Quiet!

Rachel with two new friends from Mabopane – at the Lutheran Theological Institute

YAGM participant Rachel shares a reflection of her beginnings in her community:

Quiet! by Rachel

“Be quiet!”  “Too Loud!” “Sit Down!”  “Quick!”

I would have never guessed that commands such as these would be the first few Tswana words and expressions that I would learn and perfect!   I spent my first week in Mabopnane working in a creche with my OWN classroom full of four year olds, so it makes sense!  Yup, just 10 adorable children yelling and hitting at each other, and one helpless “Mama Rachel.”  Yelling has never been a spiritual gift of mine; but it might soon be.  Although these days have been challenging, they have been generously scattered with blessings.

There are four lovely teachers at the center (one was gone for a week, hence my own classroom) and I have quickly grown to love them.  Last Friday, I watched them chatter away in Tswana, calculating and dividing their month’s salary.  Before putting her earnings in her bag, one teacher filled an envelope with her “ten percent for the Lord.”  She showed me the envelope and told me to copy down the verse that was printed on it:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and mind.  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  –Matthew 22:38”

What a testament, right?

Conversations about big issues in South Africa including HIV/AIDS, access to healthcare, and poverty have come in small but powerful bits.  I’m not sure how to share what I’ve gathered yet, but I look forward to continuing to acquire first-hand accounts of a broken and beautiful country.

I’m having a hard time getting used to the slower paced, ‘why worry today about what I can do tomorrow’ way of living.  My life as an RN did not prepare me very well!  I know that the people of South Africa have a lot to teach me about priorities and taking time to breathe it all in.  I have managed to get my internet set up due to the gracious help and transportation of my host family!  Realizing that internet is not available at the snap of my fingers was embarrassingly tough for me.  I’ve had to face the reality that I can’t depend on tangible affirmation that my family and friends are okay (ahem, Facebook).  I’ve been trusting that all is well, and hope that you have trusted the same about me!  (p.s. to all of my BFF’s… it’s sort of socially acceptable not to text someone back, since you pay for each message.  Yes!!)

A few other highlights:

– Singing and dancing in front of the congregation with the Youth Choir (luckily most of the words were in English, and I just tried catching on to the rest!)

-Judging a “beauty contest” at a local Primary School (It lasted five hours!)

-Eating with my hands (and of course, feeding the toddlers with my hands!)

-Explaining what “Gratitude” means (and demonstrating that the writing won’t come off of my arm!)

Each morning at the crech, one of the teachers says, “Fold your arms.  Close your eyes.”  And they all begin singing what is possibly the best prayer I have ever heard.  The words go:

“Father we thank you for the night.

And for the pleasant morning light.

For rest and food, and love we pray,

And others – make them well today.

Help us to do the things we should,

To be to others kind and good.

In all we do, in all we say,

To grow more lovely every day.”

The way that the sweet voices of the children harmonize with the power of the teacher’s chokes me up every time.  They think Mama Rachel’s watery eyes are funny.