South Africa is so different from Germany in many aspects. In Germany, just like in the US or Canada, our school year ends in July. You graduate in July and you start school again in September. In August you generally rest. Then, when you start school and work again in September, you get to rest at the end of year during Christmas and New Years, before starting the year again in January.
In South Africa, the year lasts from January to December without any major interruptions. In November all the reports need to be written, and what ever needs to be done has to be finished by the end of November because December is the big summer holiday. I find it to be a very long stretch of hard work culminating into a high pressure November. I tried to to find some resting points in between like going fishing with my boys but boy, am I tired right now!
I was so happy to be able to do a big preschool graduation concert with our school. Every child received a detailed report on their development and the milestones they reached. Since I am trained in child development (MA) this was quite a thorough report and many hours were spent accessing each learner. We are so proud of the fact that all our preschool graduates have been accepted into good schools after doing really well in the application interviews.
Here are some impressions from the concert for you to enjoy.
It is just so amazing! The dream becoming finally a printed reality, a few days before my husband’s birthday.
Lots and lots of work and more than 2 decades of full-time ministry experience in the pastoral and prophetic went into this practical handbook on how to learn to pick up the things God wants to communicate to His people. This book covers dreams, vision, angels and so much more. Just so happy it became a reality. How boring is Christianity when there is only a one-way talk happening: the church talks to God and does not know how to listen for an answer … enjoy! Available on amazon as paperback or kindle version. Yippeh!!!!
A must-have handbook on how to tune into the voice of God!
Today I went to the Magistrate Court in Sibasa delivering 40 care boxes.
The boxes contain high quality toys, stickers, activity books, snacks and a high quality fruit juice. Many children have not had breakfast when they come to testify in court and often they wait for a long period of time.
I had been talking to a friend about the plight of the children in Limpopo, with child abuse rates soaring so high. I had asked if there is anything we as a community could do to make testifying easier for victims of child abuse. After obtaining permission by the head of department, I started making of these boxes to help the children bridge the uncomfortable time at court. The boxes will be used in rural courts such as Sibasa, Waterval and Musina.
This has also come up as a topic with the Guardian Angels, our local High Schools care group, who helped me with the collection of boxes while we informed them about their own responsibility to step in and step up when they see abuse happen.
How an individual responds to unpleasant events in their life is crucial for their future.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
To assist a child and young woman or young man in overcoming the trauma of abuse is a call we all need to take up in this nation.
To end this, there are many different steps needed. We as a church are going into schools, training learners how to prevent abuse, how to interfere when you know a peer faces abuse, how to report abuse. We train parents. We try to get the community involved.
It is very important that abuse cases to go to court and the perpetrators get sentenced.
The stress is very high. A case can only be processed when the judge finds the child capable of making a statement. For that, the child must show an understanding of truth, understanding of consequences of lying. Since most children only understand tribal languages, the have to be able to communicate via a translator and intermediary.
The judge says that unfortunately often children stress so much, they tense up and refuse all communication. The case can not go to trial then.
The comfort boxes will be handed to the child by the intermediary. This will give them a positive start in their communication. The child will be more positive about the experience and also have juice and a snack. They often come to court without having had breakfast and without a lunch box. These comfort boxes cover all that.
Tik, a cheap methamphetamine, is swamping South Africa. The rate of addiction can be extremely fast for some people. Tolerance develops rapidly, so users need more and more to get high, and start going on longer and longer binges. Some avoid sleep for several days while using. People also
Once it’s in a community it wreaks havoc on everyone. Our church employes a full time youth pastor who serves as a counselor at the local High school. His charity group, the guardian angels, decided to do something about addressing the substance abuse on the school grounds.
I helped them out and had them “take back some territory” as I asked them under the guidance of Jan, our Emmanuel youth pastor and initiator of the guardian Angels, to pose at some of the “hot spots” of smoking and drug dealing on the school premises.
I took some photos and this was the result:
The tik generation is enrolling into school ten years after the drug (crystal methamphetamine) hit the streets of South Africa. Children born from mothers who abused the substance during pregnancy are now living with side-effects characterized by those similar to foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), but far worse. In some classrooms in the Cape Flats up to half of the students show symptoms of FAS/foetal-tik symptoms, namely brain damage, facial deformities and growth defects.
Luckily the epidemic has not hit Limpopo that hard (yet?).
That’s why we found it necessary to inform our students thoroughly on the subjects of drugs in a very visual way. Last friday I spoke to about 100 youth on the origins of joints that are often mixed with meth, and how meth is produced and why it is so highly addictive. Yes, some chemistry and biology was involved but it was all quite entertaining.
We even did our own “faces of meth” (ever googled that in image search?) experiment:
As the head students of both Primary and High School attend our Youth meetings I find it really important not just only inform the kids present why drugs are never an option but to challenge them to reach out to those who stand at the sidelines. Those kids are often already marginalized by poverty, problematic backgrounds, poor self-esteem and highly vulnerable to drugs. Often kids get introduced into drug-using circles in order to feel more grown up, to “belong”, to be cool.
And even that first joint can ruin such a child’s life forever. Crystal meth, tik, sprinkled on top of marijuana, it is a highly addictive, life-wrecking cocktail, and renders women and girl tik addicts extremely vulnerable.
Sometimes it feel like the “good kids” couldn’t care less about the endangered ones, often even somewhat happy that there’s less competition around for them.
We got some pretty rich people in our towns leadership, building themselves outrageous mansions on top of the hill with municipal money while the schools and roads are in disrepair and the hospitals are less than adequately equipped. A doctor friend of mine just told me this week there weren’t even latex gloves provided and so his nurses refused to treat even badly injured children … this is Africa. In my German home we were taught to care about each other. Africa? it’s every newly empowered BEE winner for himself.
My job? Trying to instill some compassion to reach out to everybody else like the desolate kids in the bushes in front of the mansions …
What a treat to quickly sneak in some blogging after an eventful week! This week was stuffed with happy moments, from finishing the new curriculum for the preschool to drafting the choreography for our Anti-Rape hip-hop drama, to hosting a trauma seminar today and finishing the planning for tomorrow mornings sunday school.
Now I want to quickly keep you in the loop on how that Bucket List thing of mine is doing.
My Bucket List 2013 – things I hopefully manage to achieve and experience.
As they happen, I will include links to what I was able to do in this regard right under each item. They might link, if fitting, to my other blog “Traveler’s Log” if it is about going places.
1. Meet new, interesting people
02.03. Organized a Trauma Counseling Seminar with Weynand and Barbara Louw which went down very nicely today. Really sweet and competent couple who have seem to traveled the ups and downs of life themselves and are definitely qualified to talk about the topic. Good stuff. Looking forward to maybe walking and working closer together in the future. Our people are definitely better equipped now to deal with the many traumatic situations we face in South Africa.
5. Publish stuff, get back into public speaking (after and with little kids … who wants to Au Pair?)
February: Started to speak at a Woman’s camp together with my husband again. Been asked to publish. Have written a drama and choreography for the Rape Ape campaign.
6.Network and connect. This lone ranger needs to join hands with like-minded passionate Christians.
Not an easy one. Been asked to leave a much anticipated meeting of national leaders in the first five minutes because apparently my little kids were a nuisance. We were late, due to a crisis back at the church, someone had just lost a pregnancy. You do not leave hastily at a situation like that, saying: Hey, our pastor will be cross if we arrive late at a meeting 500 km from here? So we drove fast, and the kids needed to stretch their legs after a5 hour drive. I don’t blame them. They would have settled under a table with colouring books eventually. But so I had to spend the two days outside – although fully prepared with national pressing issues researched and questions ready… I might want to network with people who appreciate the effort to drop everything and come a long way to see them?
9.Have a good vacation with the kids, where the cellphone use is limited to the lesser moments.
Money is a big issue here, and also to have a trustworthy person who can stand in while we are gone. You can’t believe the amount of trauma happening in a relatively small town and how much a pastor is the first place of help for many people to run to.
10.Host a special event at church. Don’t fear the no-sayers. Not even if they get up and leave if you come on stage.
02.03. Trauma Counseling Seminar, done. Wonderful! It gave many new impulses to many, changing the mindset away from the mystical towards clearly defined roles and approach.
11.Go to Germany and see my family. They deserve to see their daughter, grandchildren, sister, once a year.
Again, money. Should do a video audition to play a small role in a South African drama… I can do it, I know that.
12.Make a lot of money so I can be more helpful to those who lack around me. A prayer and a handshake just doesn’t cut it in Africa. Work towards creating a sustainable structure for helping others.
Many single moms in the African community have to put their children in less than acceptable creches to be able to work in other peoples homes as maids and nannies. This grieves me beyond words. To pay 200 Rand a month, when you earn 1200 R a month, to put your baby in a dirty muddy yard among 50 others, with one or two ladies barely meeting your child’s basic needs, so that you can wipe other kid’s noses and wash their dishes? It is not right. I am slowly getting involved with Symphonia Quality education for South Africa and hope this will lead to involvement in helping improve preschool education in poorer areas.
February 2013: Besides the Basic music classes and language development program that I designed myself I brought in gymnastics, playball and computer classes for the kids and also designed a wholesome daily curriculum. Like the school on facebook: www.facebook.com/EmmanuelKinderland
14.Go to gym and look like an action heroine.
So far, so good, going to gym 3x a week, spinning, workout, zumba- in the ideal scenario which means baby sitter needs to be in place and although its not during workhours, the church needs to befine. Apparently pastor’s don’t get to have privacy at gym, the office recently sent people over to see us there during spinning class. Hmm. But nevertheless, it is important. See here for why it’s helping me to feel one with the strange world I am in:
Hi Bloggers and Friends,I must say I have really had it with all the excuses going on in the country as if abuse of children, women and even men is just a thing of culture. It is not and I am just not going to put up with it anymore.
Today I sat with our churches Youth guys and we are now choreographing a hip hop musical drama including a short talk by a hunky good looking African guy (head boy nogal) about why rape is just wrong. Keep reading this post to get a glimpse at our first attempts on putting the Hip Hop message together!
I have also arranged for trauma counsellor Barbara Louw to come and teach all our cell leaders and volunteers about how to respond to trauma and how to start the healing process.
Furthermore I am pursuing a high impact Self Defense course to run for the whole community, partially sponsored by the church.
I know the big cities have more resources and access to talented volunteers but probably also a higher bureaucracy and protocol threshold.
I do not want to wait till a super polished show comes to our rural areas, so I am going to put together something right now.
And how urgent is the call for equipped trauma counselors in a nation where every third girl under 18 has been subjected to rape or abuse.
Smart talks, brochures or even handing out condoms at schools do nothing to stop the out of control spiral of sexual violence amongst the youth of our country.
currently busy producing the 8 Days movie raising awareness about sex trafficking.
Africa’s medium is music and dancing, and we need to use those tools to expose the “rape apes” for what they are, and to bring civilian courage back so the “good kids” do not look the other way but get involved helping and taking a stand against abuse.
Really, it is partially the good neighbours who allow this by looking away.
Between 77% and 83% of rapes are committed by someone that is a trusted friend or family member.
South Africa was currently rated by Interpol as the world’s no. 1 rape capital, a woman raped every 17 seconds. That is bad enough but according to the Medical Research Council, more than one in four minors experience physical violence at home daily or weekly and more than one third of girls have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Its study also states that 40% of all victims who reported rape to the police were under 18 and 15% were under 12 years old.
Another issue with sexual violence against minors in South Africa is the sexual abuse and harassment that is reported to occur in schools by teachers and other students.
According to the Human Rights Watch, girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more.
Police, prosecutors, and social workers have also complained that many incidents of sexual violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators. The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education. HRW also reported that South African girls’ school performance suffers after an incident of sexual violence.
I passionately suggest that churches, instead of dancing around with Shofar around a golden ark etc(sorry, something that as a foreigner found quite strange in some SA conventions), unite their volunteer talents and work to produce some kind of Anti Rape, pro humanity, pro values show that could go on tour in SA, or at least in just in their respective communities.
Indifference is a crime just as murder itself. If the church does not step in, I wonder what today’s youth will be like tomorrow.
If we stay quiet, this becomes a habit of our nation, habit forms character – silence just affirms evil. Evil becomes routine. That is NOT my and NOT your South Africa.
Do not look away. Get involved. BE the fathers that protect, the role models, the champions of those girls around you, and STEP IN.
A nation that proclaims to have 85% Christians in its population should cry out in Shame at those statistics.
Andries and I are definitely busy addressing this issue with African pastors as well.
I am totally convinced that we all underestimate the potential of our churches in tackling the rape problem in South Africa.
Yes, 85% of South Africans call themselves Christians and one third of girls under 18 are raped.
That means rapists attend churches and listen to a lot of bla bla, it means church goers know and befriend rapists and say NOTHING and do not step in.
So we need to work together with all churches especially in rural areas to address the problem, outlaw it, mark it as beastly, threaten with eternal hell and legal actions, and make it every christians first and foremost duty to protect the girls, boys, women and even men around them from becoming crime victims.
The “likes” on a wordpress blog do not necessarily represent the audience we are actually reaching with our scribblings. I am delighted to know a lot of people from the South African educational reform community, as well as interested entrepreneurs, have been reading up on my opinionated evaluation of the trouble with the South African educational system in my previous posts!
Some commented on twitter how a government subsidized free education system could create a sense of entitlement counter productive to the sense of self-responsibility we are trying to instill into the South African public.
That is the whole trouble with South Africa, isn’t it. Entitlement. Offense. Opinions. I love to plainly look at facts. Is the current system working? Definitely not. Is the whole country’s business world struggling because of poorly educated laborers and employees not knowing the first thing about their job? Definitely yes.
Government financed schools and universities granting entry only on performance values and NOTHING else can quickly create a mindset shift towards personal responsibility to perform. If its free, there is no excuse “but we were poor”. It is not as one-dimensional, I know, and I am willing to engage in a detailed process of reform. I grew up in Germany. My parents didn’t have a car until I was 13 and we bought our first TV when I was 14. The German primary school goes only to grade 4. After that, pupils are strictly sorted into 3 different branches. One academic, one more accounting and management focused and one practical one preparing students for practical professions such as mechanics, chefs, service industry. Only the academic Branch leads up to grade 12. More than 50 percent of German pupils finish school at grade 9 or ten to continue training on the job. Only the best get accepted into university. If students fail at exams, they lose their right to study. This creates a much more performance oriented environment that what I currently observe in South Africa where matric is for everyone and everyone things they have a right to study. In the meantime in the rural areas there is still illiteracy and a general lack of scientific knowledge.
Hope is available. South Africa is a deeply religious nation, with people’s lives generally circling closely around their church. I have been working for an evangelical, Lutheran Mega-Church in Stuttgart, Germany before. Stable, community-involved, respected. South Africa is, sadly, deeply divided across denominations. I was surprised to discover that every stationery shop (CNA etc) stacks up on Joyce Meyer’s books and Christian movies. On the other hand, the traditional churches seem to have a strong fear of engaging in cooperation with the more, carefully put, lively, pentecostal churches although I have found some charismatic movements here to be more conservative than the evangelical church I have been serving in Germany! But some awesome, progressive minded folks get the goosebumps when my churches homepage mentions things like prophetic words although prophecy is an important biblical pillar of the way God communicates with His people.
Can we put our preferences aside for the greater good? We weren’t born into a denomination, and I love hearing a person’s whole life story before I draft an opinion. There are reasons why some feel safer and closer to God with the sound of a pipe organ and others need the element of dance to worship. Speaking of right and left brained … 🙂
I believe in South Africa and the whole African continent, churches are a crucial factor in future positive development. Churches are able to mobilize thousands, hundreds of thousands of volunteers to massively impact communities. Churches must also engage in fruitful dialogue with the powers that be, to bless, to inspire, to correct. I do not see church as a parallel sunday universe. I see church as the personified body of Christ pouring out blessings over the individual believer, their families, businesses, communities and the country as a whole.
In our church, there are no unemployed people. As pastors we are not greedy with our expertise. We care deeply about the individual and take a lot of time carefully assessing their strength and weaknesses, suggesting and even sponsoring courses for betterment, helping with CVs and job application. At our church, we network with local businesses to connect job seekers with applicable employment opportunities.
This year I want us to concentrate more on blessing the educational institutions in our town. In dialogue with other South African Education Activists, these are some points we find ALL churches should engage in supporting:
NUTRITION. Our children are hungry & can’t concentrate without food
In Europe schools generally provide breakfast and lunch for a minimum fee, children from needy backgrounds or families with lots of kids pay a reduced amount or get the meal free.
We need to put so much more pressure on the government, petitions and all to use OUR tax money for the education system, because in a decade, those kids will be the ones paying taxes. Need to get the government to understand the reasoning: Care for the young generation means eventually caring for themselves too. Yes, I hear the raised flags “do not promote a sense of entitlement”. In my opinion, every child is entitled to food. Rather give out free school lunches than child grants to teenage mothers who use it for fashion items.
It is easy and possible for churches to provide sandwiches for needy kids in a rotation system. Monday NG kerk, tuesdays the Anglicans, wednesdays the Faith church, thursdays AFM and friday the Jesus Freaks. With that amazing variety of churches in any given South African town, the kids would sure get a variety of sandwiches.
Parents also need to be taught about nutrition. I do that about once a year in a seminar at church and regularly in personal counseling. The food quality plays a big role in fighting concentration and behavioural problems as well. Churches can and HAVE TO be a place of practical life-style lessons.
PASTORAL CARE for teachers, parents & learners. Most schools don’t have access
My church www.emmanuellife.org has been sponsoring 2 youth workers in our local high school, primary school and Air Force Base school for the past 5 years. We have done so first through Gateway/Clay (don’t know if you heard of them, excellent program) and now on our own account because the requirements in our community grew very high. All three principals commend us on the measurable difference the Youth Worker makes in the school by having an on-site counselor (drug use gone dramatically back) and free after school programs (Jan is doing Hip Hop and won some national awards with the kids) as well as life orientation classes.
I myself have been actively involved teaching free classes at the local primary school before my babies came along. Now our Children’s Church manager whom I am training is doing that while I oversee our preschool leading 50 children from age 2 to grade R.
What I dream about improving: Giving free motivational sessions to teachers in rural areas. Even with my white Afrikaans teachers I discover the educational psychology is as good as non existent. Varsity seems to have taught only the subject knowledge and not the pedagogics of how to get information across?
Classes are way too big, and most subjects are taught frontally, not via group sessions. Rural schools and even lots of classes here in Louis Trichardt that I witnessed (perks of being a foreigner, you can just ask to come in and learn) do school according to the parrot method. Repetition instead of intrinsic understanding.
Pastors are able to offer once in a while motivation and practical insight away from the plain subject, into the psychologies of learning.
Besides that, of course yes, pastors need to be there to debrief teachers after traumatic events. Many teachers deal with violence on a regular basis, and do not know how to respond to students personal tragedies well.
PARENTING GUIDANCE: Educators need parents who know how to be a good parent
Churches are able to offer good parenting courses. So far I did two on my own, plus I am having a weekly class for young mothers with toddlers, giving tips about early stimulation.
It would be marvelous to connect over those uneccessary denominational boundaries to offer regular parenting courses. We all need support, they just don’t make the children like they used to 🙂 I plan in bringing in La Leche legue as well to start a nursing support group. Post Natal depression is more common than we admit, and it all starts there.
READING SUPPORT: Most effective literacy programmes are where adults read w/ learners
Many churches teem with individuals who would love to get involved at some level. At least in my group of churches a lot of people’s aspirations are towards a place on stage in the praise and worship team. Getting individuals to take responsibility for a class of our multi-racial children’s church deserves a medal, it is not easy. A lot of ladies love going to the old age home, I think it is because it looks sweet and social to arrive with a basket of goods. No problem with that. We need to push a reader-mentorship program and I owuld not like to invent the bike over again. Can’t we have a nation wide, advertised program like that where churches can oversee and support it in their local communities? The better the posters and TV ads, the more volunteers. People do a lot if it makes them feel good about themselves.
LOVE & APPRECIATION for teachers so that they know how important their work is
Yes, churches are called to encourage the community. It is as simple as packing some surprises for the teachers!
AFTER-SCHOOL CENTRES for our children. Parents work & children need to be cared for
Currently busy working on that here in my church. The need is big, the money to employ somebody is little. Again there is a big call for volunteers. If Suzy would do a craft once a week, instead of her ladies craft club she would teach little children? If we could get Pete to coach some cricket on thursdays? …
MOTIVATING learners & their parents to make education a key priority!
Our churches motto this year is “raising the standard. In practically every sermon we can start changing mindsets about sharpening your skills!
Churches are able to MOBILISE active citizenship & urge all adults to help lead change in education.
Let me know what you think and ask your local pastor to read this post. Please.
Wow, as a recently resurrected blogger I got a lot of invitations to read people’s blogs before Christmas that were deep thoughts ABOUT Christmas.
Seems there is a lot of COMPETITION out there these days, like: I got more twitter followers (or fllwrs) than you do, more google+ friends in my circle, more likes on my awesome blog. I liked my own post once and WordPress promptly responded with “you’re so vain, I guess you think this post is about you”. Hahaha I love it. Unfortunately, I also am a sucker for a good competition. I would never ever in my life go bungee jumping plainly because I love my body and do not want to tear ligaments and have lasting back pain. But if you would come along and just dare me the right way … I would do it blindfolded down a volcano. Probably. I am chuckling a lot because some people really thrive on competition and if you tell people a funny story, albeit it might not be totally true, they even go along with your game. Best ways for pastors to really get to know people, and to quickly spot strengths and weaknesses in team members or couples: Go play a board game like “the big Taboo (combination of pictionary, charades, balderdash and other favorites) and have a ball watching the emerging competitiveness make or break the bond!
So now I would love to ask all the amazing deep “keep the true meaning of Christmas” bloggers how their ACTUAL Christmas went. You know, the one where the turkey was too long in the oven, you forgot that aunt Jenna actually gave you that dreadful Rose Soap Basket that you are now recycling back to aunty Tilda who sits right next to aunt Jenna sipping Passion fruit and lemonade, and the kids are just not performing the way they should … when you are alone they recite Shakespeare and play Mozart on tiny violins but today they were just all “Huuuuaaa, I am a scary vampire”. And those that kept informing us that Christmas is a pagan holiday and that we offend God if we put up a Christmas tree, and anyway it was a holiday where people were sacrificed –I am curious if they sat out the date in front of their TVs having no fun at all???
If I read my bible right, God actually has a lot of fun with festivals and holidays. Getting together and feasting is part of His plan for His people. The evergreen pine tree was used by God himself as a symbol of fruitfulness (Hosea 14:8) and used to decorate houses in the icy winters in Europe, when nothing else of colour was growing outside. People cherished apples, because they would provide nutrition throughout winter, and used to hang them on those trees. My home in Germany is Thuringia, land of musicians and artisans. If you have heard those gruesome stories some christians tell you before Christmas about bloodthirsty pagan rituals, think again. The mountain sides of my home country have provided the world with Christmas trees and glass ornaments for no other reason as to celebrate Christ’s birth and bring some colour into the drab winter days. German Christmas Ornaments.
And the date: Yes of course, smartypants we are, we know Jesus was more likely born into the spring season and the early church used the celebration of His birth to override pagan Midwinter -Yule festivities. Which I think is awesome, how better to honour God as to make sure the whole world commemorates Christ’s humble arrival to this world on the date in (northern hemisphere) winter when the short days end and slowly the sunlight is coming back! What an awesome symbolic right there. With Christ’s birth, the light came to us.
The most dramatic thing for me in a German Christmas is really the fact that it falls on the shortest day of the year. As a family we always used to take a long hike in the mountains the day after, often I went by myself on ski. The change in the atmosphere after Christmas is dramatic, there is a new crispness and clarity in the air. On the first of January it always seems as if a layer of grey has been removed and the world emerged freshly polished underneath.
So I am the last person on earth to sympathize with the religious Christmas haters. For Christ’s sake, celebrate HIM! With all you got! Put up the ornaments and lights, bring out the chocolates and roasts and whatever you cherish! And music, let there be lots of music.
(Just please, spare me Michael Buble’ – by the way is he living in the North Pole with Santa? He always seems to appear from nowhere around Christmas)
There is of course Christmas before kids and after. Before kids, it’s all about love, the grown up kind. You do your duty stint at the extended family, have a lot of energy to conduct musicals and church plays, visit the poor, dish out food at the refugee camps and invite the lonely for dinner. Keeping that up with two young boys is not very realistic, unless of course you have a nanny which I don’t. Please, my house feels full enough! So this year, Christmas was centered around making our little angels happy.
And finally going to this awesome African church whose music I used to enjoy on those Sundays when my newborn was still too small to take out or hadn’t slept all night. Then I would sit on my balcony and listen to the amazing harmonies coming from down the street, where the Word of Faith Church is located. They don’t even have a webpage so I can not post a link. But I have been asking my husband for a while now if we can’t go there to worship one sunday. And last sunday we did. What a great experience. If you can quickly ignore the fact that you are the only white faces among some hundred Africans who all look at you like you dropped from mars, you will be fine. In fact, I wanted to sit modestly in the back since my boys are very busy and love to dance very expressively with the music. But at least 4 ushers came and urged us to sit right in front. Everyone was very friendly and so happy to see us. I am sure in our church visitors are not even greeted with that much warmth although we really try.
The music. What is it with African music that tugs those heartstrings violently? Before moving to South Africa I was involved in a music ministry that took me around the globe, spending Christmas in Nigeria performing in front of the president. Services would last for up to 9 hours, and there was lots of singing and dancing.
Everytime Andries and I go and minister at an African church, I have to hold back my tears. I am a very realistic, rational person, and get extremely embarrassed if I can’t control my tears. African harmonies do that to me, but you know you learn to smile and wave. When the choir broke into singing “Joy to the world” in Venda, I quickly wiped my eyes … What an awesome African Christmas. My children always make friends real quick, and it was a very happy morning. I definitely go back and talk some more to the pastor and ask them if I could borrow the musicians! On the other hand, I can’t help but want to chat to the computer lady … there are ways to prevent your menus showing up on the big screen you know. Always passionate to teach churches to use their media right.
Decided to put “learning to speak Venda” on my bucket list for 2013.
Most people were gone to see family, my husband had a few emergency counseling with those who chose to have marriage drama at Christmas eve, but then we finally had time for our quiet Bethlehem-style family Christmas. Telling our kids the christmas story with the help of a beautiful nativity scene barn and figurines was such fun. Sam, 12 months, constantly took the cow and went mooh, mooh, while I was telling the rest of the story. This year was the first time we ditched the German habit of opening gifts on the evening of the 24th. In this African heat kids are more behaved in the cool of the morning. My parents called, however, sitting cosily together with my siblings and their kids enjoying the German thing. Bridging worlds by telephone again. After years of experience you don’t even have to think about what to say on the phone anymore. In the beginning it always dumbfounded me, the differences in thinking so crystal clear in a few sentences asked on the phone.
Someone told me a while ago that relationships shouldn’t be hard work. Celebrations should’t be either, but let’s be real, they are. You want to eat, you have to cook and clean … But we chose this year not to have to impress anyone and went really along with what makes happy. Surprise surprise, my in laws were really happy with the food I made. I think this year, I learned not to stress so much to do things perfect but rather do them with a naughty giggle. So much easier. It is still a lot of hard work since we chose not to live for ourselves. But it helps a lot to laugh about yourself because hey, who is perfect.
So today, while you are boxing up your Christmases, I hoped that all of you made the most of it, had lots of laughs and shared some special moments. And please nobody use your bathroom scale! To me, Nigella and Catherine Zeta-Jones are so much sexier than some bony ladies looking like skulls on a stick. So please, add some happiness to your looks and be a total fruitcake. You know, the ones with raisins and marzipan and brandy and icing, juicy and just yummy and almost unperishable.
This year is almost done, and I am DONE worrying about the next. I am planning on peaking at 50, so I still got time to make those mistakes and be totally underestimated by people. In Germany we say “Feiert die Feste wie sie fallen” which means celebrate at every opportunity. Planing on doing just that. this was such a lovely, calm little Christmas, and we were able to gather our thoughts for the exciting journey to come.
Grateful for all the people in our lives. Always.
All in all: Holidays are there to celebrate and not to have religious discussions about them. No matter where you are.
Soo glad that our churches first worship CD is launched! What an exciting project. Learned a lot about motivating people, professional printing, CD designing and helping an idea materialize. Now I am fully aware that this is by far no professional, polished product but much rather the raw and genuine hearts of ordinary people stepping to the microphone giving an offer of praise and worship to their maker. This makes it very precious to all of us involved and will hopefully be encouragement to others who just needed to hear that God is with them, carries them through their failures and that where people humble themselves, grace abounds.
Clearing out superstitions and giving practical advise to realise Godly vision
God has placed a very special character trait into South Africans – a creative freedom that has been allowed to thrive in a rather non-restrictive environment. Due to a minimum of legislation around new business ideas Southafricans pride themselves in a unique entrepreneurial mindset. Don’t fight me on this, chaps. If you think Southafrican bureaucracy is stifling, try to just get certified for freelancing in Germany. If you dare to produce anything, be prepared to undergo tedious quality controls and approval procedures this country hasn’t ever dreamed about. I of course still love the German system, if I buy a chair I am certain it won’t break even if used for other purposes than merely sitting on it, whereas an ordinary Southafrican chair might just give in when you get nervous about the stock exchange. But in Germany there is no such thing as a weekend diploma enabling you to call yourself a certified nutrition specialist etc!). The downside of the ease in which people are allowed to open businesses on which a person or even several families will place their whole livelihood is that due to a lack of know how and work ethic, many small businesses are closed as frequently as they are opened, putting many families through trauma of not being adequately provided for. One of the main needs smaller and medium-sized communities have from their pastors is sound advice for individual business solutions. There is no money for bringing in specialized advisors, and since everybody agrees that without God’s blessing success isn’t likely to happen, the pastor is the one brought in to help and more than often to try to save the business.
What amused me up to a point of annoyance in our many encounters with struggling businesses and farmers is a rather fairy tale like approach many Christians display when it comes to biblical principles.
A desperate business owner will “sow” some money into the church and expect business return to triple this month. A farmer will give R 5000 to a charitable project and expect God to “make it” R500.000 in wins for him at the end of the onion harvest. Now that might work if there was something like a business fairy godmother handing out magic potions. I have not, however, found scriptural grounds for such an equation. That mindset is widespread.
People expect God to “bless” their business if they just sow a financial seed elsewhere, regardless of business habits and procedures they use. If it’s not happening, they will start blaming God, the pastor, the church and end up starting their own “ministry” because that seems to be a general “bounce back” route for failed business owners: start “Frickies global ministry” . Not to get cynical here, let me illustrate what I mean. Take Koosie. Koosie bought a drilling machine, a dowsing rod and a computer with a printer, employed two friends and had some signs printed saying: “yet another boorgat (borehole) by Koosie enterprises”. He goes to work. Excited over some success in drilling for water Koosie buys a new house and makes a lot of debt. Him and his friends are putting in over hours to get the business to expand and buy another second-hand drilling machine from a scrapyard. The machine gives problems every second day and it takes a third guy to come and fix it. In the meantime Koosies wife takes money out of the petty cash in the office to pay stationary for their boy and some new shoes, and tomorrow she pays the maid from it. None of it ever gets recorded. For a while, the drilling picks up. Koosie’s marriage however suffers because he is never at home. To make up for it, he invests business money into building a dance studio for his wife’s sister who wants to start a ballet school. Before this gets completed, she meets a handsome stranger and heads off into sunset with him. The dance studio can still become a granny flat, but by now Koosies scrap yard machine has gone to meet its maker and business is slow. They will have to send their two young sons away to friends over christmas because there is no money for food or gifts. That’s where we as pastors come in.
(That’s why we never go away over december by the way, because at the end of the year, lots of proverbial paw- paws hit the fan and we need to come and clean up the mess.) “Why did God allow this to happen? We bought 2000 rand of clothes for orphans last year!” Now exactly what the poor orphans have to do with bad business habits I do not know, that’s the fairies department. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget attributed that kind of reasoning to children under seven years: I behaved good so the apple tree will bring good fruits for me. Children nine years and older already reason that apples will be produced rather from good soil .
We all agree that superstition plays a big part in African indigenous cultures. Christianity historically played a big role freeing people from magical thinking by teaching them to use the gifts God has placed inside them wisely. People need to be taught how to apply sober reasoning to their decisions which is what Jesus taught: Luk 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it. Yes, Jesus also taught about the principal of sowing and reaping . However, His famous example of the sower (Luke 8 verses 5 ff) clearly refers to the word of God being sown into our hearts, bringing thirty, sixty and hundred fold fruit in our lives depending on the state of our hearts and the diligence of how we put the word into practice. It does not give us a mathematical equation for donating some money and expecting a multiple return. We are to give funds out of love and concern for God’s kingdom and our neighbour, “so that there might be bread in the house of the Lord (Malachi 3:10)”. And God does promise that faithful stewardship of finances in the area of giving will be rewarded.
But that does not guarantee business success when we implement wrong habits. There is no limit to the areas of life we touch in our counseling. Dealing with debt, getting a degree, managing your staff better, strategic advertising, time management, getting over past disappointments – all in a days work. It’s often frustrating to find out that small business owners don’t even invest into a good auditor, and don’t keep track of their money, don’t pay their taxes properly. Are we as churches called to advise in such “unchurchy” topics? I believe if the body of Christ wants to shine a light on this earth it has to happen in all fields of daily life.
I am newly energised with fresh vision if I see the Church changing the way she sees herself and her role in society. Training courses will shift from bible knowledge and information to practical involvement in helping one another and utilizing each other’s experience to serve our communities. Succesful businesses are able to generate funds used to practically facilitate change in people’s lives and not for buildings or luxuries. Exciting children’s ministry, community projects to aid children’s education and sporting events will be normal part of church life. This way, the communities’ relationships with congregations and churches will become stronger. True shepherding to me means that empowerment of community members will come from the church and not the government.
Shepherds sharpen their tools by learning and opening themselves up for fruitful connection outside the ministry circle.
Shepherds are spiritual fathers and mothers with the expertise of many years in many practical fields. Such skilled leaders will be progressively more called into government meetings and been asked for their advice. That’s what I hope and pray for, a change of this beautiful nation through Christians who take up their responsibility towards their communities and stop waiting for somebody else to “do something about it”. I hope many churches will follow the call and practically start training their members for successful personal, spiritual and professional life.
In the end, the poor and orphaned around us will benefit from Christians who get involved in uplifting their community from a place of success and responsibility, not out of guilt and superstition. They will help because they are moved, not because they hope for an automated benefit for themselves.
So, and now I am going to have a christmas mince-pie.