Be Still and Know That I Am God

DSC01231These past three weeks have revealed that I  moved from the “windy city”, to the “windy village”.  Pretty frequently Masealama has windstorms. These incredible storms, which seem to be isolated to ONLY Masealama. (ask anyone around here they will tell you that we have our own weather up here)  These heavy winds sound like waves crashing on a shore, and can cause so much havoc along the way.  I would say that about 50% of the storms knock the power out. Lets just say…the headlamp and candles are always ready to be put into use.

When I was little I use to LOVE when the power went out. We would light candles, read books or play board games. It was my favorite. Unfortunately, when the power goes out here I don’t have anyone to play Yatzee  with 🙂 – so I listen to music while reading, or watch movies on my computer. The last time the power went, I had just gotten back from a long hike and all that I wanted to do was lay on the couch and listen to music.  But when I opened my computer my battery was very low and I didn’t want to waste the battery just in case the power was out all night.   Not going to lie, silence when I am all alone – can be scary.  In my everyday, I usually have background noise so spending an unknown amount of time in silence seemed unnerving.  So I sulked a little bit and then realized I was just going to have to deal with it.

I tried to keep myself occupied. I flipped through my bible a bit, I finished the last chapter in a book that I was reading, but most of the time I just laid there, in deep thought and gave thanks. I thought about the beautiful hike I had just gone on and all of the interesting wildlife I saw and I thanked God for these things.  A few hours later the power was restored and I went right back to my noisy life.

As I hopped into bed the next night I took a quick glance as the pictures and cards that I have on my wall. The one that caught my eye was a small card made by my friend Lo that says :

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Reading this, I became aware of the little God moment that had just occurred.  Being powerless allowed me to be still and thank God for the experience that I just had and reflect on all He has blessed me with.  If the power weren’t out, I would have been distracted in the noise of life and would never have taken the time to think about these things.

Then I flipped to my bible to read the whole passage.  I read it from The Message and it says;

“Step out of the traffic! Take a loving look at me, your High God.”

This version spoke to me. It gives me more clarity as to why God may have called me to South Africa, and more specifically Masealama. I believe that God needed to take me out of the “traffic” of not only Chicago, but MY LIFE. This time of silence and “being still” has allowed me to take time to look at Him and all the blessings He has provided me and for the first time in a long time – I thanked Him!   Now I’m excited to see what I else I am bound to discover during my year of “stepping out of the traffic”.

A Concert for God

DSC01229Joe shares about a choir concert in September which was different from choir concerts he knows from home:

Today, it is Heritage day, a South African holiday that celebrates the many different cultures in the country. My community church’s youth choir (which I am now a member of) put on a concert for the community. After rehearsing for over five hours yesterday, learning at least 25 songs, in which 20 were in Tswana, we performed them today.

All morning I was freaking out due to many reasons. Particularly the fact that I knew almost none of the songs/words to the songs and would probably look like a fool but on top of that I would be the only caucasian in the choir, meaning I ASSUMED that all eyes would be on me, which turned out to be not true.

We were supposed to meet at 8:30 this morning to rehearse for the concert that started at ten. The choir arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 and we began to rehearse. A few people trickled in to the sanctuary, but no more than 15, and sat down scattered around in the pews. At 11:00 our director told everyone to go and change and get ready for the concert. We all arrived back 30 minutes later and began to sing. I was very confused to what was going on. I turned to Chilies, a friend in the choir, and asked him, “Is this the concert?” in a very naive and clueless manner. He replied, but only with a giant grin and a nod of his head. I was baffled. I had never been to or performed at a concert where there was no more than 20 audience members in attendance.

Regardless of what my mind was telling me and wrestling with, we performed five songs. After we went and sat in the seats around the front of the church, and listened as members of the choir performed other songs, including mixed sextets, trios, soloists and flat out comedic performances in which someone would mock the director. This same process of performing five songs then listening to other “acts,” went on for at least five hours, providing some very funny and moving performances. They tried to get me to beatbox or sing, but I turned them down. I do not think they are quite ready for my sick beats or my rendition of “And I am Telling You” by Jennifer Hudson yet, but in due time. ;)

As the concert came to a close, I was still struggling with the fact that this was a considered a concert. Who was it for? You can’t really call this a concert. Why spend hours preparing for virtually no one to hear you?

As we concluded our director turned and looked at us and said. “Friends, this concert was a true success.” I could feel myself catching a laugh and almost saying, “Really?” He continued, “God is pleased. We came together today to give God a concert, and we did. We chose today to magnify his name, and we did. This was true worship, and God is pleased.” Silence, except for the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. I was amazed at this concept of concert. All this time I was so concerned with being worried about the music, worried about the audience, worried about the meaning of a “concert,” when really the answer was so simple. This new type of concert opened my eyes to a wonderful revelation today. God loves concerts too.

Bag Lady

DSC01230They call me the bag lady. I have a colorful bag that I use to carry things with me. Being a camp counselor for four summers means there are some pieces of you that will never change. I always have a bag of tricks with me because you never know what life is going to throw at you. Every time we leave the house they ask if I am ready and if I am not I go to get my bag and shoes. Then when we arrive to where we are going, I get out with my bag and they joke here comes the bag lady.
My bag is bigger than usual because I never know where we are going next or how late we will be out. Since it is usually hot in Venda, many buildings do not have heating, which means at night it can get chilly (and this time of month we are in transition from winter to spring, so the chilliness can vary). So I carry a zip-up and a scarf. Being involved with the church, we will go to church events. Each person has their own Bible and hymnal, and there have been times where we just pull out the hymnal and sing (most people know the songs by heart—I like being able to read the Venda words that I am saying). So I also have my Venda hymnal, Venda Bible, and English Bible (to understand what verse we are talking about). Now, since I am a visual learner, I need to write things down (specifically words) so I have in my bag pocket a small notebook and pen. I also like to write down events or random thoughts to journal about later so I do not forget, so I also have a larger notepad. Oh, and I need a mode of communication, so I have the cell phone that was given to us by the YAGM program. I also have a snack and a water bottle because I never know how long things will last and when you may feel like your blood sugar is low.

I am the bag lady.  

Top 10 Lessons Learned … So Far

Abby’s Top 10 list, written a few weeks ago, encapsulates well much about the beginning of a YAGM experience:

Abby (waving) as she arrives in South Africa

Abby (waving) as she arrives in South Africa

I have been in my placement site for nearly two weeks now. I have learned more than I could ever explain- about South Africa, politics, culture, religion, people, what it means to be hospitable, and mostly about myself. But I love lists and short blog posts, so here are the top 10 lessons I have learned since my arrival!

1. Nothing good will ever happen if you don’t leave your room.

2. Sarcasm does not come across language barriers.

3. Anytime is a good time for tea time. Similarly, there is no such thing as too much hot tea.

4. Clean laundry is an unspeakable luxury that should never be taken for granted.

5. Some of life’s best pleasures are universal, like food, laughter, sleep, and music.

6. If you’re afraid to sound like an idiot, you’ll never learn to speak a new language.

7. Your parents were probably right about what you should pack. Unfortunately, it seems your parents are always right….

8. Patience is a muscle. Exercise it often, so it will be big and strong when you need it.

9. Never assume you know what tomorrow will bring. Actually, never assume you know what the next five minutes will bring.

10. Always graciously accept free food, warm clothes, and good conversation.

I can’t wait to see what else I learn, and to share more lessons with you!