Sights, Sounds, and Smells of South Africa

August 20, 2014 by Gayla Congdon
We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
Romans 3:28 (the Message) - 2014 Women of Strength Theme

This past year I was introduced to Lectio Divina by our son Jordan as he led our morning Bible studies in January at our groundbreaking at Cienega in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

“In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word.  It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.” (source)

What I love about this process is that you first read a passage of scripture, then you reflect upon its meaning followed by prayer, and then you have a time contemplating what you have just read and prayed about.  “The focus of Lection Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning.” (source)

For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” – an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than ‘dissecting peace’, the practitioner ‘enters peace’ and ‘shares in the peace of Christ.’ Or as I like to say, as we step into God’s word we learn how to be in step with him.

That is what Jesus did “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV)

Jesus stepped into our lives to live alongside us so that he could relate to our human experience and bring us into relationship with the Father.  And that is what Amor tries to do when we are serving alongside those we are building with in the locations we serve.

This July we returned to South Africa and the community of Delmas/Botleng to do just that.  Over a fifteen day period 140 participants from the UK, US, Australia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, including three local companies stepped into the lives of the five families that had been chosen by our Ministry Planning Board to receive homes. 

Urban Saints from the UK as well as the Whitehead family from Tennessee built two of those homes.  Each day some of their group served in community engagement at a local outreach where 150 children raced excitedly to a tiny area that really only had capacity for about a third of those children.  No one cared because we all know that stepping into each other’s lives can be crowded.

That first week was highlighted by some of the ways that Urban Saints and the Whitehead family stepped into South Africa and learned about the richness of the people and their culture beyond the house build and community engagement.  From the Lion Park to an Afrikaan church service, a trip to Soweto and a visit to Nkosi’s Haven AIDS orphanage, these 87 people stepped into the lives of those they were in contact with and came away changed.

Then the Women of Strength 2014 team arrived and my dream of women from different countries, of varying ages was once again a reality.  But the difference in this trip and the one in 2012 was my dream of having women from the community come and participate with us and stay at the farm became a reality as well.

Seven women, including Pastor Noma who we built with in 2012 not only came but became the heart and soul of this year’s trip.  They stepped into our lives and taught us so much about their lives and the community of Botleng where they reside. 

The girls taught us new dance moves and we sang Shosholoza, also known as South Africa’s second national anthem, with a renewed spirit.  At Pastor Jacob’s Zulu service we sang the “Crazy Song” with lyrics that say, “I’m so in love with Jesus he makes me crazy!”

We walked the streets of Soweto and learned the stories of those that had given their lives to dismantle apartheid. Women of Strength served lunch, painted fingernails and played sports with 260 youth and children at Ikageng where we met “Mum” Carol who is a true woman of strength.

Two homes were built and a team went daily to a day care center serving 65 children.  The head of the day care center told us that she was getting calls each night from parents that were saying their children were coming home singing songs that they had never heard before. And they liked it!

Pastors from our board and many members of their congregations stepped into our lives and helped us with the build.  Many of the women from the Afrikaan churches had never before entered a township.  At a meeting with our Pastors they told us how crucial Amor has become in the reconciliation and healing process of Delmas/Botleng Christians that have been on opposite sides of apartheid.

The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and culture of South Africa  this past month are too numerous to mention.  Each person has a highlight or two about how they stepped into this experience and came away with a better knowledge of people and themselves. 

WOS-picOne of my highlights is shown in this picture.  From Maddie of Australia and Izzy of the US we have the two youngest women of strength at 14 years old to Betty from Oregon at 85 years old.  Also, Pastor Noma who received a home two years ago and now came to build a home so another family could stay together.

Lectio Divina compels us to step into God’s word so that we come away with a greater understanding of who Jesus is and how he wants us to live. 140 of us did just that in South Africa this past July and we came away with a greater understanding of who Jesus is and how he wants us to live.

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Topics: Gayla Congdon, South Africa

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