The Mandela Legacy, part ii

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Katie Justice served in YAGM in Southern Africa in 2012-2013. Below, she shares the impact of Nelson Mandela on her life:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  –Nelson Mandela

Hearing the news that Tata Mandela passed away on December 5th, I can honestly say it took me by suprise. I sort of thought it wouldnt because of the fact that he became really ill during my year in South Africa and was close to dying. Hearing that he had passed made me realize what a great human being he truly was and how there will never be another Nelson Mandela in our lifetime.

Madiba (as he was affectionately called by the people of South Africa) has always been an inspiration for me. His struggle to bring human and equal rights to all is one of the many qualities that I have admired about him. The quote above to me defines what God’s love in the world should look like when practiced. He also realized that for South Africa to move forward from the dark memories of Aparthied, forgiveness and reconciliation is the gateway for working together as a family.

The quote above always reminds me of the purpose that God has laid on my heart. Forgiveness, reconciliation and the struggle for equal rights for all is something I will continue to strive for and I hope to see achieved in my lifetime and, as Madiba said himself, if need be Im prepared to die for.

Tata Mandela, Thank you for continuing to inspire me and many others around the world. You have served your country well my friend. May you rest in peace and celebrate with Our Father Almighty in heaven.

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Relationships: Ubuntu & the Red Thread

Katie (middle) enjoys her YAGM friends during her Close of Service Retreat (July 2013)

Katie (middle) enjoys her YAGM friends during her Close of Service Retreat (July 2013)

Katie served in South Africa in 2012-2013. She writes about her life since returning to the U.S.:

Since I have returned from South Africa, I have slowly getting back into prayer meditation and Bible study to feed my soul. I found an online website run by Jesuit monks in Ireland called Sacred Space. I have started doing a daily prayer that the website offers to help out with my prayer meditation and to process and unpack my life in SA. As I was doing my prayer today, this was part of my prayer:

” I exist in a web of relationships – links to nature, people, God. I trace out these links, giving thanks for the life that flows through them. Some links are twisted or broken: I may feel regret, anger, disappointment.I pray for the gift of acceptance and forgiveness.”

I can honestly tell you that this sums up my life not only in SA but here in the U.S. as well. I think of ubuntu which means I am who I am because of who we are and I also think of the red thread which comes from China which reminds us that we all connected in relationships.

I believe there are days and maybe not only days but a lot of life we forget that we all connected to each other not just to our family or friends but to people in our nation and throughout the world. If we took the time to meditate and realize how we are all connected to each other maybe then we could realize the suffering that happens to our brothers and sisters in the world also affects us.

The prayer that I also posted reminds me that relationship on not perfect. In fact it reminds me that it always has been broken and twisted and even though it is twisted and broken it still has beauty. This web of relationships also reminds me that God is at the center of this web.

Would it be too much to ask for us to actually think about how we are all connected to each other? If we took the time to see how we all connected to one another would we view the world differently than we do now? Would we realize that the suffering that happens to our brothers and sisters throughout the world also affects us? What about how we are connected to nature and the earth?

I also know that I am not perfect with this either and I know this will be a work in progress for me but as I remember how UBUNTU has affected me and how intentional community and relationships have been a part of my life before and after SA, I have come to appreciate how we are all connected. Not only to each other but to nature and God.

Common Humanity

As she comes near the end of a very transformative year, Katie pauses to express how this experience is shaping her:

Katie and the city she has come to love and call home

Katie and the city she has come to love and call home

The other day, I had an experience  that has showed me what it truly means to carry one another’s burdens and how we are bound together by our common humanity and our struggles. Unfortunately, I cannot go into detail with it because of respect of privacy. Sometimes when you just don’t have the words, a moment of silence, reflection, meditation and even a prayer from the heart usually helps. Sometimes, there are no right words to say to bring comfort to someone who is hurting or in need. Sometimes, love, grace and mercy can come in the form of a hug or a smile. A laugh or a cry. There really is no perfect way but knowing that it comes from the heart can bring a little hope. It is in this that I believe we are bound by our common humanity and it is with this that even though it is hard to carry one another’s burdens, we also have Jesus who said we could place our burdens on him as well. It is with this that end this with a prayer. A prayer that comes from my heart.

Father God,

As we begin a new day

may we realize that

we are all bound together

by our common humanity

May we realize that

we are not meant

to carry our burdens

alone

that we also realize

that others should not

also have to carry their burdens

alone

We are connected to each other

and we can help carry one another’s burdens

May we also realize that You God can also’

carry our burdens

Help us to remember to be merciful to one another

and to always pour out your grace and love among others

that you have so freely given us

Maybe one day

people can truly see your will be done here

on earth as it is in heaven

Amen.

Just Be

Katie shares her journey of learning to ” just be”:

Being here in Bloemfontein for two months has been an eye opener for me in some ways. There are a few things that I have discovered about myself and the community of Manguang where I am living. It is kind of surprising for me to notice the few changes that have been taking place in my life. I can tell you that it took a lot of patience, faith and trust on my part but I  believe it is with these things that I have discovered the changes that are taking place in my life.

First, I can tell you that when I arrived that I did not have a place to volunteer right away. This was frustrating because that is how I am use to things happening. Having something lined up and starting right away. Of course this is how we are all use to things. We are used to being doers and doing things that we feel will make a difference. What I have begun to realize though is that while it is ok to do, I also need to just be. Just being is actually a lot harder than what it seems. You see, as much as I love to do I have never taken the time to just be. This is what I remember being told to us at orientation in Chicago time after time. This really did not hit me until I actually had to learn to just be. I slowly had to realize that things do not happen on my time or right away. As Dean Monama has told me repeatedly when things did not happen right away for me “Just give it time.” I can  say that if I had not taken the time to just be, I would not have developed a bond with my host family. I would not have had a chance to get to know the people in the community of Manguang nor would I have learned about the history of South Africa during apartheid. I also would have not bonded well with my little siblings that I live with because they mean so much to me now. To just be is hard and something that I have not been used to, but if I didn’t take the time I would never have  experienced the love in this community and to discover what it really means to be in relationship with God and with others. To really be living in community and to be interdependent on one another has really been a spiritual growth for me. I am slowly starting to understand why it is important to be intentional in relationships and community. My host family, my church friends here and the people in this community have taught me all of this and it is because of them that I have and am still learning what it really means to Just Be.

The Language of Love

Katie reflects on her life in Bloemfontein:

“You see although I am not able to always understand exactly what Neo is saying, I can understand it in a different language. That language is the language of love.”

I want to give you a glimpse of my life here in Bloemfontein. Before I begin, I do want to say that I have the permission to tell you this story from my wonderful host mom, Mama Shoni. Yesterday, as I sat outside on the porch at Mama Shoni’s house thinking and looking at the view of the township of Manguang where I am living at right now, a little girl approaches me and sits right next to me on the porch.

This little girl’s name is Neo. She is a beautiful child. She is Mama Shoni’s granddaughter. She is about 7 years old and she loves to talk. The thing is… she only speaks Sesotho. She does know some English, but just the basics like hello, goodbye and few phrases. She is also Autistic. I honestly wouldn’t have known this until Mama told me. She goes to a school for children with disabilities called Pholoho which means ‘Rescue’. From what Mama Shoni told me, the school’s goal is to rescue these beautiful children from isolation and feeling alone to making them feel welcomed, accepted and feel like they belong in the community. What I will say though is that as I have gotten to know Neo, Autism does not define her. She is a normal young girl who loves to play and laugh like all the other kids. I also want to mention that she has a beautiful singing voice. She and I have become really good friends. It did not take her long to get use to me nor me to her. At the beginning of our friendship, she would always call me doctor. This is because all of her doctors are white so it is easy to understand why she would think that I am a doctor. It did take a while but now she has started calling me by my name. When she says it, you can tell that there is something special behind it.

You see although I am not able to always understand exactly what Neo is saying, I can understand it in a different language. That language is the language of love. This language can be understood anywhere regardless of where you are. It always warms my heart when I see the great big smile on her face and she says “Hello Katie” and I reply right back in that same language with “Hello Neo”. She has already won my heart and I know that she will be someone that I will never forget. She has been helping me understand why God has placed me here in the first place. Meeting her has really made my heart learn how to receive love as I give it. All I can tell you is that when I see this little girl, I see the face of Jesus.