Minnesota Farmer


What’s next?
September 3, 2017, 9:30 pm
Filed under: church, Minnesota, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

So I’ve shared all of my trips to South Africa’s Ondini Circuit with you.  If you are not a long time reader, you can find the first two trips in February of 2011, and August of 2014.  These exchange trips have been going on between the Shetek Conference and the Ondini Circuit since 2008, but what’s next, how do we move along further in this relationship.

Change has seemed to be almost glacial in the Ondini.  There are many societal reasons for this, and change takes time.  In some of my conversations with the younger Lutherans in Ondini I know that they are chaffing at how bad things are and wanting more for their people, but change is also frightening.  We here in Minnesota see something that needs to be done, and do it, in the Ondini, that does not happen.

 

We have spent years now developing a relationship.  It is expected that we will show up every few years to renew that relationship.  Now it is time to step our game up to another level.  We need to spend more time with each other so we can really have a chance to change things.  Two things are being worked on to make longer relationship building happen.

First we are researching ways to get younger residents of the Ondini Circuit who have potential to spend time in Minnesota.  There is a program that brings Africans to the U.S. to work at bible camps.  We are researching how these young people are sourced and placed.  If we can get that information to our friends in the Ondini Circuit, it is hoped that they will come up with candidates to work at our own Shetek Bible Camp.  This will develop a core of young people trained in Christian education to work in their home area. We also plan to help those young people find their way around the Shetek Conference and support them however we can.  That support could also include gardening and health tips to take home with them.

Second we are hoping to place an advisor from the U.S. in the Ondini Circuit to help them expand and improve the projects through out the circuit.  This advisor would have to have an understanding of management, gardening, livestock production and building projects.  They would have to commit themselves to staying on site for at least three months.  Ideally this would be a retired individual or couple with a lifetime of experience to pass on.

Our partners in the Ondini understand their problems.  Pastors and teachers are doing their best to bring the needed change, but they have other jobs to do and personal lives to live.  We need to empower some of the younger people to carry on the changes they envision.  Whatever we can do to keep the best and brightest minds in the rural areas, we must do.  Only when young people see hope where they grew up will the people of the Ondini stay and create the jobs needed to benefit all of Africa.

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Gifts and goodbyes
August 30, 2017, 7:22 pm
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, rain, Shetek Conference, South Africa

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, ten members of churches in the Shetek Conference of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) left for the Ondini Circuit in the Kwa-Zulu Natal of South Africa.  The time for our return home came all too quickly.  14 busy days were spent with the fellow Lutherans of the Ondini Circuit.  When you are in the midst of it all, it seems as if the day will never come, and then we are saying goodbye.

We held our partnership meeting where we discussed what has been done, and what needs to be done, but got into very little of how to do the things that need to be done.

We took our picture with our partners.  That picture is a remembrance and a reminder that these friends of ours are still there working for the betterment of their area every day.

We exchanged gifts.  Ours included an original oil painting by a talented former member of my home congregation.  There were also a pile of the grey “Walking Together With Christ” partnership tees, over 700 partnership pens and a multitude of other items that are needed day-to-day in a depressed area.

Our partners gave us a large platter like those used in so many ways in Africa.

Dale got a Ondini Circuit  jacket like so many we had seen on our travels.

We all got polo shirts.  The shirts have the Luther Rose on the left and the Diocese emblem on the right side.

The backs of the shirts tell of the themes for each of the past church years in what they have been celebrating as the Luther Decade, all leading up to the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth. We all had been looking at the many ways their churches celebrate membership in the wider church and were proud to be able to wear these shirts.

But now the day of departure was upon us.  We woke to a light rain, that changed to just moisture in the air.  The comment was made that even the sky was weeping in goodbye.

We all went to chapel that morning.  We sang for the workers at the Centre and they sang for us.  As usual they sang us out the door.  We emerged to a rainbow in the western sky, and that brought lots of tears.  We were saying good-bye to Africa.

Will I return again?  Who knows, that is for the future to decide.  I do know that I left a bit of my heart with the wonderful people I was lucky enough to meet in the Ondini Circuit, and that will never leave.



Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit

Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit were always a dress up affair.IMG_1126

Women, youth and men all had their uniform, different some times congregation to congregation, and they all wore it proudly.

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Sunday, or even a week day service meant the preachers dressed up.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) has been having a discussion on how pastors should dress and perform services.  They have come to the conclusion that they need to have more ceremony and more elaborate dress in the ELCSA, not less as seems to be the pattern in the U.S.  Sunday services are done with all the pomp and ceremony the congregation can muster.  If they can get 10 acolytes helping with the service, they will all have something to do, complete with ritualized actions, incense and bells.

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While we were there they held an induction service for Reverend Ncanana.  Every pastor in the circuit was there, plus the Doicese bishop and representatives from other Circuits, Diocese and the visitors from the U.S. and Germany that were staying at the Centre.

An Induction is not an ordination, or an installation service as we know it in the Lutheran Churches of southwestern Minnesota.  The pastor is assigned a church, then after a few weeks, if they decide to stay, they are inducted.

Pastor Sarah had asked the day before how long the induction would last.  She was told “The whole blessed day.”  And it did.  There was over 3 hours of service and ceremony, a sermon to tell Reverend Ncanana how to behave as a new pastor, communion and a sermon by the newly inducted reverend.  About noon, apples and bananas were passed out and then they kept on going well into the afternoon.  All of this was done in a way that would have fit in well with a service in the Vatican.

In the afternoon portion of the induction there were many gifts to be given.  I even saw them trying to stuff an appliance of some kind into the reverends small car.  After all, what is a party without gifts.

Singing fills every spare minute of a church service.  Before the service starts members of the congregation would be singing hymns chosen by some self appointed song leader.  The pastor would call out a hymn number and some lady would start singing before you could even reach for your hymn book.  They seem to have the whole hymnal memorized.  There is also dancing.  Processional offerings were an excuse to dance.  Hymns quite often had motions to them that everyone knew.  Even in a church so crowded that you could hardly move, they danced.IMG_1083

Offerings would include at least two plates if not three or more.  There were offerings for the wider church, the congregation, the pastor, the youth league, the children’s fund, they sang and danced and added their offering to the pile.  They are a great people for celebrations.

There is great joy in the celebration of a Sunday service in the ELCSA.  A joy in the gospel that I do not see here in the states.  We could use a bit of that joy here.

 



Of Camping, Host Homes and Hotel Rooms
August 26, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: church, house, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

Travel in a foreign land can give you an opportunity to see how other cultures live and play.  Our stays at the Kwazamokuhle Diaconal Centre were a bit rough by our standards, but sufficient.

The guest house we stayed in is more like an older bible camp building than a house.  There is a small “suite” on one end that has its own kitchen, bath, living area and bedroom.  The middle of the building has a kitchen, bath and living area with three bedrooms down the hall.  In front is an open porch with an entry to a toilet and shower area on one side and the “bunk house” (bunk beds for 7) and a bath tub room.  There is another bunk house room around back.

All of the rooms were small.  Each sleeping area included a wardrobe and beds but not much else.  The water heater was slow and water pressure could run out if you were there at the wrong time.

Electricity on the grounds was of the older “Type M” plug, not part of the standard power converters. We had two power converters in our group, and it looked like we would not be able to use them, but Andy had found a 3-for sale on type M plugs and saved the day.  Newer outlets could have a different configuration.

Others on the grounds lived in small houses, or even storage rooms.  Rambo invited me into his bachelor’s quarters in one of those store rooms.  By the time he put in a bed, wardrobe and table the room was full.  He was just happy to have a place to call his own.

When we went exploring in the Champagne valley (upper left on this tourist brochure) we got a look at how tourists live and play in the area. The road goes into the Drakensberg mountains.  The paved road is narrow, and becomes more so as you reach its end.  Along the way you pass restaurants, shopping areas, B&B’s, the Champagne Valley resort, The Drakensberg Boys School, and high up at the end of the winding road is the Monk’s Cowl Wildlife area.  There is a lot of luxury along the way only a few kilometers from concrete huts.

The end of the road has hiking and some tourist shops.

There are campsites available in some really fantastic scenery.  The campsites were more suitable for tents, but a smaller caravan (camper) could make it up to road and stay here.  We also saw campsites at Weenen game park, again primitive, but great scenery.

If you clicked the link for the Champagne Valley Resort, you know they have some really nice hotel rooms.  There are also self-service type lodges in the area of many different types.

I have been honored to visit several homes in my visits to South Africa.  They have been homes of ministers, teachers and government agency employees.  All have been compact and well-kept.  Since most housing in the area is of block, brick or cement, they can have issues we are not used to.  Any wet can cause paint to peel off of cement, so bathrooms quite often had peeling paint.  I saw some really wonderful kitchens in these small homes, especially if they’re in the city.

Every home has a fence.  In rural areas it is just a wire fence to keep out roaming livestock.  Fences in the city got more ornate as you climbed the income ladder.  To have a garage or carport was really upscale.  A larger home would have a remote-controlled gate, or even a gate guard if the grounds were larger.

Kitchens in the country were a bit rougher.  This is the stove area in the Centre’s dining hall.  They had a central prep area and a cleanup area on the opposite wall.  Cooktops were bottled gas.  They did have a small oven, but most cooking was done on a gas stove top.

Living areas in homes tended to overstuffed couches and large screen TV’s.  There were also some massive sound systems in these small homes.  Dining areas would fit the table, chairs and not much else.  Decoration tended toward large posters and calendars of school, church or family events.  Running water was available in all of the homes I visited, but not always a water heater.

I never got into any of the smaller homes in the area.  It is easy to imagine by their size that they do not have much.  When you live in a concrete or steel house that is only about 12 feet square there is not room for much.  If you have no running water or electricity, cook your food over a wood fire and use an outside toilet, I suspect the living is rough.

There is a large difference in how people live in the Ondini Circuit.  Those with some get-up-and-go have either left or live as public servants and make a living the best they can.  Those without money live on government payments and often live very rough.

In town, the unemployed may have staked out an area of street or a parking lot where they give parking directions for tips.  Since parking areas are small, or nonexistent this help is welcome.  Pan handlers are scarce, but around.  Many a job we would use a machine to do, they have laborers to keep busy.

South Africa is trying very hard to make its way into the first world, but with so many to employ and such a difference between haves and have-nots, they have a long road ahead of them.  That the government is run by one party, the African National Congress controls 80% of the votes, does not help them get much better.  When things get tough, the people will rise up and get free water, electricity or more government money.  It is a government run by protesters, and our South African hosts are trying to change it.  I wish them luck, it will not be easy.



Food, Glorious South African Food
August 25, 2017, 7:26 am
Filed under: church, food, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

We were well fed on our trip, our South African hosts saw to that.  The food was differently spiced, long on protein and starch, and filling.

Breakfast always included eggs, whether scrambled or hard-boiled, bacon, more of a Canadian style and more meaty that we use in Minnesota, and toast.  Sometimes there was oatmeal or something like the grits of the southern U.S.  Hot dogs, served cold, might also be part of breakfast.

Drinks would include some type of fruit juice, hot chocolate, tea, instant coffee or cappuccino.

Milk in much of the rest of the world is processed differently and is shelf stable, so it is not refrigerated.  That was the case here.  South Africans like lots of milk in their coffee and tea, so there was always a pitcher of hot milk at meals.  They would also have white and a crystalline brown sugar as well as honey to sweeten your tea, coffee or porridge.

Water was always bottled.  We bought it in 1 or 2 liter jugs.  Aside from the fact that drinking tap water in a foreign land is usually suspect, the local tap water had a sulfur smell to it.

Soda brands are different.  The largest selling soda is Iron Brew.  Other brands include Appletiser and Coo-ee.  Sparletta is the local branch of Coca-Cola.  Sodas come in flavors we do not usually see like pineapple, pomegranate, orange, ginger beer, grape, lemon / lime, cream soda, lemonade and raspberry.  It is possible to find a Mt. Dew there, but not easily.  If you want it with less sugar you order your soda lite.

Main meals usually included rice or potatoes, and a curried beef or chicken.  It was also possible that the noon meal included sandwiches or cold hot dogs on a bun.  Sausages (bangers) of many different spicing types could appear at any meal.  Their ketchup was called tomato sauce and was differently spiced than ours is.  For more festive meals they barbecued sausages or a thin cut of beef, usually from the front shoulder, that cost less than what we might buy.

Different combinations of foods were often served.  There was a carrot and white bean dish that was really good.  Beets were served at most meals as was some type of cabbage dish, both were recently harvested from area gardens.  Potatoes had also recently been harvested, other times of the year, white corn would replace it as the starch.  Also on the menu at times was squash, served sliced after cooking.

What they call dumplings, a type of bread made with cake flour and cooked in a double boiler, was a common side dish.  It was too crumbly to use as bread except to soak up some meat juices, but they were good.

We did eat at restaurant chains if we were on the road.  McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried were in the area, but we avoided those.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is the largest restaurant chain in the country.  South Africans do love their chicken. Even burger and pizza joints had menus that were more chicken than any other protein.   Other grab and go food services included Steers, Whimpy and Debonairs Pizza.  

Just 10 km down the road was Thokozisa Center.  The restaurant had a decent menu and free internet.  Menu items could include wild game like ostrich and antelope, plus sea food, pasta and pizza.  There were also some small stores that sold clothing, furniture and touristy stuff.  We stopped there on both of our free nights.  For cool nights part of the restaurant was inside, but most of the seating was outside under thatched roofs.

For as close as it is to the Diaconal Center, I surprised to find that I was the only one who knew about it.  Thank you Simpewi for introducing it to me.

Castle and Hansa became our beers of choice when in South Africa.  Bottles and cans of the size we are used to were common, but you could get your beer in liter bottles.

My most unusual South African meal was served there years ago when I was served boiled beef on a large wooden tray.  It was a Sunday noon meal, and I was eating outside with the men.  There had been a wedding and the family was gathering to eat one of the dowry cows.  With little refrigeration, the whole clan was called in to help eat it.

That and the beef head served this year tell you a lot of the difference in culture that we have around food.

It is plain to see the influence of both England and Germany on the food we were fed.  Bits of India and Asia appear in the spicing and the Americas in the presence of corn, potato and squash.  Eating was always an international adventure in South Africa.



Free time!
August 24, 2017, 6:06 pm
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, time

Oh yes, we did have some free time when we were in the Ondini Circuit.  Most of us had a journal to keep up with so we could remember the details of this trip.  Some of the boys spent time with the local  people their age, either talking, playing soccer, or just hanging out.  There was also the evening devotion and talk session that we needed for mental health.

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Memories in the journals were not always words, they could be visual.  A bit of music at the same time helped to make us feel at home.

An evening card game was possible, usually in our room since we had the most floor space or outside if the weather was warm enough.  Some times these would evolve into sessions of advice for our college bound young men, or just a series of jokes and laughter.

Oscar, a half-grown cat, would show up looking for some attention, food or just a lap to nap on.

Beer or wine could be a part of the evening.  But as the evening progressed the call of the internet would draw everyone off to make contact with home.

For some reason the internet was only available starting about 9:30 in the evening and it only lasted for a few hours.  Since the entry to our room had both a charging station and the internet hub, that entry would become quite crowded.

Soon it was lights out.  Everyone was off to their room.  There was always something to see and do the next day and we needed some sleep.



Building in the Ondini
August 24, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, projects, Shetek Conference, South Africa

Building projects are moving in the Ondini Circuit, but they are not buildings such as I would see in Minnesota.  First of all the climate is different.  The more or less benign climate means less emphasis on heating or cooling.  Most buildings are built of home-made block or brick, with a steel roof.  Some in the area of Bethlehem circuit were using steel for walls, but they were an exception.  Those built in the rondavel (round) style usually had thatched roofs.  The walls are thick and windows only single paned.  Doors are often left open.  There are bars across windows and doors to keep out larger animals and burglars, but no interest at all in keeping out insects.

The visitors housing complex near the Centre is a good example of the methods we should see in the area.  Being a government subsidized project, this one used purchased brick.

Steel framed windows and doors are added as brick or block go up and are later glazed.  Floors are usually concrete.  Floors might be painted, or tile.

Electrical conduit and plumbing are cut into the walls which are later smoothed, skim-coated and painted.IMG_1111

The finished layer before painting is smooth and durable.

This will be a toilet area.  Making straight walls fit in a round structure can make for some interesting rooms.

A smaller rondavel will have poles set up for thatching to cover the roof, a larger rondavel will have a central post.  Rondavels could also have a steel roof much like our grain bins.

There was a block church under construction in the Hoffenital Parish which gave us a view of how these structures were built.  

This picture gives you a bit of detail on how windows are installed.

Narrower churches will have the wooden rafters left open.

Wider churches would have steel beams to hold the roof.

I only saw one church building that had evidence of insulation on the ceiling, the larger building (above) at Phangweni had been insulated, but the insulation had since fallen.

Building standards are much different when you get into town and visit businesses.  The interiors are very similar to what we see in comparable businesses in the states.  The climate does make for changes.  Because temperatures rarely get to freezing in the winter, and do not get much over 80 in the summer, people do not think about heating or cooling.  The months of December and January could see 6 inches of rainfall, but May to August usually see less than an inch if any.  One big difference is the presence of bars on windows and doors.  Every window and door has bars on it.  All houses and most businesses have fences.  Our Kwazamokuhle Centre kept a guard at the gate, as do many businesses.  The living quarters had lockable gates.  Living conditions and buildings are just plain different there.