Minnesota Farmer

South Africa Bound – Monday Feb. 7

Fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA flew to South Africa on an agricultural mission that departed on January 31, 2011.  Our stay was centered on the Kwazamokuhle Centre.  The centre is owned by the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA and is used to help support pastors and provide showplace projects for the circuit.

Our stay here is already at the half way point.  Things are starting to fall into a routine.  Up with the sun, start the water so the early risers can have tea and coffee, catch up on my journal.  Breakfast at 7:30, Chapel at 8:00.

Today Pastor Mark gave the message at chapel using one of the staff as an interpreter.  Most of the time we do not understand the readings or the words to the songs.  We dive in and sing them anyway.

For the first time the computers have internet at the Centre.  I can finally let my family know I’m alive.

Bonnie and Jessica in the computer area of the library

The next line in my journal is Frustration. So many things are frustrating when you are dealing with events in a foreign country. So here’s the days frustrations.

  • We need supplies.  It takes forever to get anything here.  First you need to drive to a town you don’t know that well, to a store you have trouble communicating your needs to the employees of, and deal with really slow service.
  • The machinery will not work.  Levi spent most of the day working on the weed whip.  The recoil on the starter gave him some real headaches.
  • I tried to get the electric lawn mower working.  It will start, but not keep going.  The motor needs to be rebuilt, do you repair it or replace it.  At home I would replace it, but money is tight here and the value of labor is low.
  • Lazarus, an old Massey Ferguson tractor, will not start.  The battery has to be taken elsewhere to be charged since there is no electricity in the shed and I don’t think they even own a battery charger.
  • The alternator on Lazarus is not working properly.  We don’t have the tools to check it out and it’s a long way to the repair shop.
  • Supplies are here, now the electricity is out.  There is no way to drill the holes they need to repair the high tunnel greenhouse.
  • We got Lazarus started so we could cut grass where they are digging the irrigation pipe trench.  Now it’s stuck.  We unhook the tractor and get it moving, and it gets stuck worse.  At home we would have cables, chains and pull straps and another tractor to pull it out.  They don’t even have a decent sized pickup.
  • It starts to rain again.

    Lazarus is stuck again

All is not frustration, but so many things were today.

Karl, Mark, Juanita, Jessica and I drove up to Emangweni along with two of the pastors that are spearheading the projects here.  It was a long drive on steadily worsening roads in some really beautiful country.

The rivers are high in the rainy season

The roads are no longer paved, but mud as we near our destination.

The bridge

The bridges are in wonderful condition, but one lane.  Most are built so that when water is high the water can flow over it easily.

The road ahead

When school is out children will walk down the roads home.  You see them coming in a sea of school colors.  Uniforms are required for school here.  No uniform, no school.

more children on the road

As we near the school children fill the road.

The road narrows

As we near the church the road narrows and we walk the last few blocks.

geese on the parsonage lawn


Chickens in the window of a derelict buildingI thought this flower was interesting



as was this weed

Emangweni church

Emangweni mission station was started in the 1880’s.  I’m not sure when the church building was built, but the plaque outside the church finishes it’s roll of missionaries in the 1960’s.

church bell

The church bell was elegant despite the disrepair of the bell tower.

Mark in the "garden"

Emangweni is one of the spots that an earlier group put in irrigation pipe to help grow veggies in the dry season.  Unfortunately the garden has still not been dug, nor fenced.  You can see the stand for the irrigation line by Mark’s feet.

Inside the church

We discussed what has been done,and what they need to do to get the project going.  We can help with supplies, they must supply the labor.

Interestingly local yards are full of gardens, even the school has a veggie and flower garden and yet the church garden cannot get going.  We suggest a 4-H type relationship with the school children to help get the project rolling.  The irrigation pipes are new to the area and will help create interest in the church garden if they can get it going.

We return to Kwazamokuhle with muddy boots on the muddy roads.

A partnership meeting of the Shetek/Ondini committee is held when we return.  There are 9 from the Ondini circuit and 5 of us from Shetek.  Among items discussed are:

  • How the projects are going.
  • How to keep communication flowing across the distance between us.
  • A possible visit from the Ondini Circuit in 2012.

Tidbits of information that were of interest to me are:

  • There was no rain at the Centre from April to October 2010.
  • When the rains started they would not stop.  This made planting and weeding very difficult.
  • Local people are paid R50 ($6.88) per day to work the gardens, morning tea and lunch are supplied.

VBS extras presented

The extra items from the VBS program were officially presented to the people of the circuit.  Several had heard from participants in the program and there was a lot of excitement as the goods were examined.

More frustration, this time for the cooks, as it is discovered that the gas tanks are empty and they cannot cook for us.  Our guest house has an electric stove so we cook up fried eggs and hot dogs.  Add some beer and ice cream and we do very well.

Mark has been waiting for the group to hit the wall.  The time came for the other two groups when all of the frustration of working in a foreign country, lack of sleep and distance from loved ones all piles up and gets everyone depressed.  Despite the frustrations of the day this group is upbeat, enthusiastic and still ready to go.  This is a wonderful group to travel and work with.

Rain falls again to cool the evening.  It has been a good day.  It will be a busy day again tomorrow.


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