Monday, July 28, 2008

First sermon

Daryl had the opportunity this past Sunday to preach the sermon. The preparation was quite different compared to the times he has preached back home. Since there are no resources here, he didn’t have weeks of reading to do on the topic even if he wanted. He also had to choose fairly basic language and themes as we have noticed the depth of the sermons to be limited. He also, of course has never preached using a translator before. Thankfully he had a really great translator, Anton, whose English is quite good and we feel reasonable confident that not too much got lost in translation.

Daryl shared on Matthew 11:28-30 which reads:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The sermon was well received, so much so that after he sat down again there was a significant period of time when the elders were speaking and motioning to Daryl and the group of us missionaries (we try to hide in the back but hiding is difficult when we stand out like sore thumbs!). Part of their response was that he would have to begin preparing his next sermon now because they want him to share again very soon. One thing that we are finding is there is some tension because the missionaries that are coming through now are no longer “church missionaries”, where they are only here to serve the church. Now we come with part/full time jobs and fit ministry into many areas of life, so there is still some expectation of our time and commitment from the elders of the church. Just one of the many things we are working through.

All in all we all felt very encouraged and it reminded us what a privilege it is to be here. The service was also only 3 hours not 5, of which Daryl’s sermon was only 30 minutes so we all had much more energy after a Sunday morning then usual!

One side note that cracks me up about church is how the secretary goes up to the front at the start of the service and says “good morning” and then lists a long string of announcements. Then toward the end of the service he comes up again and now says good afternoon (because it has been many hours) and lists the same set of announcements again! We have also heard the same announcements for weeks now, for example, I know that there is a women’s conference at the end of October that they have announced every week (twice a week) since we have been here, and we will here it every week until it happens. So funny!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Adventures with Zeka

We want to introduce to you one of our friends here, Zeka Avelino.

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:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Spare time

I, Sabrina, work at the hospital 3 mornings a week and I am at the OVC project 3 afternoons a week, so what do I do with my all my “spare time” you ask? A big project that I have taken on here is trying to get at least some of the kids in our project (about 180) registered with the government in order that these kids’ caregivers might receive a monthly grant of 100 Namibian dollars a month (about $15 Canadian). Although past missionaries have tried to begin this enormous task, it seems that very few of them have gotten any where, and I am now beginning to understand why. Here is a glance at a typical afternoon in this endeavour.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I arrive at Kaisosi village (where the kids from the project live) at around 2:30 after getting back from work and grabbing a quick lunch. School gets out at about 1:00pm so when I arrive there is a bunch of teenage boys awaiting my arrival. In the car I have a number of important documents collected by past missionaries with a list of some places to start on the journey. Five boys happily jump in the back (they love car rides) and off we go back into town to our first stop, the police station.

Three of the boys have fathers who are missing, which is a very common story. We need to prove somehow (in order to apply for the grant) that these fathers are gone and were told the police could help. After explaining to a police officer why I, the white girl or “sharumbu“, was with these boys, we were told we needed to get a letter from the “Head Man” of Kaisosi village stating that in fact these boys fathers were missing before they could help. Strike one.

Next we went to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. I needed to get some letters signed by a social worker in order for a couple of boys to get birth certificates (in order to get a grant). There was a sign posted on the board (not in English of course) saying that they were gone for the week. When I say “they”, I mean all 3 of them. That’s right, there are 3 social workers assigned to the whole North Eastern region where there are tens of thousands of orphans. Strike two.

Next stop was the Department of Home Affairs. One of the boys whose father has gone missing also has no mother because she died eight years ago but was not issued a death certificate (necessary to apply for a grant). He had been in a few weeks before with a previous AIMer to apply for his mom’s death certificate and was told it would take 2 weeks to process. After standing in line for some time the man at the desk agreed that it only takes two weeks but you can only pick them up on Thursdays, and as it was Wednesday there was nothing he could do. Strike three.

Then into another long line up to apply for birth certificates with 3 previously signed letters from the social worker. I was able to come away with 2 full birth certificates, but one of the kids only had a baptismal card and not an “abridged birth certificate”, so his application was denied. I had a long conversation with the gentlemen explaining that most of the kids only have baptismal cards and he insisted that the caregiver (usually the grandmother) must come in and explain in person why they don’t have an abridged birth certificate. (I have since this particular day found out after bringing in these kids and their grannies that the process is significantly more complicated than that). Another strike out.

So, after multiple dead-ends, we decided to find this “Head Man”, whose “office” is in his mud hut. I was sceptical of this so called head man before I got there, and my scepticism only increased the longer I was there. Since the head man wasn’t there and apparently never is, I spoke to a young girl who ended up being the “secretary”. Meanwhile we had to fend off a drunk man who was accosting me the entire time. After a very long time I convinced her that we needed letters for three of the boys with me whose fathers were missing. The first letter she wrote was for a boy with a missing father and a dead mother and although my instructions were very clear, she wrote that both parents were dead. I read the letter and said “no, the father is missing”. She replied “well he could be dead” and my response was “but we don’t know that, he could also be very much alive!”. She rewrote the letter and after paying 20 dollars a piece I had three letters. As it was getting dark and I had to drive the boys home, I called it a day.

In spite all the frustration with the oppressive bureaucracy which seems to block these orphans from getting the support they are entitled to, not all is bleak. It has been a tremendous blessing to have spent the last couple of weeks trekking in and out of town with these boys. I count it a privilege to show these kids love in a practical way and in a way that no one else does. They have shared with me their current living situations and family histories, all which are shocking compared to the norm back at home. Please pray that they would see the love of Christ through me and that through these ventures they will have hope for a bright future. The attached picture is two of our young stars at the program Kahilu and Earnest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Canada Day!

As you all know, Canada Day fell on a Tuesday which also happens to be OVC project day, so the inspiration came to have a Canada Day celebration! Thankfully our American and Australian volunteers were fully on board.

The afternoon began with face/arm painting, which was a huge hit. The kids sure showed their enthusiasm as they crowded us painters in like a mob as they don’t have a keen sense of patience and order. It was hard to stay calm while being shoved and pushed from every direction, but the kids were all smiles which is why we do it. While the girls were busy painting, Daryl was busy organizing relay races with the kids. Again, although slightly chaotic, kids of all ages were having a blast.

During the program time, Daryl and I gave some history of Canada. Namibia is a very young country with only 18 years of Independence so to hear that Canada was over 140 years old was very impressive. We then taught them the National anthem and they loved it! We gave all the volunteers some confetti so when we were done singing they threw it up in the air over their heads in celebration. We did a pop quiz toward the end of the program, and gave out some great prizes.

Now as any proud Canadian does, we brought some Canada paraphernalia such as pencils, pens, stickers with us (some were also parting gifts from friends - thank you!). As we pulled out our stuff we realized that we didn’t have enough for all 200 kids. Giving gifts at the project in the past has been a bit of a nightmare because the kids don’t have a very good concept of sharing and if you give to one and not another fights break out. BUT, a few days before we found a whole bunch of similar items like, Canada pins, stickers and pencils that had been left behind by past Canadians! So we made little gift packs for each kid that contained Canada stuff and candy to give out just before they got their meal. Days later we still found kids sporting all their Canada gear.

It was a very encouraging day for us to see the kids so happy and having such fun. It reminds us that all the hard work is worth it.