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 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.