Monthly Archives: August 2011

Haircut Day

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On Saturday we were left at home while many people on campus attended a wedding. Since we did not have any big plans and Brad was needing a haircut, it seemed to be the perfect morning to cut hair. We had to set up shop outside on the front porch. Since there are no outlets outside, we had to run an extension cord out the window in a bedroom to plug in the clippers.

After we got all set up for me to cut Brad’s hair (which is something I do often), I decided I might as well get my hair cut too. Yes, I knew this day would come while, in Africa, that I would need a haircut…and Brad would most likely be the one to cut my hair. So, after a little coaching and a lot of trust (I sure love that man) I took my seat and the haircut began. It was a different experience from any other haircut I have ever had, but all in all, he did a good job. I’m thankful for my regular haircut lady, but Brad will do in a pinch, or when I happen to find myself in Africa.

And, why just stop at the grown-ups getting haircuts? The girls wanted to join the fun. As I was sitting there getting my hair cut, I thought, “if Brad can cut my hair, then I can cut the girls hair”. So, after we both got our hair cut, Ellianna sat down for her turn. I have not ever cut the girls hair before, now I know why. There is a reason why people go and get a haircut. After fighting the wind for almost all of Ellianna’s cut, I decided I had to go inside. I was already squatting almost all the time to get at the right level and the wind almost did me in.

Next came Caroline’s turn. I was a little smarter this time and just did the whole haircut inside. Caroline decided in the middle of her cut she did not want to do it anymore. So, I just stopped right there and tried to make a teachable moment about finishing what you started…half cut hair and all. Just kidding! We went ahead and finished.

Annie came next. Annie has never had a haircut. Except for that time Caroline decided to cut some of her hair…but not an official one. Since it was going to be her first one (she is 3 yrs. old) I thought I should take a before and, depending how it turned out, after picture. We got out the camera and started to take a picture and she decided she did not want a haircut after all! Honestly, by that time I was glad she changed her mind. It took almost 3 hours for all of the haircut activity.

When you find yourself with nothing to do, try something new, like cutting your spouse’s hair or maybe your children’s. You just never know what the end result will be.

By the way, I have a hair appointment already scheduled soon after we get back…and I have already warned her that my husband would be cutting my hair for a while.

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Hlane Game Reserve

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I am a bit late in getting this post written, but recently we went to another game reserve called Hlane. The “H” sounds like a “K”. We had a great time. We packed a picnic lunch to eat when we arrived. Before we even made it into the reserve we could see some elephants. They were a little far off, but we could tell what they were. Definitely not a great view though.

As we arrived and headed for the picnic area, along came a herd of elephants. I don’t remember how many, but maybe 5 or 6. They just came walking along. We were standing at the fence and were not far from them at all. The elephants just walked up to a group of trees and ate a bit before heading on their way. There was even a baby with its mother. We have heard so much since we have been here about how elephants can get mad and charge you and even kill you, to be honest, I was a little nervous that we were just standing there with the elephant looking right at us.

After watching the elephants and a big group of rhinos at the watering hole, we enjoyed our picnic before getting back in the car to take a drive through the park. It is really hard to write about our animal encounters. They are all so different and it is kind of a “you had to be there” moment. However, we did have a surprise encounter with another group of elephants as we were driving down the road. We were looking for a giraffe (which we did not find) and were just driving along and out from the bushes an elephant popped out. I know it surprised us and I’m pretty sure it was surprised too! We were apparently in its way and it let us know. We had to keep backing up as it was coming right down the road towards our car. There were several more elephants, including the baby again, that were eating on the side of the road. After we got far enough away, I guess the elephant decided it was not bothered by us anymore and just went about his business.

We have really seen some incredible things living out in the wild. It is hard to appreciate the real homes of animals when you are accustomed to seeing them at the zoo, but it is so different to see them wild. It makes you sad to think about these animals living life in a cage or small place in the zoo when you can see how they are really made to live!

Here are a few pictures from our trip to Hlane.

Fund raising ethics

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The textbook I’m using for class had something unique—a Henri Nouwen quote about fund raising. I like Nouwen, a lot, and so was very surprised to see him talking about fund raising (it wasn’t just a mis-applied quote, it was actually about fund raising) and even from a publication by him on the spirituality of fund raising. For others of you familiar with Nouwen, maybe you’ll be surprised, too; maybe not.?

We didn’t talk about the mechanics of fund raising so much as…you guessed it, the ethics of it. Which we all landed firmly on the need for transparency, honesty and accountability. We had some interesting ideas about who you can and cannot raise funds from for church projects (like, you cannot raise money locally except the congregation’s offering; you can only raise funds from abroad—though I don’t think anyone really believed that). There were, of course, numerous stories of corrupt people misusing money from the US and other places to benefit themselves rather than actually doing what the money was raised to do.

As most US congregations and organizations are aware, people must be held accountable—and not simply by reading their newsletter or emails. It’s a difficult task, but an important one. And the truth can be stretched in so many ways that people don’t see a problem with it.

For instance (this one was not from class)…I’ve written about the orphan feeding (they call them “care points”) that we’ve been going to a couple of times a week. It’s held on the next mountain over in an area called Masoweni (I don’t know the spelling). Twice a week the hot meal is served to about 100 children/teens who have been identified by the community as “in real need”. Many are orphans whose parents have died of AIDS and are being raised by their grandparents or other relatives. The meal is cooked and delivered by members of two local congregations. The meal is distributed at a school which is also the site of the congregation in Masoweni. ACC students go to teach the kids, play with them and to serve the food. But three other groups have laid claim to this “care point” and have put on their websites that they are the ones doing this care point. If you came on a Monday or Thursday afternoon, you’d see the care point…so it’s happening. The churches don’t have websites and don’t make public claims to the care point. But these other groups—one an international organization that organizes care points, one a missionary, and the other a local organization that raises funds in the US—decided to take credit because they had peripheral involvement with the care point. Maybe they served there a few times. Maybe one of their partners served their a few times. A member of the organization is also a member of one of the involved congregations. Fortunately, at least one, if not two, of these have taken it off their list once it was brought to their attention.

This story, though, is not unique. And we know it. The best we can hope for is to do what ACC is trying to do – build strong, ethical leaders who will stand up for what is right, operate their work with honesty, transparency and accountability. That’s at the heart of African Christian College—educating students for excellent service. Helping develop the hearts and minds of men and women who will return to their home countries throughout the continent to serve others, to be leaders, to be people of integrity and to change the world. I’m glad to be part of such a good work—even if only for a few weeks.

Sounds like I’m getting ready to make a fund raising pitch. Maybe I should. Let me be sly…one of my tasks while here is to work with the staff, faculty and students on a new ACC website. I’ve gotten started on it and you can visit it at http://www.AfricanChristianCollege.org. It is not nearly complete, but there is some stuff up there- particularly the home page. If you start clicking on things, you may end up in mostly in blank pages. At least one exception stands: if you click the “Donate Now” button on the home page, that link will take you to our giving portal at Network for Good. J I’ll let you know when the site reaches “final” stages if you want to wait until then.

Randomness

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Many times throughout my day I find myself thinking of the differences or interesting things I encounter in my daily life in Africa. So, here is a list of the random things I think about (in no particular order, because who can have order to their random thoughts).

1. Most of the bathroom light switches are on the outside of the room. I don’t know how many times I have walked in and forgot that I did not turn on the light before entering. And, my girls have had a lot of fun with that (and Brad too).

2. There are 2 sinks in the kitchen. The one in the main part of the kitchen only has cold water. The other one is on the other side of the counter in what is called the scullery. The idea is that the “helpers” would wash the dishes in the scullery. It is actually kind of nice. I like that you can sort of put them out of the way from the rest of the kitchen. The sinks face each other so if someone is at both you are looking right at each other. However, when I am at the sink in the scullery, when the front door is opened (which it is almost all day) I can see outside into the middle of campus and that is really nice.

3. The refrigerator is very small and it has a lock on it. That is also for if you have “helpers” they won’t get into the fridge.

4. The front door (which is really the back door, but it is the one we use most often) is made of wood and is really pretty. The top part can open while the bottom part stays shut like doors often found in church nurseries. The only difference is that the door being open feels nice instead of feeling like a prison. If I were to ever build a house (which I’m sure I won’t) I think I would want a door like this.

5. There are all kinds of birds here. Some are regular looking birds and some have very unusual colors. It is fun to watch out for a kind I have not seen before. But, the thing I find most interesting are the “night birds” as I call them. There is some kind of bird that makes the LOUDEST sounds as night. It is crazy how loud these birds can be. And, a couple times, when the alarm has gone off in the morning, it copies the same sound as the alarm.

6. Speaking of birds, people sell live chickens on the side of the road. People buy them and carry them, still alive, home to cook and eat.

7. Cows are everywhere roaming around. Sometimes goats too. People don’t keep them fenced in…they just walk around…even in the middle of the road.

8. The girls and I babysit on school days. When the children have to go “potty”, they say they have to “wee”. I don’t know who taught them that, but I think it is funny. There are so many words that can be used to indicate you have to go to the bathroom and I think that is an interesting choice. When they don’t tell you they have to “wee” then they just go…wherever they are.

9. You do not say bathroom here. You say toilet if you have to go. The bathroom is sometimes not in the same room as the toilet. They are different.

There are many things that are different for us here in Swaziland, but are part of our daily life. I’m sure there are many more things that will come to mind, but I’ll just have to add that to a future post!

Masaudvweni Church of Christ

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These first several Sundays since we arrived we have attended the Tubungu Church of Christ that meets on campus. It is very much like a “traditional”, U.S. Church of Christ. Today we went to a more traditional Swazi Church of Christ. It meets in the school house where we have the orphan feeding in Masaudvweni. The service was mixed in Siswati (the local language) and English—we sang songs in both languages, and things were translated so everyone could understand.

Today was a cold and rainy day…the building is not quite as open air as the church we usually have attended, but is open the same. Cattle were moving across the front lawn as we arrived, and continued at times during the service. Only once did one of the hens make a ruckus that was louder than what someone was saying. There were several gogos (grandmothers) who were there and each was so sweet, kind and glad to meet us (the last born of the Carters). The singing was great and things went “as usual”…with at least one exception.

As visitors from the college, the worship leader and “emcee” for the service decided after going through the order of worship to change it up a bit, but it wasn’t very clear to Rachael and I what he was saying (though he was speaking in English). But after the next song, it became clear when he sat down and I was nudged that he just said I was to come and give the morning’s lesson. I had forgotten my Bible in the lead-up to church and so grabbed one quickly and headed up to the front with a translator. The custom is to offer a greeting (which I did a little late) and then spoke from Acts 3. My lesson was short, concise and sweet. They may have expected it to be a lot longer, but I hope it was a relief in the cold rain that it was nice and short. The devotion during the Lord’s Supper was certainly longer than my lesson…the entreaty to be generous in our giving from the heart was probably longer than my lesson!

When we do some more visiting, perhaps I’ll be more prepared.

The afternoon has been spent with the girls watching The Sound of Music, Rachael reading and me grading papers. Tomorrow is a national holiday so I have another day to catch up on classes. We’ll post some info about tomorrow’s holiday…tomorrow.

Infanticide, euthanasia and being ‘old’

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I may have posted this before, but in traditional African ethics some (not all) tribes practiced infanticide with deformed babies or twins. In one tribe, deformed babies were thought to belong to the “hippo gods” and were thus taken and thrown to them at the watering hole after birth. In several tribes, twins represented bad luck (maybe because it meant more mouths to feed) or that with twins one was ‘evil’ and the other ‘good’. Since you couldn’t tell which was which, you had to be rid of both (often by leaving them in the woods). It was missionaries and colonialists who helped put an end to many of these practices in Africa (perhaps one of their better contributions).

The elderly here are certainly highly respected and valued. A funny example is from the orphan feeding: the locals tell Rachael and I, “Put two pieces of chicken on this plate, it is going home to an ‘old lady’” (the grandmother). In the US, the ‘old lady’ would get one piece of chicken and the two pieces of chicken would be given to her teenage grandson.

The other night, Rachael asked one of my students how old he was. He couldn’t answer her; he was dumbfounded. Not because he was offended; he was embarrassed because in his culture a woman does not ask a man how old he is— unless she is trying to communicate serious interest (basically “hitting on him”…hard) or is a very, very close friend. He laughed and laughed (and answered only after I asked for her). When he asked if it was okay to ask someone’s age in our culture, I told him that you would not ask a woman her age because there is a stigma to being “old”. I preceded to tell him about Rachael’s 25-year-old mother. This was odd to him because being “old” (I’m not calling you old, Lovee—I just suspect, as do Ellianna and Caroline, that you’re at least a little older than Rachael, but we’re probably wrong) is a blessing, an honor, a place of high standing.

And yet, there are stories of euthanasia in traditional African cultures when the elderly person finally says she is ready to go on and visit the ancestors. (Was it the prayer for her death or the poison in her dinner that allowed her to move on?) This tradition still honors the status of the elderly in basically helping to perform a type of ‘assisted suicide’ in a dignified (?) way.

But one told a story from his community—I should note that this was NOT acceptable behavior by the other members of the community. An elderly man was very ill; he could not care for himself or do anything. The family finally reached the point that they had no more desire to clean him up, feed him, move him and all the things it took to care for him. Plus, not being people of wealth (most Africans cannot send their elderly to a rest home and pay for round the clock care for them), they needed to use the money to feed some of the younger members of the family. So, they put him in the corner, withdrew food and put a large basket over him. Within a week he died. I want to re-emphasize: this was unusual and unacceptable behavior in their culture.

However, my Kenyan students both wrote about a practice they both found disturbing in their clan. They spoke about the high respect offered to the elderly, and then this odd practice: when an elderly person reaches a certain point, all of the family migrates—literally moves—to another place far away (too far for this person to reach them for help) leaving this person behind in the homestead with only enough food for a few days…leading to their eminent death. The person does not receive a proper burial either because the family has left him/her behind. I don’t know (at least not yet) what happens after this. Does the family return to the homestead at some point; or is the move permanent…at least until the next time they need to do this? I don’t know. But, this is oddly the same clan that taught me about the “nearby stick”. I guess the neighbors are in on this whole deal, too. ?

This, too, was a unique exception though. Infanticide and euthanasia are not common practices.

The thing many students were surprised about in our conversation was that I said an American doctor would not “pull the plug” on a patient on life support just because their money ran out. Their African experience in hospitals is—if you don’t have any more money, you must leave. There are others who need help and have money. The thing I was most surprised about in our discussion was the idea that witchdoctors can make people have monkeys or dogs or other animals when they give birth. (Again, they did not believe this, but they know people in their communities who do).

The amazing advances in technology today can make these topics very interesting—at home and abroad. For most of them, it was difficult to imagine someone having a ‘living will’ that said “do not resuscitate” or “no heroic measures”. They’ve been in situations where help was not available. And so it is unimaginable that someone would choose not to use help when it is available—unless you simply could not afford it (because, again, that is a huge issue). And, as such, none of them wanted any part in determining someone’s fate—whether a child or an elderly person on the brink of death. That, they say, is God’s job; He gives and takes away.

Malendela’s & House of Fire

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Wednesday is break day during the week…no classes. Instead the students work in various jobs. Every student works on Wednesday in lieu of classes (others also work in the afternoons and on weekends to earn extra money). They all get paid more from their work on Wednesdays than they have due for school fees (housing, meals, etc.). I spent most of the day working on some stuff for class the next few days. But we took a little drive and had a great lunch and unique time.

We took a drive through Bethany (beth-AH-knee), a poor area on the side of one of the mountains. Many of the homes were made of mud and sticks and my dad told us about going to church in the middle of one of the neighborhoods where they would go down the mountain and have baptisms in the river. It was a moving story that for him helped really feel like he was “in Africa” and imagined it like John the Baptist at the river…amongst the brush, the cattle, bugs, etc.

Then we went to a place called Malandela’s for lunch. The restaurant has a beautiful view of the mountains; gorgeous gardens and good food. I ordered “Swazi Mixed Grill” off the chalk board menus. My plate came out with mashed potatoes (yum) a very nice salad, a barbequed chicken leg, a pork chop and a long link of sausage. Others had liver and onions (obviously none of us ‘younger’ Carters) and burgers and the girls shared a big kettle of chicken and dumplings. We ate on the patio with the beautiful views on a warm day. It was very nice.

The place also had a very unique entertainment venue that is a happening place on the weekends. It is called House of Fire (http://www.house-on-fire.com) and had a variety of stages and places to visit, drink, and have a good time. It was very elaborately decorated by some local artists with lots of color, tiles, statues, and all kinds of things. It felt very Austin, Texas. Really more like going to a mission in San Antonio that some hipster Austinites got ahold of and put tile murals everywhere. They host weddings, events, concerts, parties, festivals and things inside the place and on the grounds. It was a cool place—even with nothing going on.

We also did a little looking around the stores at the intricate and beautiful weavings—a lot of weaved bowls, rugs, coasters and placemats—that are so beautiful and are made by local women to have sustainable income. And we checked out the latest from Baobab Batik—another women empowerment enterprise that uses a local wax and color on cloth to make amazing designs. They’ve got some great, great pillows, cloths, and stuff! And of course, there was the toy store with lots of brightly colored wooden objects. We didn’t make any purchases today, but it’s fun to look at the things they have.

Malandela’s and House of Fire was not what we expect from “Africa” but was a nice, nearby oasis. (The bed and breakfast pool looked especially inviting—though it’s too cold here for it).

Ethics of Corruption

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When you read in the news about justice issues and “helping” Africa, corruption often comes up. And, of course, many people think about corruption in the U.S. when they think of politicians, Washington, Austin, etc. But corruption in Africa is much more common. Our second contemporary issue in class dealt with corruption.

Almost every student wrote that corruption was an inevitable part of their life. There is no way to avoid it and, perhaps, no way to really stop it. Even the many anti-corruption agencies and government departments end up becoming corrupt! And it’s not just the upper echelon benefiting from the corruption…it trickles all the way down. Political leaders in Africa line their pockets with foreign money and they ensure that their ethnic group gets the best of the few things that actually do get done. The local paper—which is a worthy a post itself—seems to be a constant herald about government corruption in Swaziland (especially a few weeks ago when South Africa granted the King a 2 billion rand loan. The headlines were something like : “SA grants 2bn loan. All of it will be wasted in corruption”… “Send back the loan! It will only disappear into the pockets of the ministers [gov’t officials]”.)

They all told stories of being stopped by the police and having to pay a bribe to keep going—even if they have done nothing wrong. Or another common one is an immigration officer refusing to stamp your passport because you are “missing a page”—meaning put in some money and hand it back. This may come in handy when you do have something wrong with your visa because you can pay the officer a bribe for much less than the country fines you for the problem.

One student told a story about being a teacher at an elementary school before coming to ACC. The school was awarded some funds for some special projects—building something and some other supplies. The account for the money required three signatories. The headmaster, superintendent and a teacher usually took these roles to provide “accountability.” She was chosen as the teacher representative for this money. After all the paperwork was processed and the money deposited, they came to her and said “Sign here. We’re going to get xyz.” She agreed and signed. The next day, the headmaster gave her an envelope and said, “This is yours.” She took it not knowing what was in the envelope or what was going on. It was full of money. She didn’t really understand. The next week they decided to purchase some property and came to her. She wasn’t sure that was really necessary or a good use of funds and so expressed her concerns about it. But they ended up convincing her that it was an important step in the project moving forward. So she signed. The next day, the headmaster brought her an envelope and said, “This is yours.” She opened it right then and found money again. So she asked, “What is this?” The headmaster replied, “That’s your part of the deal of the land deal. We split it between the three of us.” She then realized…oh, this is what they mean when they talk about corruption—and she was in the middle of it unwittingly! After thinking more about it, she realized that there were lots of these accounts and most of the teachers were a signatory on one of them. “Is everyone getting kickbacks?,” she wondered. (She told them she no longer wished to be a signatory on any of the accounts).

Her story was unique in our class only in the setting and specifics of the circumstances. Others had similar stories of previous employment deciding tenders (bids) for government departments in the home countries, or even serving on church committees.

Some had strong stances that they would refuse even to pay a bribe or be victim of corruption; while others said it was impossible to not be victim. (And we also found most of what the Bible had to say about corruption was “don’t be corrupt” or “don’t accept/solicit bribes” and didn’t really address being the victim of these circumstances except that God is mad when His people are victims of corruption—but not mad at them.

For sure, once again, the amazing thing was the level at which all of them had experienced corruption and been victims of it…even in a small group of 10 students from 6 different countries.

Fighting fire with fire

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Just a quick status update—just before dinner tonight I was walking across campus with the girls and noticed some smoke in the distance at the other end of the orchard. Because the orchard is so big and goes down the mountain, you cannot see the end of the orchard or see where the smoke was starting. So, dad and I drove down the path to the bottom of the orchard and saw that the fire—which was very small—was across the river. No need to worry, but he did ask one of the workers who lived on campus at the highest point to keep his eye on it.

A couple of hours later (8:00p our time, 1:00p CST), he came to the door saying the fire was on our side of the river. So, we “blew the whistle”. By blowing the whistle, I mean a whistle like a gym teacher has—not a fire alarm. Every house has a whistle that is to alert everyone of emergencies—fires, robbers, whatever. And so, dorms and houses quickly emptied with questions of “what’s happening?

And, soon enough I found myself in the first car heading down the mountain. Sure enough the fire was on our side now. And soon we were joined by most of the male students and staffers who came and burned a path along the bottom fence, and started a back fire toward the fire at the river bank. It’s been raining here, so this was a challenge—frankly too wet to really burn and keep even the backfire from going. Though I did start a few fires, basically I stood on a railroad track with the students while we watched and listened to the fire popping and an indescribably loud chorus of frogs from the river. The students acted quickly and as if they knew what they were doing (they did). We stayed for about an hour and half and returned home, confident that the fire would not come to orchard. (If it turns out wrong, I guess I’ll report on that tomorrow).

So, my first fire on the mountain—a small one, no wind, damp and uneventful. The girls went to bed worried we’d all burn up tonight. Guess they’ll be relieved in the morning.

Responding to Poverty

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This week in our Ethics class, we’ve begun to tackle contemporary issues facing Africa. On our first day of class I put up on the wall a couple of dozen potential issues and had everyone vote on the most important issues and most relevant issues facing them and their ministries. From those votes, I picked the most relevant and important ones and we are taking on one each day for the remainder of the semester.

Our first issue was poverty—an issue dear to my heart and knowledge. As we all know from watching charity ads on television, poverty is pretty rampant in Africa. And, as you probably know better than I because I’m pretty disconnected from world news, people are literally starving to death in Somalia and northern Kenya right now, mainly as a result of poverty stemming from drought, corruption, lack of education, lack of options, etc.

As we talked about why people are poor in Africa and what to do about it, I found myself amazed at how similar the answers were to when I ask the questions with the classes and groups I lead at home. Laziness (almost always the favorite whipping boy for poverty) was continually referenced and used as a reason. Natural disasters—such as drought—were common, and several of the students have lived in some pretty horrific poverty circumstances themselves due to drought-driven poverty in their countries.

The other two most common answers in class yesterday are two that I very rarely (if I have ever) hear at home. The first was corruption. I won’t spend much time on corruption because it was our topic for the next day in class so I’ll share more specifics on that soon. The other was (and this was not everyone’s beliefs, but was to several) that God is responsible for their poverty (like I said, others strongly opposed this stance). Basically in a sense of punishment for not following God’s laws or choosing the right thing. God had “not opened them up” to receive blessings and therefore has left them in poverty.

And, interestingly enough, they also had similar answers for addressing poverty (they have obviously heard the same poverty sermons Americans have heard): we give to people but don’t want them to become dependent on it, so we should teach them to fish, not give them a fish. I’m glad they had this understanding (though those who know me well, know this is only the next step in what’s appropriate). So, naturally, most of the strategies offered were education- and relief-based strategies.

I liked this story from Judith, one of the women in my class, about a person she knew. I’ll try to summarize it:

A man had noticed that his neighbor’s harvest was much greater than his own—even though they had the same things planted and were next to each other. He became very angry and so he went to see one of the people who could “help” him.

[Now…as she is telling this, I’m thinking back to all the other conversations we’ve had in class up to this point. Going to get help traditionally will mean going to a witchdoctor or similar to curse the neighbor’s field; or go to a witchdoctor equivalent to find out how to use some “magic” to make his field better. I don’t think this man necessarily went to a witchdoctor, but he went to someone who could “help”.]

When he explained the problem, the helper told him to go get this particular type of fertilizer and gave him very specific instructions about how to work his land, hoe his field, distance to plant his seed, and when to do it. And then he told him that once he had done that, to come to fetch him and he would come out to the field for one more step. So the man went back home and followed his directions exactly. When the seed was planted, he fetched the helper. The helper came to his field with his “medicine” and sprinkled it over the field while offering blessings/prayers for rain and an abundant harvest.

And, it worked! The man had a great harvest and crop that year. He was so excited. The helper came to him and told him his secret. He told him it was water that he sprinkled on the crops during his visit. And the reason he had a better crop that year (and why he had worse crops in years past) is because he wasn’t using fertilizer or taking the time to work his field the right way. And then he used this man and his crop as an example to teach the other families how to work their fields and grow a stronger harvest.

I think I loved this story because it was totally unexpected. I was waiting to hear another story about spiritism doing something unexplainable or laughable. But it wasn’t. And it was a novel way to get to the hearts of this man—and the other villagers.

In many ways, poverty is simply overwhelming. Rachael, Ellianna, Caroline and I went to the Orphan Feeding again today; and, again, are amazed to think this is one of the only meals they will be receiving this week. And being here has brought a new meaning to that dinner table chastisement: “Clean your plate because there is a child in Africa dying of starvation who would love to have your food.” His name is Pheliswe and he’s seven, smart, happy and cute as a button. And he lives on the next hill over I can see out the dining room window.