First things first: I really think best while I am walking, cycling, exercising. During the Salsa rhythms of my last Zumba work out I had this whole blog post figured out and now I am sitting in front of the laptop I am not so convinced I should let you in on my secret.
Unless you peaked at High School and it was all downhill from there, we all wish we could get a do-over of grade our passageway into adulthood aka high school, don’t we? If only we had known then what we know now!
I actually used to be this real sincere, high performing, hard working and slightly geeky girl that everyone would come to with their problems and nobody would take out on a date. (They were probably all too scared of my pastor dad. Oh yes there were all these church guys who’d come and ask MY DAD if they could take ME out – and because of that, I would always say no. Felt too much like a deal if you know what I am saying).
I just didn’t think that dating was important, at least not when you are 17 and about to start your life. I was convinced it’s all about learning, developing skills, finding your own path.
My siblings and I grew up in Eastern Germany. A lot of christians had to live “double lives” as the Stasi (secret service) was constantly after them. My mom and dad were leading a house church type of congregation besides their day jobs, and after the wall came down we were handed our very own KGB file revealing 24 people were signed up as spies collecting information about our family. The file is over 300 pages strong, so you can imagine we went through a couple of fun encounters.
As a christian in East Germany you grow up very non-conformist. The whole country being into a kind of forced communism – believing in the good of socialism but not the government-imposed kind, you find yourself on the left hand side of the western world, politically speaking. The school system being completely atheist (a christian didn’t wear the communist youth organisation’s school uniform, didn’t get to participate in some things, could only finish grade ten as was denied access to grade 11 and 11 and, subsequently, university) made for a challenging childhood. We had a lot of christian friends as there were such strong bonds amongst believers throughout the country. Already as a 9 year old I had about 60 international pen pals. Most christian children I knew were the top performers of their schools. People were Christians out of conviction, not out of tradition. Christian kids would populate the excellent government music schools and do very well academically. Our school’s principal often called me into her office as a 12, 13 year old asking me to make my own personal decision to become a member of the communist youth organization “Pioniere” so that doors would open and a brilliant mind like mine could get a shot at university education. Too bad, the communist membership required reciting a code of honour pledging one’s soul to the great cause of communism. And as a christian child living between the world we had heard stories contradicting the propaganda taught at school. Christians being murdered in China, put into the gulag in Russia, tortured in North Korea. Not a cause one could pledge one’s heart to, no thank you. You learn to grow up very strong.
Like that history exam grade 6. To pass we had to proof that the Roman Empire eventually assimilated the Christian faith because it would even strengthen their ability to control the people, since the bible teaches the emperor is right, slavery is right, submission is required, the poor need to give their money, women are suppressed etc etc. Whereas of course nowadays, we can be free from the yoke of religion, democracy reigns.
What;s a 12 year old christian girl to do that loves her savior dearly. Exactly, write to write a very dualistic argumentation, yes, religion oppresses, no, Christianity was not meant to do that, yes, the state church helped the high and mighty along, no, true Christianity always stood for freeing the slaves and women’s equal rights. mouthful at that age.
I handed in my papers with fear and trembling. The day the exams came back, my history did not give me my papers in front of everybody (story of my life). Instead he called me to his desk after everybody had left, my papers marked 100%. He told me to not tell anybody, but that he really agrees with my view and that the government can try as they may, they will not take that away from the people. At home this little girl went on her knees praising God for this smooth rescue. Two years later this teacher was one of the hundreds of thousands of East Germans who had left everything behind and crossed Hungary’s “green border” to Austria to become a political refugee in West Germany. I remember the roll call one chilly morning after the summer 1989, the principal reading us the names of those who wouldn’t come back to teach since they had betrayed their fatherland. A few month later the principal and the communist youth leaders themselves were history, the Berlin Wall had fallen and members of the old guard were fired mercilessly.
Bottom line though: Our childhood was always that of outsiders, brilliant, creative, fun loving, but never mainstream. Like a Hippie amongst Yuppies, kind of.
So yes, me and my siblings do play well with others, but we do not enjoy commercialized, paint by numbers, well-adjusted living. My younger sisters are real stunners, super bright and amazingly beautiful and self-employed as artists, authors and musicians. My just as brilliant dark-humored little brother also prefers to work for himself.
I guess my parents managed to encourage us to do our own thing, develop our creativity, withstand the need to fit in and understand that we can ruse above. Thank You, mom and dad. Now why in the world I ended up as a pastor’s wife – the job that needs you to fit neatly into a very conservative role God only knows. Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
And while in Germany all Christians generally find their role more or less left of the government, keeping them in check, adding some creativity and street art to their causes, in the western world beyond Europe Christians are generally right winged conservatives…
I am learning to tread carefully but I am not giving up me. That’s for sure. I guess one reason God has placed me here is that South Africa is right now experiencing a window of opportunity like few other countries in the world ever had.
After Apardheid was dealt with we all know, without one another we can not do this. Everybody wants to see South Africa advance, and there is a wonderful vibe towards quality, performance, social reform and a bunch of issues like corruption and abuse are being addressed this moment.
Journalists are at the moment the driving force mobilizing the public, Active citicenship is a big buzzword.
Yeeha, and as a pastor I can be right there at the hub of people’s daily concerns and since I have made my peace that I will anyway never be mainstream acceptable, I do not mind throwing in my opinionated heart hoping to influence some good.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
I can not, absolutely can not, do formal. Tested several times for an exceptionally high IQ (nothing to brag about when it comes with some serious other insecurities due to too much thinking) I do not see the point in making simple things complicated.
In Africa I see a lot of people communicating in a very formal, flamboyant way, especially in the African community. I believe, to mobilize the general public we have to put these difficult social, ethical, environmental etc issues down in very simple, common terms. (Unless you are desperate to proof how smart you are do that).
At university the professors would often turn to me to explain a complicated law or construct in a way that everybody would “get it”. Had fun using a ruler, a pen and an eraser to explain social reform. Never mind, that’s me, the almost geeky girl, in a nutshell.