Minnesota Farmer

Women of Ondini gather
August 20, 2014, 8:36 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel | Tags: , , , , ,

While we were in the Ondini circuit of the ELCSA there were two women’s gatherings.  The first was a meeting of the Ondini circuit women to which the ladies of our group were invited.  It was held at the nearby KwaZamokuhle school for handicapped children.100_2961

The second meeting was held the next week in Ezakheni near Ladysmith and was a “Mini” conference of the whole South Eastern Diocese.  We all were invited to that meeting.


The roomful of black and white clad women was impressive, but even more impressive is the way these women celebrate.  There was rarely a quiet minute.  Someone would start off with a hymn and soon the whole place was singing, and sometimes dancing.  There was indeed a roomful of joy.


They were not always in uniform.  At the evening meeting there was a choir and a group of dancers in bright garb to get the crowd moving.  There was also gift giving galore.  Every woman there had at least one gift to take home.


The evening meeting was also a time to get out your party best and sing and dance.  There was lots of color in motion at that session.  We of course were invited into the dance.  Since we were wearing our yellow partnership tee shirts that evening we were easy to pick out.  Although we did not know the words to the songs, we did our best to follow the dance steps.  We were also grabbed up for picture taking.  We, after all, were celerities, folks who had come from another continent to share Jesus love with them.

The party went on for hours, with the evening meal finally served at 9:30 p.m..  It proved to be a short night, as we all were ushered off to host homes.  We had to be back for the church service at 8:00 a.m. and some of us had miles to travel.


Church the next morning was very “high” church with alter boys, incense and chanting in both Zulu and English.


The deans and the bishop played their part and were also dressed in their best.  They went through all of the ritualized  service.  During the 45 minute sermon they had translators scattered in our midst to help us understand the message, which was about Jesus coming to the disciples walking on the water.  The message went very well with our partnership theme of “Walking together with Christ.  It was so fascinating that we really did not know the service went for three and a half hours until it was all over.

This was an interesting experience and one that few from across the pond get to take part in.  The experience was just lucky timing on our part.  So glad we could be there to take part.

KwaZamokuhle chapel
August 19, 2014, 5:39 pm
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa | Tags: , , , ,

While we were in the Ondini Circuit we spent most weekdays at the KwaZamokuhle Diaconal Centre.  Every week day chapel was held in a rondavel style building.  Time varied, but it was usually at 8 a.m.  You just had to be alert to see when the others were headed down the lane.


The building was small.  When you added our 11 to the normal group it got quite cozy.  Chapel was held in Zulu.  We never really got the message of the readings unless we looked up the bible verses ourselves.  The music was always good.  You just grabbed a Zulu version of their hymn book and read along.  Finding your note was by ear, and harmony was common so there were usually several notes to choose from.


After chapel there was always a line up of people to shake hands with (Zulu style) before heading off to work.  It was a great way to start the day.

Ondini churches

If you go on a trip with a church group you are going to spend some time in local churches, and our trip to South Africa was no exception, we were in several.  These were not grand churches of the city, these were the humble churches of  poor country folks.  Simple, rustic and sacred to their congregants.

The church closest to the KwaZamokuhle center were we stayed was part of the Empangweni congregation.  This is the site of the double funeral I wrote about earlier.  This is the largest of the Ondini church buildings I was in.  There is a school across the street and the home/school for handicapped kids just down the road.100_2772
The interior seems to have had some work done with fewer broken windows and fewer banners than I remember.
Church buildings are located for walkers, this large of a building means that there are quite a few people who live within walking distance.  This is one of the few churches I saw that actually had a planned parking area.  In most churches if someone drives to church it is unusual.  In areas where one pastor has several churches to cover, his is usually  the only car in the lot.
The Hoffenthal church is also located next to a school but in a more remote area.  The nearby orphanage and the Gogos (grandmothers) who run it are what sets this church apart from others.
Again it is a simple building inside an out.  The Gogos are proud of the fact that their gardening project has earned them enough money to paint the church.  The Hoffenthal congregation has seven buildings that the pastor hopes to be at at least once a month so he can preside at communion.  Usually a lay preacher presides when he cannot be there.  There are just under 400 congregants between these seven church sites.
The church at Emangweni has an impressive pulpit in front.  This is the only church I celebrated Sunday services in on this trip to South Africa.  Although a bit remote, it is home to several important people in the partnership.  When I was there my host for the day Christopher (CK) Mazibuko was acting as the guest speaker.  There were about 35 women, 45 children and young adults and 5 men in attendance that day, each group sits separate from the other, unless a very young child needs to sit with its mother.  Again the church is located near a school, in this case both and an elementary and a high school.  The high school where CK and Bonisewe were teachers.
I had attended smaller churches on my last trip to South Africa.  You can check on my posts from February of 21011 to see pictures of them.

Back to Kliptown
August 16, 2014, 4:48 am
Filed under: Johannesburg, school, South Africa | Tags: , , , , ,

Coming back to a place for a second time you will see things differently.  Sometimes it is because of the changes in the place you visit, sometimes it is because of the changes in you.  Both of those changes were there for the visit to Kliptown.

When I went to Kliptown in 2011 we were newly arrived in South Africa.  My recollections were those of one who had little experience in the area.  Now with a past trip and a few more years I saw more and took pictures less.  I invite you to look at what I wrote about Kliptown in 2011 and compare that to what I write today.

Kliptown is a collection of shanties on the Klip river outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.  The collection of cobbled together huts does not seem to have changed much.  There are still the few water taps that seem to run all day where people come to collect bathing and cooking water or to wash their clothing.  There are still the illegal electrical taps put in by self taught electricians that provide light and power to these shacks.  The community porta-potties are a still there.  The changes are at the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP).


In 2012 the KYP and its director Thulani Mandondo were named one of the 10 CNN Heros.  Along with that award came a monetary gift of $50,000.  The changes have been transforming.  The computer lab that was built with the money has allowed the children of the area to have a better chance of moving up and out of Kliptown.


With reliable electricity these labs are kept busy with children of all ages learning so they can be a viable part of the modern world.

While water may still run down the street to the Klip river the same as it did in 2011, there is now more hope for the children living here.  Changes have occurred here in Kliptown as they have in me.

Cabbage and other edibles

Travel in other countries always leads to the talk of food.  There are many differences in food throughout the world and eating styles also change.  Because part of our mission in this trip to South Africa was to help local farm folks grow their own food, we saw a lot of cabbages.


There were the thousands of cabbage sets waiting in the starting shelter at KwaZamokuhle.  The Centre’s garden manager has an order for as many cabbages as he can produce. Most in demand were the purple cabbages.


I really cannot tell you how many of those cabbages were planted in the days we were in the garden there, but there were a lot.  The tools available to do the planting were inadequate, being mostly sticks and hoes.  We went to town and purchased some transplanting trowels for them. 

The soil was dry and hard.  It had been tilled once with a disk but few of the holes we dug for the cabbage sets were dug without effort. Water was carried from a nearby hose to give the cabbages the starting water they needed.


We saw cabbages in every garden we went to or drove by.  Winter in this part of South Africa seems to be the time to grow cabbages. This garden at Hoffenthal parish also had carrots, arugula, onions and several other cool season plants.  Cabbage was also on most menus, but for us western folk they usually kept cabbage to a side dish.  I imagine for those who did not have money, cabbage would play a much bigger role in the diet.


This artfully arranged dish was placed in front of me at one of my host families for the evening meal.  It consisted of a corn porridge they call mealy, a dry spicy bologna, cauliflower, broccoli, a mix of hot dog, beans, onions and carrot and a creamy cabbage slaw.  A glass of apple drink was also served by one of the sons of the family.

Dad (Christopher) and guests were served first on a table in the living room with a table cloth and wrapped silverware.  The male children ate in the TV room, and mom and the daughters waited until all others had eaten to have their meal.  Just as a note, this is the home of two high school teachers, so to have Bonisiwe and her children serve me in this manner was a bit different.

My most unusual meal was also served by the family of Christopher, but at his parents home.  The family had just received 4 of the 11 dowry cows from a recent betrothal.  They had butchered and cooked some for Sunday dinner.100_2797 

The boiled beef was served on a wooden trencher or tray about 2 feet long with a small pile of salt on the edge.  The meat was cut into pieces and everyone dug in eating with their hands. The male children had their own tray to eat from a few feet away. My western food sense had a bit of trouble with this arrangement, but in the end I decided to trust Christopher and his family.  Happily a glass of fruit juice was served to me.  The men were drinking the water and fat that was in the bottom of the tray with a bit of salt mixed in by stirring with a rib bone.

Lest you think we dug in with unwashed hands, every meal i was served away from the centre was alway preceded by a washbowl and towel.  Guests first, then the men and finally the ladies.


A corresponding washbowl after the meal was not always there, so i did keep a few wet wipes in my pocket.

Table service was not always what we would consider adequate.  We were once served a meal that included a tough, thin cut beef steak and only a soup spoon to eat it with.  Eating with your hands was just part of the way they do things.  I did so dearly miss my swiss army knife at meals like this.

Since we several times ate at meals catered by the locals, I also saw some of the largest serving bowls I have ever seen. 100_2981 The bowl must have been 30 inches across.  At the area wide women’s conference we attended, every congregations chairwoman received one as a gift.

Most of our meals were eaten at the Centre kitchen and most often included rice, but mashed potatoes and mealy were also served.  Most of the time we ate beef or chicken.  Sausages and turkey or chicken hot dogs were also common.  A Continental style bacon was served for breakfast as was peanut butter and jam for your toast.

Our meals at the game park were buffet style and served in a much more British style.  The serving of baked beans for breakfast was new to me, but things like kidneys and liver had that continental style.  The evening meal usually had a venison course that in the days we were there was springbok.

Our hosts at the Centre were hoping to introduce more western style foods into their menu.  They asked our ladies for help and soon we had coffee cake, banana bread, pumpkin cake, whole wheat bread and chocolate cake added to our menu.  These foods meant a scouring of the area stores for cooking utensils which the Centre kitchens were lacking.100_2840 

Ovens are not common in most home kitchens that I saw.  The Centre’s kitchen did have two.  Most meals were cooked over a gas stove using bottle gas for fuel.


These gas cooktops were also used to heat water for bathing since few homes in the area have water heaters.  Many homes do not even have running water.

What milk we were served was in the Centre’s kitchens.  Since cold food storage is not common, milk had to be specially processed.  Our milk came in containers that did not need refrigeration until the container was opened.  Something not common on U.S. grocery shelves.  I did see almond milk on a grocery shelf so I’m assuming other such substitutes are also available.

 Eating in the rural areas of South Africa was an adventure.  I could see some changes had been made since my first trip here in 2011, but the kitchens are locked in the past.  There is little money to modernize, so I do not see this changing soon.

What came first
August 14, 2014, 1:41 pm
Filed under: garden, Kwazamohkuhle, planting, South Africa, tillage | Tags: , , , ,

While helping to plant cabbage sets in the garden at the KwaZamokuhle Centre in South Africa we answered the age old question “What came first, the chicken or the egg.”100_2833

Pastor David Xaba was digging holes to put the cabbage sets in and unearthed an egg.  We’re assuming the egg was laid by a wayward hen before the field was tilled.  We had been unearthing potatoes that were missed from the last seasons crop but this finding of an egg was totally unexpected.  Still we can now say with certainty that the question has been answered in Africa where it all began.  The egg did indeed come first.

Funeral SA style
August 14, 2014, 9:27 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa | Tags: , ,

There were two funerals on Saturday, the traditional day for funerals here in rural KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.  One was an over 80 year old woman, the other a 40 year old man.100_2772
Multiple pastors presided and each spoke a part of the service. The service lasts until the grave is almost ready.  The service may start with the church mostly empty, but as more people come it will fill. For this double funeral the hall was filled and many stood outside.  People, and pastors, would come and go as they wished.  Many stood outside.
One funeral had a 6 wheel Mercedes Wagon100_2773 and two vans for mourners. There was a large canopy100_2783 to sit under and a mechanical lift, that did not work, to lower the casket.
For the other funeral there was only a Mercedes van.  At both grave sites they ended up carrying the casket into the grave.
The digging of the grave starts in the morning.  It is dug by hand in the hard rocky soil here, if it is not dug by the time the funeral is over, people wait, preach and sing.
The procession walks to the grave site. In this case it was only a short walk down the road.100_2776
A  “beach” mat is placed at the bottom of the grave and the casket is lowered onto that. A duvet is placed over the casket and wood poles are placed around the casket. Another straw mat is placed over that and the hole is filled.  Singing continues until everyone leaves for lunch.


The cemetery was full of recent graves, both ornate and simple, depending on family finances.100_2781  

There is little for grass here, but what there is is clipped by sheep.100_2780

The cemetery has grown since I was here in 2011, but the people are the same.  There is a community of concerned people here to console those in grief and celebrate life every other day.  


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