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Monday, 22 March 2010

Volunteering with the Ndebele community in South Africa - Page 2

Written by Emma Finlay
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I would like to share one unexceptional day of the three weeks I spent in South Africa.

It started off normally except we were out of orange squash. No big deal, I took water instead. As I was walking to work, Elizabeth caught up with me, slightly out of breath, and handed me a small flask. “It’s your orange juice for lunch. I’m so sorry it’s late. I noticed last night that we had run out of orange juice in the lodge so I planned to get some from my house and give it to you this morning, but you are quicker than usual. I know you are here alone and that must be difficult – we all need family and friends. It’s my job to look after you and to be your family, so I wanted to give you juice from my home just for today.”

Not long after, Peter came to get me as I was going to attend his service. We have spent hours talking together – about South Africa, apartheid, life, and more. Through Peter I started falling in love with this country and her people.

Peter and I come from different worlds and have different perspectives on life. But, I understood why he needed a God and why he had a faithful loyalty to this God – God had served him well. He believed that while I was spending my time, money and energy to Volunteering with the Ndebele community in South Africa, volunteering with People and Places, volunteer South Africa, People and Places, Emma Finlaywork in Mapoch, I was also proving that I had a God too. The way he put it was that I was like a gift from God, and therefore it didn’t matter if I was a Christian, because he knew God was with me, even if I didn’t.

We were both happy, I think, with this conclusion, which is why I wanted to attend and be a part of Peter’s service – for my cultural learning and experience, as well as my understanding. I also wanted to pay this respect to Peter who had done so much for me.

It was a job to get me dressed appropriately – I needed to wear a large and long skirt, cover my shoulders and hair and minimize bare skin despite the heat. Once dressed in the right skirt, hair shawl and scarf, and equipped with bible and beads, I was escorted to church where the 2 hour service had already begun. My preparation had involved 5 elderly women who spoke no English, treated me gently and kindly, giggled a lot, and made me feel welcome and comfortable.

About 50 people came to the service, men on one side and women on the other. Peter introduced me to the congregation, to my pride and embarrassment, saying: “Emma, the white lady, is a wonderful person who has given her time and her money to be here with us – Praise Be the Lord” (chorus of praise from the congregation). “Emma has come a long, long way from the country of Ireland. Ireland is a cold place, which is why her skin is the pale white colour. Emma cares and wants to know and be with us and help us all. Thank you Oh Lord for sending us Emma”. (chorus)

There was singing, chanting, praying, standing, sitting, kneeling, bowing, clapping – celebrations of joy and pain. It was quite emotional and something very unique for me to be a part of.

After the service, and back in my own clothes, I went back to work. As I approached the shop there was a crowd inside surrounding Nathi, one of the men I’d worked with. He looked stunned and dazed. His face was covered in blood, and there was an old toothless man standing over him, praying and chanting, congratulating himself for saving Nathi and scolding Nathi for inviting the devil into his life.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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