the honor and privilege of hosting two successful art shows that featured the work of some disabled artists at Riverwalk here in village. The first art show was on the twenty sixth of May and the students from the Thuoboswa Rehab Center of Ramotswe came to present their work.   5 boys and one girl participated. Some of them had cerebral palsy and others had Down syndrome, but they were all excited to be there in public showing their work. They brought all kinds of artistic crafts, including quilts, dyed clothes, African traditional leather garments, etc.  We decided that I would show my notecards at the same time, to just give the students some courage to be seen publicly in this way, and to show them that I am not “above” them, or different from them, but just one with them. I think that was helpful to the kids who otherwise were a little shy about doing this.
The Spar worker who helped us set things up was a nice, fiery South African redhead  named Joey, who  herself is very interested in working to change lives for those how are disabled. She had all the tables arranged  so that we were all under the shade but so that everyone who came to shop could see our work. She also made a large sign for us about what we were doing!  She was so helpful, and  kept calling people to look at the work, which allowed us to share our testimonies with many people.  We told passersby that we are eager for others to realize that our disabilities do not define who we are.  One purpose of these shows was to affirm publicly that God created us all in his image…so when we speak about God’s “image,” it cannot have anything to do with how we look or what we can accomplish compared to others. It is much more truly about something else – the human ability to love.  When the news reporter, Rachel Ngama from Global Post came, we all shared these thoughts with her. None of  the young people were afraid to talk about God, or Jesus’ love for them, and I was so very pleased with that!  The students loved having the event and were really encouraged to see how many people bought their work and acknowledged their abilities. One person came up to us and said, “I wish that we could scratch out the dis in disability because disability does not mean inability!” People are beginning to really understand this!
The next Saturday we had another art show at Super Spar but this time the students were not able to come because their bus driver had to attend a funeral for a family members who’d recently died. At first it seemed we needed to cancel the show, but then a woman who is a member of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship, who has  a deformed right hand but makes beautiful  jewelry decided that she wanted to participate in this show, so we went ahead with it anyway.  Her name is Flora, she is 40 years old and has 2 children. She is a very kind lady, not very tall but thin, and  walks with a little limp.  She wears her hair in tight braids and her smile is always spread across her face! The light of God shone through her golden brown eyes. She arrived early, and since there were no other artists that day besides the two of us, we had to set up only one table. this was great, because we had plenty of room which allowed us to sit side by side and talk. We had a lot of fun, and laughed a lot. Flora kindly said she was impressed with my Setswana, and said she would like to help me become even more fluent.  I immediately took her up on that offer, and we are going to start sometime next week!  We also had  a lot of customers and interested people who just wanted to talk.  Many of the youth from St. Michael’s came to support us as well.     
                Another cool thing that happened this week is that the lady I’m helping from Princess Marina hospital (the one who lost her arms and legs) Malebogo, took a field trip! She has been missing her children who have not seen her since her surgeries because they live in Molepolole, which is a pretty good distance and her family cannot afford to bring them to the clinic. Malebogo misses her own kids very, very much,  so I thought it would be wonderful for her to go out and meet the kids at the daycare where I have spent so much time. I hoped that this would be an encouragement to her also, because I knew that the staff and others would totally accept her as she is now.  So on Monday morning Esther and I picked Malebogo and her husband and drove them to St. Peter’s.  On the way, we spoke only Setswana which Melebogo and I  both enjoyed very much, especially when she laughed at my funny accent! Apparently  it is quite entertaining!  When we got to St.Peter’s  I was amazed at how easily and immediately  the children especially the four year olds welcomed Malebogo and her husband.  It was so precious to watch the children just take one of her arms and greet her, just exactly the way they do to me, and because they knew how to approach me, they did the same with her! Gladys Mudereri  (the director of the daycare) kept taking photos of Malebogo with the kids using both of our cameras, for which I was very grateful. I felt that it was important for the children to see more disabled people, and I wanted Malebogo and her husband to be encouraged by their welcome, to help her see that despite everything, God is with her and giving her new hope. She knows she has lost her limbs, but not her life! She will be okay, and people ARE seeing her for the content of her character (which is beautiful!)
                I have had a few days of skin rash and then sleepiness due to the medicine they gave me for the rash, and then another sort of stomach upset, so it has mostly been a quiet week at home. I needed that anyway, and have been working a lot on my university papers, especially the ethnography. I so much enjoy learning more and more about the people I am coming to love so deeply. They are always totally gracious, but I wish this semester abroad requirement were for a whole year! I need a lot more time then we have to know this culture well enough not to be constantly making mistakes!
                It is getting very cold at night now, almost freezing some nights. There is no indoor heat in most places, so the daycare children are all wearing sweaters, coats and hats to class. Their smiles and laughter keep us all warm though! (See? Even when I am not there I am thinking of them!)
                I cannot believe that in just over a month I will have to leave my new home and return to Missouri – which does not really feel like home anymore. Already I am seeing how much I will miss the children – all my friends from the Anglican Youth Fellowship - Malebogo – Esther – Gladys – Susan – James and Diana – well, all the people I have come to know and love here.  Botswana is the home of my heart, even if I have to leave for awhile. God has blessed me here with joys and challenges beyond anything I dreamed. I have a whole new set of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers in Jesus.  I only pray that I am able to bless them too. Pray for me.
Sala Sentle

Monday, May 21, 2012


May 21, 2012
Dumalang, my wonderful friends!   I missed writing this week - I have been sick with a minor stomach virus, as well as living with the ringworm I also picked up, and we’ve had no internet since last Sunday, so it has been an interesting week!  We have also had a few power-outs every now and then. Yes, oh my, the ordinary hazards of daily living!  But I have also been able to do a lot of extensive research for my ethnography when I felt well enough to interview people from the town of Tlokweng.
Well, here’s some news -  Last Thursday I went again to visit the 32 years old lady who has lost both her arms and legs, so that I could work with her some more. It was cool - because she was very happy to see me as I was to see her!   She had really improved in her eating abilities, and the nurses told me that she has been trying to do as much for herself as she can, especially when it comes to feeding herself!  She herself told me how much of an encouragement I have been to her (praise God for that!), and how that has made her want to work harder at doing everything she could.  During lunch she showed me how she was able to pick up her own spoon and fork to feed herself. She did amazingly well, and I was so proud of her because of her refusal to give up! That day I taught her how to brush her teeth (without the toothpaste that is. I’ll bring that next week and show her how to get it onto the brush) as well as how to hold a chicken leg, and pour a can of coke into a cup. The chicken leg she struggled with, and kept dropping it, because her stump is still weak, so holding things isn’t very easy for her, but she slowly improved the more effort she made.  I loved watching her try, and laughing at herself when she messed up, rather than getting discouraged and giving up. The coke can was more of an effort for her, and she had to hold the can with both of her stumps, which was hard for her.  She kept trying but got too nervous when she tried to pour it into the cup, because she was afraid she would spill it all over her bedside table.  She had such a positive attitude about the whole experience and wants to push herself harder and harder. A few days later her therapist called me and told me how much she has improved, and that she (the therapist) wanted to sit in on our next session and watch how I work with her so that she could get ideas on how to help others with similar problems. Isn’t that great? To be used by God for one of his children is a great privilege. I am so glad for this chance.
 As I help her improve in her abilities I do feel the Lord’s presence in the midst of all of it. When I’m with her, or teaching the Bible stories with the children at St. Peters or doing Bible and art lessons with those at Cheshire, or witnessing to other people in my conversations,  I sense God’s most powerful work playing in me  - almost dancing for joy! - And I see again why my heart is drawn to missions.  This is really what I love doing – showing Jesus to everyone all the time in every way here.  I am NOT looking forward to returning to the states!
Speaking of ministry, I’m now getting together with some of the disabled students in the different schools to organize not one, but TWO disabled-student art shows for two different weekends in a row. Maurice, the original manager at Spar, moved on to become the manager at a larger grocery store at Airport Junction, and an Indian man by the name of DP became the new manager at Spar.  As time went by, the idea was sort of dropped. But once I met Komohelo’s mother (I have mentioned her before in the previous blogs) who is working at a school for the disabled, I told her my idea about an art show for the students.  I told her that I wanted to try to give them a chance as I had been given, to share their talents with others outside their school and family. They rarely have that opportunity. Through this, I’d hope that they would be recognized as competent people who can contribute to society. I so want them to get positive feedback and to see that their lives count – for God – and for others. The purpose of this was to affirm to them and to the audience that God has created all persons, in his image and for his glory. It is my desire, and I hope eventually others’ desire, that people look at us and our work - whatever it is - and realize that our disability does not define who we are. God does. Jesus Christ defines us.  I want us all to see each other as God’s creations, creations of God who makes us creative as well.
She agreed with this, so right now we are meeting with the school board about who will be presenting their art in the two shows!  After she and I talked, I got back in contact with Maurice and DP and they were both excited to open their stores for this - and so we now have dates when each show will take place; the first is on 26th of May at Superspar in Gaborone, and the other will be the 2nd of June at Airport Junction. So as you can see, there is a lot to be done in a short amount of time, so I really do ask your prayers for these upcoming weeks as well as the artists and everyone else who is putting them together! I KNOW how much work goes into hanging a show – even a small one for students!  Pray that God will be glorified in these children’s’ art – and in the response they get when they show it – they will be very vulnerable – showing their heart to strangers like that – but they are eager to do it. Pray for them.  God will use them in some amazing way – I am sure of that!
Pray that we will all be faithful to anything that God asks of us – or invites of us. It is the way of gladness!
Sala Sentle!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Patience

May 6, 2012
Dumalang, my dearest friends!
          Last Friday opened up a very new and meaningful experience for me that I really don’t think I have ever expected before!  Dr. Gureja, the Indian doctor at the Princess Marina Hospital whom I have mentioned a few blogs back, asked me to come in and speak to 2 of his patients. Neither of the patience any have arms or legs and Dr. Gureja wanted me to talk to them and try to encourage them.  Well, of course I went, gladly!
          The first was an 8 year old girl named Realeoga who came with her mother and father from Lobatse.  She was a very bubbly, happy little girl who could write on her own, feed herself, and hold a cell phone as well as dial numbers.  What is cool is that she is IN SCHOOL! Her parents do not keep her hidden at all!  What she has a real issue is with the school. She has a hard time keeping up with the writing assignments in school and then she ends up with bad marks because she doesn’t get things done on time. They, that is her parents, wanted to know if I had any suggestions about what could be done in order to help her improve and fix this problem. I was excited about this because this was exactly the sort of issues I had in school as well. I totally understand how she feels.  I told them to look into getting a transcriber for her so that way she could simply dictate into the machine what she wanted written down. I also suggested that while the other kids are out playing outside she could be doing some of the writing before the other kids get back into class. This way she could already being doing her work ahead of time. They liked the idea of getting her some sort of transcriber because they said that the coursework is not difficult for her and she knows the answers too many things it’s just that she struggles to keep up. I will try to help her locate one – and so will the disability office here.  I also was very pleased to know that she loved doing art and she has a fun time painting and drawing. So I told her that I will be working with others to put on an art show  with disabled persons in early June, and I offered her to join me there, and even to show some of her work - which both she and her parents would like very much. She loved watching me take pictures of her so I took several various shots of her in various poses. Realeoga told me herself that she has lots of friends, both at school and at church. I am so happy she is part of a Christian family and that the church accepts her!  She delights in being outdoors and being with people. I especially loved watching her with her father.  It really reminded me of when I first met my own father in India when I was reunited with my original family in the spring of 2008 – He, too, was so very kind and gracious. Fathers and their daughters – a special bond!
Then the second patient was a lady, about 32 years old, mother of 3 - who just lost both her arms and legs due to a disease she contracted in the summer of 2009. She has nothing now below her knees and her arms are exactly like mine. She could not feed herself nor could she write. She was just helpless because no one knew how to help her.  When Dr. Gureja told me this, I told myself that that was going to change - starting right now!  It was about 4 in the afternoon and the patients were receiving their meals, so we had hers brought into the room where she and I were meeting. I demonstrated how I ate by scooping the food up with my spoon or fork between my arm and chin and then raising the spoon up to my mouth by placing my arm on the end of the spoon handle. She watched with great fascination and was very excited to try and do the same thing.
It was amazing how quickly she picked it up and although  she struggled a bit in the in the beginning she eventually did it and she never spilled it- not once. She was SO proud of herself as were Esther and I! She then wanted to know how to write, so I showed her how I did it by putting the pen between my arm and chin. She was a little embarrassed to try, because she was so afraid of messing up but I told her that it was going to take a lot of practice so “do not be afraid.”   She eventually got the hang of it and she was so happy and she kept saying "Ke itumetse"  "Ke itumetse"!! What made me so happy was how the Lord really used me to help her and encourage her as well as Realeoga. God is just astonishing to me!
Dr. Gureja saw all that she could do for herself and was happy too!  I told him that I'd like to help her learn more – and to do more – and to discover how valuable she is to God right now – to help her see that this is NOT the end, and NOT HER FAULT.  I want to help mentor her during the rest of my time here...that is when I can get to the hospital to visit - to which Dr Gureja  replied,  "Absolutely!"
I was also really impressed with Esther and the many ways she helped in terms of translation, having a pen and pencil at hand, and always sitting there ready and available. She never tried to take over or try to control the conversations, or undermined me in anyway. I'm getting to appreciate her more and more. It was indeed a very good and encouraging day for all of us.
Please pray for me as I begin taking more serious time now to do thorough research (interviews) into the Batlokwa tribe since I’m working on my ethnography about them – the major tribe, the “real” Setswana speakers!  This is very exciting now that I have been here for several months and have sense of what to expect, a sense of what to listen for. I love Botswana.
 Love you all. Sala Sentle!

Friday, May 4, 2012

"I want to see.”

May 3, 2012
Dumalang, my dearest friends! I hope all of you are doing well and enjoying the excitement of spring. I cannot seem to grasp the fact that this we are already in May!  I was talking to Sandy about this earlier this morning and she said that time just goes really fast when you’re in another country.  She also said that I have been so busy, that time is actually trying to catch up with me!  As time goes on I think this is becoming even truer.
On Thursday morning last week I began my theologizing project at Cheshire, the disabled community center. I’m working with physically disabled children ages 6-12, with the teachers involved, of course. We started off by reading the story of creation, how everything was made in by God, and how Adam and Eve were created in God’s image - and that all creation was good. I really talked to the kids about people being created in God’s Image. And I asked them what they thought that this meant.   It was interesting, and shows what a good place Cheshire really is, because two different children were immediately responsive. They both said, in different ways, that in God’s eyes each of us is beautiful. This really helped get the others to pipe up in the discussion, and soon they were all saying that God loves each of us and that we are just fine the way we are – disabled or not.  Even the adults were really getting into the whole Bible thing and encouraging the kids. The children wanted me to read the story over and over, and they got really into the idea that God accepts them as they are, and has made them in his image. So having “normal” healthy bodies and perfect minds is NOT what we mean by the image of God!  This matters so much here.  To be made like God, able to love and to be loved, to be creative even in small ways as God is – this is what they were hungry to hear.  Even the adults have not considered this in this context before – that the Bible speaks for them and to them – even about this most deep insecurity: being “different.”
 After we finished with the story I had the children draw their story of God’s creation of themselves. I asked them to put themselves in the midst of the whole creation, in the way they themselves picture God creating them!  The self-portrait that they chose to draw was, of course, based on their own experience and understanding of how God created them in his image – that he knew them before they were born. Some beautiful pictures emerged, too!  It was so much fun watching them trying to be as creative as they could be, seeing themselves being created!  And I was very pleased to see how excited they were about doing this. Each child drew something very unique, and they were excited as well as proud to have done something creative on their own.  I was proud of them too, because I saw how much this reassurance from God meant to them, and how eager they were to express it. After our Bible session was over it was time for the kids to do their P.E. activities. It was so encouraging to me to watch them play happily and freely, with a new and conscious joy that they are made in God image – somehow LIKE God!  That they are NOT “junk” or made “wrong” – that they are made for God, by God, for joy!
The night before I began my project at Cheshire, I really took the time to pray to the Father about what He wanted me to teach these kids, and what he needed me to engrave in their tender little hearts. I understood that it was the fact that he created the world out of his LOVE – that he loved them and wanted them to trust Him. By doing this project I’m seeing that encouraging the disabled as well as the non-disabled adults who also participated, about God’s unending love is so vitally important.  Even the Christian adults who were there heard it in a new way, I think, and found it kind of exciting to hear the Bible their way, as a story – to imagine God seeing them before they were born and choosing to create THEM!  God is showing me that doing this sort of thing is what I love doing, and I am realizing that helping people to see the love of God, to trust Jesus, to see that the Bible is FOR them, not against them, is my true calling.  Encouraging unbelievers to trust God who loves them, and encouraging believers to trust him more, is all joy! And helping parents and teachers to see the children with new Bible-eyes is best of all!
          Another exciting thing is that I’m back to teaching the 3 and 4 year olds at St. Peter’s and right now I’m working with the story about the blind man, Bartimaeus, who received his sight from Jesus. This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospel of Mark because it is all about the blind man’s persistence and determination. God waited for him to push forward.  He wanted to see Bartimaeus willing to cry out for Jesus no matter what. Bartimaeus was just a blind nobody, who was annoying the heck out of all those around him because he would not stop calling after Jesus. The crowd got upset because I think in their minds they were embarrassed and could not see why Jesus would bother with someone like that! Bartimaeus, however, ignored the crowds’ multiple attempts to shut him up and kept calling out to Jesus to have mercy on him. He knew what he wanted, and he was not going to let anyone distract him or get in the way of what his heart desired. He persisted through the disapproving crowd…  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  When Jesus called the others to bring Bartimaeus, and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted - to which   the blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Bartimaeus knew that only Jesus could heal him, but this is also cool, the way Jesus RESPONDED…. Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Bartimaeus was persistent in the face of the judgmental crowd.  I want to be this persistent too – and I want the children to be persistent in their faith and their courage – in their childish desire for Jesus – as they grow up -  no matter what the obstacles are - and there are MANY obstacles in their lives.  I want this story to encourage them – and their teachers and caregivers. God will answer us when we ask Him to help us. God will give us what we ask if we ask like that! We don’t really need new physical eyes, or arms and legs, but, for example,  I DO need to see Jesus, even though I have good eyes, and I DO need to “walk” more faithfully  - even though I do not need new legs!   There is much for us to see. It is not only physical blindness that hurts us, after all. Most of us need to trust Jesus to help us see. We think we see Jesus better than we do. We think we see the love of God, but really, we hardly see anything yet! We need the Holy Spirit to set us free to SEE.  We are blind in ways we do not even guess. 
          Well, my dear friends, its midnight and I am suffering from a bad cold, congestion and a sore throat. A fall cold in May! It’s getting cold now, can you believe it?!  So I’m off to bed now - and I promise another longer blog full of more adventures with God in Botswana soon.
Love to all! Minda

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lights, Camera, Action!!!!

April 24, 2012
Dumalang, my wonderful friends! I hope everyone is enjoying another week of Easter blessings. I know I certainly have. I love everything about the Easter season, and it is very different here where it is not springtime! You don’t get confused about what resurrection means (not new flowers and baby animals in the spring!)  when the weather is getting cooler and moving towards winter! It’s not a spring holiday here, and that changes the way we see it.  So, no matter what season it is in your life, the church sings, “Alleluia!”

   The children are back in school session at St.Peter’s after the Easter break,  and it’s been so good to hear their delightful giggles, squeals of excitement, and the wonderful sound of,  “Auntie Minda'',  “Auntie Minda'' , every 15-20 minutes.  Since my birthday came during the holidays, Mma Mudereri, the staff and the children wanted to put on a surprise birthday party for me afterwards. So this last Wednesday the kids went about the morning as usual, and I was greeted with the usual, “Dumela Auntie Minda”.  No clues that anything was different. But then at 10'0clock teatime everyone hurried into the dining hall. I stopped at the restroom, and when I came out, I found Mma Gladys and Father Andrew waiting for me. I thought that this odd, because Father Andrew rarely comes during teatime. They wheeled me in the dining hall as everyone stood up and started singing, Happy Birthday! They had a large colored sign over the kitchen counter saying, “Happy Birthday Auntie Minda.' ‘Gladys had made a beautiful cake with yellow icing. The kids made a precious birthday card, and gave me 2 lovely scarves. I asked Gladys if there would be enough cake for all the kids. She said she knew I would ask that question- so she made a cake big enough for everybody!  It was truly a wonderful gift and I was really surprised by it all! I love this place so much!
On Saturday night my friends, Rorisang and Kamogelo and I went to see the Italian opera Cavalleria Rusticana.  It was amazing to hear it sung in Setswana!  If you don’t know the story, it is typical opera: love story gone wrong, betrayal, anger, passion, drama, and beautiful music! This one is about a villager, Turiddu, just returned from military service, who finds that his fiancée, Lola, has married Alfio, a prosperous village.  In retaliation, Turiddu seduces a young peasant woman named Santuzza. As a result, Lola, overwhelmed by her jealousy of Santuzza, begins an adulterous affair with Turiddu. It’s a very intense and exciting all at the same time. Sandy was in charge of all the music for it – by which I mean she was the entire orchestra!  So obviously that has taken up all her spare time – and some time that was NOT spare!   It is being performed at “The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Opera House and Restaurant” which is very far out in the bush. It’s named in honor of the book series of the same name, set in Botswana – and much loved by my family and friends.   
Well anyway, my friends and I arrived early so that I could get situated in the front, because there is no wheelchair seating in that place. This was a lot of fun because we got to watch the singers do   their vocal warm ups before the performance. As I was watching them and how the conductor, David Slater, worked with each one on his or her voice, I could not help but smile. It reminded me that when I was little I listened to my big sister, Becca, rehearse just like that! My mom took me to every one of the many performances she was a part of – all the operas and musical events. I see how watching those stories come alive then, inspired a great deal of my own interest in theatre and drama.  
It was interesting to watch how this opera was staged. There was nothing on the stage at all except a large white cross to the left, indicating the church where some of the events take place. Everything else was solely determined by on the singers’ abilities to portray the characters. There was very little in way of costuming, and absolutely no makeup whatsoever. This made it a little difficult to distinguish some of the characters and therefore some scenes were a bit confusing – at least for me struggling to understand the sung Setswana!  The opera house would like to purchase some theatre cosmetics for future performances, but they just can’t afford that right now. I loved it all! The opera was amazing - and Sandy played the whole long thing beautifully!
Afterwards, the director and I talked some. He was very interested and pleased to know that I am also studying theatre.  When the opera has finished its run, we will get to together and talk about theatre and drama and our experiences with it all. It will be really cool to talk to him and get some ideas for the work I am doing – and want to do in the future using the arts in ministry.   I’m finding that I miss my drama classes a lot, especially now when I know they are about to perform “Women of Lockerbie” this weekend.  I am sorry to be missing that.
 After the show we all went back to the flat and had dinner and then Kamogelo spent the night. She and I talked and laughed about a lot of things, and watched 2 movies. She has promised to teach me how to make earrings using things her jewelry-making set!  It was just a great girl-night!  
Tomorrow I’m beginning my theologizing project with both children and the adults at Cheshire, the disabled community.  I am trying something new by working with scripture with both adults and children at the same time. We will be using drama and art as well as story-telling and discussion to see how God understands the lives of disabled persons and their families. This is huge here. We will be looking at various stories of disabled and sick persons in scripture - from Mephibosheth in the Old Testament to the man born blind in the gospel of John. We want to think about what it means to be human, to be made in God’s image – so that they can understand and trust that God created us as we are – and intends to do good in us and through us, to shine in our lives regardless of disability. Pray for us. It is a very important issue here, where many parents have been told that they are to blame for their child’s handicap, and we want to replace a sense of shame with hope and joy in Jesus.    
Well, for now my friends, Modimo tsegafasa (God bless you!) and Ke o Rata (I love you)!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

April 14, 2012
Happy Easter, my precious friends! Alleluia!! And blessings from Africa! I had the privilege of growing up in the Episcopal Church where we celebrate the Resurrection for the entire fifty DAYS – all the way to the great final celebration of Pentecost!! This means that I can still say Happy Easter, and it’s still true!
Holy Week was wonderful and restful, which I realized I truly needed. Being in Africa for Easter has offered me so many wonderful experiences. Starting on Good Friday, every shop, mall, local grocery store (except for Superspar here in RiverWalk, which was only open for half a day) closed - and all of Gaborone was abuzz with Easter excitement! As usual, this week has been rich with new experiences and more surprising blessings.
Let me begin with the service on Good Friday, when Monica and I went to St. Simon of Cyrene Anglican Church in Tlokweng, where I have made several friends, including Rorisang (whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) and where some of the members of the Young Adult Anglican Fellowship attend. We arrived around 3:00 in the afternoon at the little church which is right in the center of the small town. Rorisang told us to wear black, since it was Good Friday, and here they really respond to Jesus’ death the way they would for a funeral for someone they love. This is neat, and good drama, because it is really the commemoration of the death of the Lord Jesus who gave himself up for all of humanity. So I pulled out one of my nicest black dresses - one that I found at a local store. Monica was beautiful with a long black skirt and a crème colored blouse. I had the taxi driver pick us up at 2:30. We arrived at the church a few minutes early so we went in and sat down to take time to pray. There are no pews in the church, so everyone sat in ordinary chairs. People entered the sanctuary very quietly with serious looks on their faces. The air in the room was very still and somber and there were no out bursts of spontaneous singing at all, which we usually hear and see. All the songs were strictly from the hymnal, and even the ushers, pastor, and preacher were clothed in dark black robes. The table was completely stripped except for the metal crucifix that was positioned in the middle of the barren altar. The pastor, preacher, and ushers processed in silence and then the pastor said a long prayer in Setswana and then a hymn followed. Then there were three gospel readings about Christ’s last days on earth read, of course, in Setswana and then more hymns. What was really wonderful was that there four sermons by three men and a woman and each of them stressed different aspects of Jesus’ death for us. One of these homilies emphasized how Jesus willingly sacrificed himself for us, another talked about how Jesus felt as we sometimes do: abandoned by God himself and that he hung on the cross in wonder at what God was doing. The woman preached the third sermon and discussed the rejection Jesus felt from the multitudes he had come to help, teach, and to love with God’s love. They could not see that Jesus came to show us what God was really like! It was very interesting and at various times people would applaud or cheer. After the homilies were finished it was time for everybody to go up and honor the cross. This was done in a very serious yet beautiful manner each person took turns kissing and blessing the cross; even the children participated in this. It was not just watching people do it that was neat, but more the way that they did it. Each one came up with a calm quiet humility that was beautiful to watch, and when they bowed and kissed the cross it was like they truly understood what this meant for them – that they were offering themselves to God in the way He had offered themselves for us. I have started to think that calling this “Good Friday” doesn’t do this day enough justice. I do believe it should be called “Victorious Friday.” This is the day He gladly won for us the victory over sin and death. We didn’t know it until Easter, but this is the REAL day of triumph! Everyone processed out very quietly and left. It was really beautiful.
Sunday was Easter, and Rorisang invited me back to St. Simon of Cyrene. I had so much fun at this service that I cannot even begin to describe it. I was picked at up 8:30 by another 22 year old friend of mine, Kamohelo and her mother, with Rorisang. The church was packed full of people all wearing their best outfits in very bright, beautiful colors. There was so much singing and dancing that if I remember correctly, I think there might not have been even a moment of silence during the whole 2 1/2 hour service! The preacher took over an hour to talk about Jesus’ resurrection, and every once in a while he would break out with a new song which then everyone else picked up! The contrast between Friday and Easter was so wonderful – I LOVE good dramatic worship. There were three baptisms: two little girls and a boy and all of them were under the age of four. All of them were really sweet, but when it came to the preacher splashing them with water, the little boy gave a great yelp of un-amusement and then burst into tears and cried and cried. I know this is not familiar to some of you, baptizing little children who don’t understand yet, but we see it as being joined formally to this new “tribe” of believers. Baptism for children is like crossing the Red Sea in your mothers’ arms, being carried into the Promised Land. It’s a way into the new community of faith, the new family created by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then it is in this community where they will come to know and love and trust Jesus. It is something like circumcision in that sense – making the child part of the “tribe” of Jesus-people. And it is especially powerful here in Africa where tribal loyalties matter. Everyone welcomed them with so much joy! People just kept singing and dancing down the aisles even during communion and for a long time afterwards. It was so amazing to watch people dancing to the musical rhythms in a way I had never seen! And of course, the whole thing was in Setswana, which I love, and which made it even more exciting – It is so obvious here that the “tribe” of Jesus-people spans the whole globe! We really are one in the bond of love! After the service was finished Rorisang, Kamohelo, I, and a few others went out for an Easter lunch at a local restaurant and we had such a wonderful time. People here love to eat together. Sharing food matters so much. They really do build relationships, and strengthen relationships when they eat together. It is a privilege to be welcomed in this way – to belong.
Wednesday brought my 24th birthday. Oh, my goodness! I have been blessed with three birthday celebrations! The first was with the Mudereri’s on Tuesday. They had me over for lunch, which was amazing. Gladys made meatballs, brown rice with roast potatoes and mixed vegetables. We also had an assortment of fruit juices and sponge cake with peaches for dessert. Quite a scrumptious meal! We talked and laughed through the entire meal. Mma Gladys is going to put me back with the 3 and 4 year olds next week in the daytime, and we are going to do Jesus walking on the water – not afraid of the sea, in fact, in control of the sea. I’m really excited about this! It’s is good people that make good friends and good homes as well as good meals! I love Gladys and Andrew so much. They have made me feel so much part of their lives and work.
The second celebration was with Sandy. She took me out for lunch at a tea garden place way out at the end of Gaborone called Saneta’s. It’s a combination of garden and restaurant and it’s beautiful. We ate outside under a large palm tree and had a delicious lunch of quiche, salad, and French fries or as the Motswana call them, chips. After lunch we walked around the area and saw all sorts of beautiful plants and flowers as well as interesting metallic art pieces including bronze cobras, iron alligators, metal butterflies and fish. It was an absolutely stunning place. Sandy, too, has been so good to me these months – and I love her!
The third celebration was with several of the girls from the Adult Anglican Fellowship. This included Rorisang, Kamohelo, Tshegofatso, and a few others. It was actually a combination birthday party for me and Tshegofatso whose birthday was the 3rd of April. That was very cool! We met at the Anglican Women’s Office and together we made a huge meal of grilled lemon chicken kebabs, pasta salad, baked rolls, fresh greens, garlic potatoes, corn on the cob, and chips. Delicious! Then the girls surprised Tshegofatso and me with a large purple and yellow chocolate cake that they had bought. We had so much fun and we partied till midnight. I love the relationships I have here, and people have been repeatedly told me how much I will be missed. I KNOW I’m going to miss them!
Well my dear friends I will close with this and until next time, Sala Sentle!
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! (You should answer: The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!)