Minnesota Farmer

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.  

South Africa – Final thoughts
February 23, 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: charity, church, friends, garden, Politics, South Africa, travel | Tags: , , , ,

This was my first trip to a developing world country.  I have travelled most of the U.S., in many European countries, Israel and parts of Canada.  In other words, I travelled among the blessed.  This trip was to a country that is multi-faceted.

South Africa is a resource giant.  There is so much there that is either mined or grown that the world wants, yet it is still owned by the few,and does not seem to benefit all.

South Africa has talented, energetic people.  They manufacture complex machinery.  They have hospitals that draw people from around the world to study in them.  Yet only 25% of the population is registered as being employed.

Many look at Africa and think of elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, apes and cape buffalo, and there is that in South Africa, but it is a land teaming with people and declining wild places.

I found South Africa to be a land of contrasts.  We lived among people of the ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa) who were getting by on very little and yet had great joy in their lives.  I saw pastors who lived and worked with people who had so little, and yet always had something to give to the church.

I talked to young people with great hopes for their future, and young people who were holding on to their last shreds of hope.

South Africa is a land that is still struggling to throw off apartheid.  The races still live segregated.  Yes, there are those of all races that are doing well, but the black population is not doing as well as the white.  Most of South Africa is still white owned.  Yes, blacks now are part of the government, but so few know how to make that government work for them.

I saw people living off of the small amount of money they make by collecting and selling scraps of materials that here we would throw into the landfill.  People selling fruits or hand crafted items by the roadside that they had purchased and hoped to sell for a few pennies more.

The people of the Ondini circuit sing and dance in church.  They sing when they are happy, and when they are sad.  They are warm and helpful.  Above all they are willing to share their love of God with us.

I think of how much we have here, and how we complain about it when we think we don’t have enough of something, and then I see them rejoicing in all things.  We here in the U.S. should be ashamed of all of our complaints over our petty problems.

Thirty years ago I sat in on a meeting where we were talking about the changing face of mission in the world.  We talked about how the U.S. and Europe had sent people out into the world to spread the Gospel of Christ and how that mission must now change.  I was told then that the in the future, Africa would be coming to us.  I have now seen the face of mission in the future.  I have seen the joy of Christian life that cannot be matched here.  The people of the Ondini circuit have shown me Christ in a whole new way.  I’m ready for the future, I hope you are too.

South Africa – Endings

On January 31, 2011, fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA travelled to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA.  We were there to come to know the people of the area, and if we could, help them.

Our trip is now coming to an end.  We have presented a vacation bible school program, lay preacher workshop, food preservation workshop and discussed the work being done to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.  We viewed past projects and discussed the future of the projects we had started.  We have assisted in a garden irrigation project and the construction of a greenhouse.  We made friends.  We attended church with our friends, we sang with them and we worked with them.

I was very impressed by the young people we met.  They were bright, intelligent and interested in what was going on in the world around them.  I talked with high school graduates who were studying for degrees in jobs as diverse as welding, electrical engineering and forensic pathology.  They will be leaving their mostly rural life for jobs in the city if they can find a job.  They are hopeful for the future.  I also talked to young people who had degrees and had come home because jobs were not available, or because they had contracted AIDS.

There is a quota system in effect in South Africa to promote women to jobs formerly held by men.  This has many young women excited about their future.

Traveling South African style is a very interesting experience.  It is rare to see only one person in a vehicle.  A small pickup will have at least three people in front and quite a few more in back.  I even saw an open pickup that had two young men clinging to the top of the box cover.

South African van taxis never travel until they are full.  I’ve seen 10 passenger vans stuffed with 18 people.  There was a news report of a van that was stopped with 42 school children in it.

Hitch hiking is common.  There are hand signs that tell which way a hiker is traveling so that the driver knows if the is going that way.  If you know someone on the road you stop to pick them up.

Walkers are everywhere, not for health reasons, but because they have no wheels to use.

The most common style of rural housing we saw was a round hut of either mud or concrete block plastered inside and out.  Poles formed a peak on which grass was placed as a roofing material.  The better off have a concrete floor and a steel roof.  If you had a tree to help shade your yard you were lucky.  The mud block houses were just fine until they got wet, and then they just melted away.

Those who could afford it did have rectangular houses with several rooms.  The straight roof meant that you could have a gutter attached to transfer roof water to a nearby tank.  We saw many people carrying or wheeling large jugs to a stream or well to get water for their house.  Electricity and water were not always present in a home, but if they did have electricity they also had a satellite dish.

Most houses had a fence around them, either to keep their livestock in or to keep everyone elses livestock out.  Locked and guarded gates were common in some areas or in group housing such as the Centre.

Livestock were every where in the black owned rural areas.  I’m not sure who all of the stock belonged to because not all of it seem to be owned.  Some animals were tethered or being herded, but not many.  We joked that the cattle on the road were Zulu traffic control.  They sure did make you slow down just to make sure you did not hit one.  We saw no animals that had been hit by traffic, but the rumor was that if you hit an animal you should take it home, since no one would claim an animal left dead along the road.

With the high rate of unemployment in South Africa you see a lot of people doing jobs that few in the U.S. would do.  I know they cannot earn much, and yet they are all happy and helpful.  The value of a man and his labor is still not very high in South Africa.  The story of a white farmer whose cattle were caught in a flood was in the papers while we were there.  There was a long account of how he had worked to save his animals.  Almost as a footnote was the comment that five ranch hands had been lost in the effort.  No names given.

Funerals are all held on Saturday.  The grieving will sit at the front of the church wrapped in a blanket, representing the love of the community, even in the warmest weather.  When the usually wooden casket is carried to be interred, the grave may not be finished yet.  In the rainy season, water  in the bottom of the hand dug grave must be taken out with a pail.  A grass mat is placed under the casket, and blankets are placed over it.

We learned to live on Zulu time.  Meetings may be scheduled, but they happen when they happen.  Travel conditions or family events dictate when or if you get to an event.

Our last Sunday

On Sunday we again broke up into smaller groups, but we stayed closer to Kwazamohkuhle this time.  Juanita preached the service at this church and helped with communion.

A farewell service was held for us.  Even the bishop came to see us off.  Our bags were packed, and we were on our way home.

There are many stories and many pictures that are not included in these postings.  Now I must get back to life in Minnesota.  There will always be with me the faces and places of the Ondini Circuit.  When we shall meet again only heaven knows.

South Africa – Water

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.

We were visiting the area in the rainy season.  It rained almost every day.  The ground was often too wet to work.  We dug potatoes that were sitting in water.  The streams were running full.  With all of this water you would not think water was a concern in South Africa.


hand pump


When the rains stop, and it could stop raining for over 6 months, plants and people could be in trouble.  That is why we were working on irrigation projects, to make it possible to grow food in the area all year round.

When we were in South Africa we drank only bottle water, or water we had boiled ourselves.  When you are that far from home there are a few bugs in the water that can upset your system if you are not used to them.  The folks in the area are immune to them.


note the tank at the right of the picture


Almost every building in the area had gutters to catch water from the roof and send it into a holding tank.  I’m not sure if we were using rain water from those tanks, but someone was.

Water is the stuff of life.  It is one of the main reasons we went to Ondini.  To help them get water to their gardens when the rains do not fall.  We need water for ourselves, and we need water to grow our food.  If we can help keep the people healthy and fed we are doing our part to help our neighbor.


Back to Kwazamohkule, South Africa
February 20, 2011, 8:45 pm
Filed under: church, friends, Hluhlu-iMfolozi Park, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel | Tags: , , , ,

The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA.  We are playing tourist and have been to see some of the wild part of Africa.  We made our way to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park two days ago, but today we must go back.

wonderful scenery


The scenery has been beautiful and the animals plentiful but it is time to get back.


give right of way to animals, or else


Elephant and rhinos were on the road and we had to wait for them to clear off the road.


mud bath


These rhinos were intent on their mud bath right next to the road.  The male even charged another vehicle when it got too close.


thatching the roof

As we leave the park we see some folks thatching a roof.


I get a kick out of the the signs on trucks that say “Abnormal/e”  It’s their way of saying, wide or oversize load.

We make our way up hill from Durban.  I didn’t realize how much we lost in elevation coming down hill to Durban.  Going back up we knew we were climbing as we were constantly downshifting.  Then when a truck would pull out in front of you, you had to wait for them to pass and then clear out of the way.

We make it back to the Centre so that Ted and Mark can put on a workshop for  lay ministers.  They kept at it until late at night.


Saturday found us finishing up projects at the Centre.


finishing at the high tunnel

We got the plastic mulch put down in the high tunnel and put the last pieces on it.

the trench is covered

The trench is filled and the area leveled.

This is our last day at the Centre.  What we don’t get done today will have to be done by those at the Centre.  We are going to leave some real good people behind.  The will is there to get the job done.  They can do it with the correct training and tools.  We all wish them the very best.



Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park South Africa

The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA.  Today we are playing tourist.  We have made our way to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park.  The park lies in the heart of Zulu country and was once the sole hunting area of Zulu kings.  This is Africa’s oldest wilderness area.  Our day begins with a 5:00 a.m. game drive.


our tour bus


We climb into 11 passenger open air vehicles long before sunrise and head off into the chill of early morning.




Fog fills the valleys as the sun rises.




There is nothing like the sunrise over the thorn veld of Africa.




The hoot of a baboon brings us to a stop underneath a Eucalyptus fig, where the baboons are having breakfast.




Baby animals are everywhere.  This zebra was the first of the day.


White rhino


Soon we see a rhino family cross the road with oxpeckers on his back.  Hluhluwe is famous for its project to save the white rhino which started in the 1950’s.




A hyena slinks through the thorn along the road.


tea time


We take a stretch break for tea and biscuits and then continue our tour.




Female and young Nyala are eating beneath the trees.




We see many kinds of birds, and so many elephants that we start getting selective about the photos we take of them.

Our morning drive is over.  It’s time for breakfast and some time on the internet. then off for a nap.


our hut


Levi, Ron and I have a two bedroom place set into the trees.

window sticker

A window sticker warns you to keep doors and windows closed to keep monkeys and baboons out.




Window screens are there to keep out monkeys and baboons.  They do nothing to keep out insects and small lizards.




This troop of monkeys was playing just outside our door and came within a few feet of us.




Baboons crossed between us and our lodge, and played on the roof of Mark’s place.


The other half of our group


Our evening game drive lasted until past sunset.


more elephant

We saw lots more elephant, perhaps over 100.  Also in evidence were rhino, cape buffalo and warthog.


We caught a sight of a male nyala, impala and gazelle, as well as a nile croc, bush baby and eagle owl.

Our day at Hluhluwe had come to an end.  We had a late dinner buffet with roasted eland, served with cranberry sauce, as the main meat, got ourselves back to our places and ready for bed.  Tomorrow we go back to Kwazamohkule.


South Africa Bound – On the road

The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA.  Today we are playing tourist.  We left Kwazamohkuhle after chapel and headed down the road toward Durban.

our van full of tourists

Barb, Paul, Marcia, Loretta, Levi and Ted took the back seats as I drove and Jessica navigated.

Being a farmer I was tuned into the crops being grown along the way.  The corn and soybeans seemed to be growing well.  Most seemed to be nearing maturity, but some had only recently been planted.  With all of the rain some did not look too good.  There were spots that were yellowing from too much water.  We did notice that no one seems to believe in end rows around here.

As we made our way toward Durban we started seeing some sugar cane growing.  The cities didn’t look much different than many other southern cities.  The houses may have been a bit smaller and more gaudily painted, but everything looked prosperous.

walking bridge

This walking bridge across a deep cut was interesting.  As we neared the Indian Ocean all eyes turned toward the coast.

First sight of the Indian Ocean

After having lunch in Stanger we made our way to the beach to play in the ocean.

Macia, Ted and Jessica at the ocean

The sand was so hot it burned your feet until you got close to the water.

The waves come in on Levi and Loretta

The waves were really coming in so taking a swim was out of the question.  Some of the kids got wet when they were not planning on it.

At the waters eye level

We said good bye to the ocean and headed northwest along the coast.

Fuel pump

All the fuel pumps we saw were full service.  There would be someone there to direct you to a pump and pump your fuel.  Usually someone washed your window also.

We saw many crews out mowing grass along the road, but rarely saw a tractor powered mower, or even evidence that someone was baling the hay.  The grass was cut by a gas powered weed eater and raked up by someone with a small rake.  There was usually someone there to sweep the grass off of the road also.

People were walking on the roads everywhere.  Busy roads had fewer people on them, but it was not unusual to see someone crossing the busiest of roads.  When traffic slowed down people were selling fruit on the edge of the road, or if you had to come to a stop, would approach you with bags of fruit.

Most of the larger roads were toll roads.  We usually managed to have the exact change for a toll so we kept moving right along.

harvesting wood

As we made our way further west the sugar cane made way for large plantations of fast growing trees.  You could see the fields that had been recently harvested and some that were planted not that long ago.  Plots of trees were in all stages of growth.

Our goal for the day was the Hluhluwe game park.  We were going around to the northwestern side to go into the Memorial gate.  The roads got smaller and livestock again became a presence on the road.  Mark almost got kid on the grill when a young goat dashed across in front of him.

We checked in at the park gate and made our way up to Hilltop Camp.  Last time when Mark was here they saw only one elephant.  This time we were greeted by herds of them.

elephant herd

We had to wait while they crossed the road, and then stop and wait again.


We also saw rhinos, cape buffalo, wart hog and giraffe before we even reached the camp.


This giraffe was eating right at the side of the road.

We made our way to Hilltop Camp, got our room assignments had a wonderful prime rib buffet for diner and then headed off to bed.  Tomorrow’s wake up call is 4:15.  The morning game drive leaves at 5:00 a.m.  It’s going to be a short night.

South Africa Bound – Tuesday Feb. 8, 2011

The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA.  Today is to be a day full of projects.  After breakfast and chapel we all drive into Estcourt.  We need more supplies  One van load has a few quick stops to make and then get back to work.  The other needs to make some stops that will take more time.

Josh has returned with his family.  We all get to meet them before they head off to do some more sight seeing.  Juanita spends some time with him to get a better idea of how we can use him and the program he is here on to continue our projects.

After lunch we make another trip into Estcourt for things we forgot, or didn’t know we needed the first time.

My journal entry for the day includes Success! With so many things going on today it was wonderful to see so many of them really move along.  After the frustration of yesterday the success of today was so much better.

tilling in the high tunnel

Work on the high tunnel greenhouse has gone so well the Paul has the ground inside worked so that we can start to lay the underground drip tubes.

Picking grapes

They are doing a food preservation workshop this afternoon so Rambo, Ted and I pick grapes for grape jelly.

Ted washes grapes

Loretta sorts and de-stems grapes after Constance supplies her with more.


Trench cleaning


Ron, Pastor Shongwa, Levi and Karl clean the trench.

Jessica cooks beets

The prep of the foods to be canned went on in the kitchen.

Ron, Que and Loretta prepare pipe for the trench

Standpipes were placed on the irrigation pipe so that it could be buried.

Laying the irrigation lines

Drip irrigation lines were measured, cut and them placed just underground in the high tunnel.

Barb selects fruit for canning

Gogo Bob (Barb) and Juanita were leading the food preservation workshop and kept many of us busy during the day.  (A gogo is a grandmother in Zulu.  The locals had trouble pronouncing r’s in some positions of words, so Barb became Bob.  Since she is a grandmother we called her Gogo Bob.)

Too many cooks in the kitchen

There was a lot of excitement when the food preservation participants found out that they actually got to do the work in the kitchen.  However in an area that does not have a tradition of canning, supplies for the job were hard to come by.  There were a few spills and a dropped jar that showered several with hot food.  Despite the problems the ladies had a great time.  All took home some of the produce.

HIV/AIDS meeting

Bonnie, Ted and Marcia met with the local HIV/AIDS working group to share information and concerns.

Irrigation pipe is buried

It was all spare hands on the job as we started to fill the trench after the irrigation pipe was installed.

What a day.  With so many projects going on at the same time we had people moving from job to job all day, with few staying in one place all day.  It was a very successful day. Tomorrow we get to play tourist.