He is 22 years old and is a first year student at NETS (Namibian Evangelical Theological School) in Windhoek, but his home is here in Rundu. We met him when we first arrived here and sensed the beginning of a good friendship from the start.
He was born in Angola, as are the majority of people we spend time with, and his childhood was spent in constant turmoil and flight due to the civil war in Angola. It is an unbelievable story and too long for me to write about but in brief, at the age of 15 he escaped to Namibia. His parents “sold” him to a man in Rundu with the agreement that if Zeka would care for his cattle, he could go to school in the mornings. Up to that point he had not begun any formal schooling, and did not know a word of English or Rukwangali (the trade language here). At the age of 16 he began school here in Namibia and finished grade 12 by the time he was 21; a truly amazing feat where very few here pass grade 10 and of those that do, a very small percent pass Grade 12 (passing here is only 30%!). He received top marks in all his classes, and was regarded by others to have a real gift from God. Zeka attributes the gift to a passion to learn and a strong work ethic (a unique quality from what we have experiences here).
Now he is studying theology to become a pastor here in Rundu. Unfortunately, pastors don’t get paid here; they have to have some other form of trade on top of their dedication to the church. So, after he is done his four years at NETS he hopes to further his education to become a teacher or a nurse.
Spending time with Zeka gives us hope for the people here, and we always come away encouraged after spending time with him. He is young, enthusiastic and has a very teachable spirit. He has such a huge passion for the people in Rundu, his family and his church. A major problem for him is that his enthusiasm is not always met with kindness from the locals here, especially the elders of his church. In a church were there is a desperate need for change, they pass him off as too young to have any valuable ideas and suggest he should leave his “Western ideas” alone.
He has spent a lot of time with past missionaries and has learnt a lot about the western perspective of the world and seems to understand some of challenges we have faced in adjusting to a different culture. It is such a blessing to have a local who we can speak freely and honestly with, to ask difficult questions and to get honest answers, and who despite his own problems would give the shirt off his back to help someone in need.
We have also had the opportunity to support him financially with some of the money given to us by our local church at home. He wanted to speak into the lives of the younger generation so he put together a weekend retreat with the youth from his church with the theme of “Choosing to Wait”. Single teenage pregnancy is a staggering problem here. Many many young girls find themselves with an unplanned child, which makes school extra difficult and so their lives continue to be a struggle: poor, uneducated, mouths to feed, and little opportunity to escape the poverty cycle, which usually continues to be repeated generation after generation.
During his month off from school we have been able to spend some good quality time with him. Daryl was able to help him prepare for his first sermon, which was well received. He invited us to his house for a traditional meal of Pap and relish and got us in on the action! (We have since that time designated Monday nights to be ‘Pap night’ since it is cheap and darn tasty!) Zeka has also taken us canoeing on the river that separates Namibia and Angola. We all got a turn a attempting to paddle the wood canoes but they are nothing like the nice aluminum ones at home that you can actually steer! We even went across to the Angolan side, and bribed the officers there so that we could walk around for a half hour! It really helped that Zeka is Angolan. Had we attempted to enter Angola by ourseleves…well, we wouldn’t have tried it on our own.
Here are some pictures of our time together: