I set out early Friday morning for Richmond, Aaron and ultimately, adventure in Durban. Our coach began rolling bumpily across South Africa’s bumpy rolling scenery. Even now I’m distracted by the barren scenery. The flat brown mesas look like this land of hills was run through a planer that sheered its peaks off. A speedy Greyhound is ok, but one can’t help but long for a horse-back trek through it all.
The bus held some fascinating characters: Louisa, marketing intern from Germany who’s still trying to sorting through South Africa’s social puzzle, Marcus, the Zulu with a genuine perma-smile and dozens of tales about his people and Rashul, the emo from Durban who is “addicted to sadness,” longs for heaven but isn’t sure if that “kind and gentle” Allah will let him in. Between roadblocks and delays it was a slow ride but at last the brown scenery began to crack with green, opening into the lush valleys around Pietermaritzburg. Anticipated arrival 6:30 pm. Actual arrival 9:30. This is Africa.
We were all quite relieved to see each other at the terminal. Aaron had been wondering why his three calls hadn’t connected (I forgot my phone in Kwamahlanga) and I was worried about them being worried.
The next day was designated a “Fun Day” at the hospice. While that combination may sound a little odd, it was actually, well, quite fun. The kids from the nearby squatters’ camp were invited in for a rollicking time on the rented jumping castle, the pool (if I hadn’t seen the water beforehand I would have sworn it was filled with old coffee!), musical chairs, dance competitions and face painting! I was lord-high clown and fool – while I wasn’t a natural at it (no smart comments, Matt!) :P I did enjoy painting 40 squirming black faces! A mulungu (white person) can be frightening, but a painted white person? That’s enough to send little babies screaming. But I smiled bravely through it all :D
As yet another batch of candies was pressed into little hands and mouths, I commented to Linda that these kids were going to be hopped up on sugar. “That’s a good thing,” she said. What on earth did she mean? “No, it is a good thing. Many of these kids don’t get square meals. It’s a good thing.” Wow, there is indeed a season for everything.
Linda was one of the very special people at Immanuel’s Wish. I’m not sure how much I should say about her story, but God has clearly brought her from darkness into light. Her compulsive hugs and bright smiles are a testament to recreation in Jesus.
Then came Sunday. Aaron had warned me that this church put the charisma in charismatic, and we weren’t disappointed... or, well, you know what I mean :) It was a glossy blue and white church, and with its royal hangings, flags, replica of the ark and various Zulu artefacts it defined beauty in an African style. The music was likewise: bright and loud. And then the pastor came on and launched into the story of David’s anointing. In shouting baritone, he performed a one-man drama of Samuel’s task. A man in the front row was the recipient of many rejections as Samuel filtered through Jesse’s sons. Upon reaching David, the man’s bald head was seized and rattled back and forth in acceptance. All this while a Zulu translator leaped like a shadow and echo alongside the pastor. While the sermon didn’t follow the finer points of Calvinistic hermeneutics, it brought the story to life and showed God’s power poignantly. And so were quite sad when health and wealth sneaked in. Three hours later and it was all over. Second service, anyone?
We walked towards Richmond after church. Call it lost, call it “not entirely sure where we are” as Aaron did, but we were in unfamiliar territory. We spotted a house with six dogs... and a man with a parrot: with so many animals we knew he must be of good character. And so we asked directions. And within five minutes, Steve was inviting us in for a cup of coffee with his wife Zurika! They were a delightful couple. We met the rest of the family (two more parrots, two cats and unnumbered fish,) and before we left they invited us to their church’s evening fellowship. This is getting quite long, so let me just say that soup and buns were served alongside an informal play about Aladdin, with the upshot being that God is NOT our genie.