Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a “meeting” with the Bishop in Ermelo, South Africa, about two hours from Manzini. All I knew it that there were six of us going and therefore I was going to have to drive. Rev. Ngema said we should leave at 7:30 am. I wasn’t real thrilled to be going. One reason is I had made plans to have someone help me apply for my work visa before I come home for the holidays. Wednesday afternoon was the only time she could assist me. Also, Wednesday morning is my bible study and I would have to miss it which was the last one before leaving for the States. And, I must say, I have been getting increasingly more irritated with “things” in Swaziland. I miss home more than ever, probably because I can allow myself to miss it since I am coming home. This week has been full of ups and downs, but Wednesday morning I was particularly down.

Rev. Ngema called about 7:00 am and said someone wanted to meet with him at 7:30 so we would leave at 8:00. That was great. It gave me more time to relax and try to get more up beat. I had cut my prayer time short to be ready, so I had a few more minutes given back to me. I went to the church to pick up my car at 8:00 and there wasn’t any sign of anyone. Irritation set in. About 8:15 Rev. Ngema came out of his house and said he was still waiting on two of the people to come so I should get Siphiwe and Kabella and go on ahead. That was fine because I know the way to Ermelo.

The morning was cold and drizzly. On the way up the mountains to the border and then for a long way once we were in South Africa the fog and clouds were very thick. There were periods of outright rain. It was beautiful though. It reminded me of Northern California with the trees, mountains, green grass and thick, thick fog. It made me more homesick. It brought back so many memories of my childhood through adult years. We drove most of the way in silence. Siphiwe and I talk when we are alone, but Siphiwe and Kabella don’t talk much when they are around each other even though they are roommates. In a way I was glad, but in another way it just made me feel more alone and out of place. I was alone with my thoughts which I was struggling to keep somewhat positive, or at least not negative.

We arrived in Ermelo about an hour early. Come to find out none of us knew where we were going or what time we were really supposed to be wherever we were supposed to go to. (This is Africa.) Luckily we were able to get a hold of Rev. Ngema and find out the restaurant we were supposed to meet at. (This was no minor miracle since Swaziland phone cards don’t work in South Africa.) The occasion was not a meeting, but a thank you lunch for the clergy and their wives in Swaziland and a few of the neighboring communities. The restaurant was very nice. South Africa is such a different world than Swaziland. It never ceases to amaze me how different the two countries are. The Bishop thanked the clergy and the wives that were present for their service. He also introduced me – the missionary to Swaziland – and said some very kind words and thanked me leaving my home and family to come serve. I don’t think of myself as a missionary and I certainly wasn’t feeling very “missionaryish” at that moment, but I appreciated the kind acknowledgement. The luncheon was very nice, but I felt very isolated, alone and mixed up. It was very interesting to watch the two worlds trying to come together, but still staying very separate. The white clergy and wives pretty much all gathered together and were obviously all good friends. The black clergy, who were probably all from Swaziland, all stuck together on the other side of the room. Juliet, one of the local pastors from St. Paul’s and I sat together, but both of us were pretty much ignored by the other pastors and the two wives. I’m sure the Bishop could tell I wasn’t really part of either side and could probably sense my mixed emotions. He came over to me and asked me how I was doing. At first I fought back tears trying to say “I’m doing okay,” but then I had to admit that I had been struggling the last couple of days. He asked if I had water in my cottage, and I told him yes, I had it again. He then suggested that part of what I am experiencing is culture shock. It usually hits 2 – 4 months after someone has arrived in a country and is a general irritation of the way things are done or not done. He reminded me that Rev. Ngema is getting ready to leave his post on December 1st so things are a bit more out of sync than usual. His words helped, but it was just one of those bad days.

When the luncheon was over, the three of us drove home in more silence. At one point I put on my sun glasses even though it wasn’t real bright out, but I wanted to hide the tears that just kept coming. By the time we arrived home I was tired, drained and had a headache. After sitting for awhile, I amazed myself by getting up and doing a few things in preparation to start packing. I went to bed but I didn’t sleep very well. I woke up tense and grumpy again.

I had things on my schedule for today that I wanted to accomplish before I leave to come home. Especially since Rev. Ngema is leaving and they are trying to get things organized and cleaned up for the new Superintendent. I needed to make it an early, fast, productive start of the day. However, once I started writing in my journal and praying, I just kept at it until I was ready to stop. All of a sudden, I didn’t really care what time I started to do other things. I needed my time with my journal and my God. I then went for my 20 minute walk around the soccer field next to my cottage. I could feel my shoulders relaxing as I walked. I had a great shower (Thank you Lord!), took the time to check my e-mail and was blessed to have notes from a few of my friends anxious for my visit home. My day started later than I wanted it to, but when it is all said and done I still managed to accomplish what I wanted to. As I drove first to Lomngeletjane (the new temporary school) to take them some food and then out to Khalakahle Primary (my favourite school) to take them some donations of books, I was in awe of the beautiful country side. The crops are beginning to grow and they finally got some rain out in the low veld near Khalakahle so the countryside was green. Once again I realized how much I have come to love certain things about this country. The children’s faces are so beautiful and they smile so easily. The head teacher was so happy to see me and of course was grateful for the books I brought. She wished me a very safe journey and happy holidays with my family and friends back home and said she is looking forward to seeing me when I return in January. That meant a lot to me.

When I got back to St. Paul’s I called a friend who is with Children’s cup to ask about someone she said they use to help get people’s work visas. The person called me back immediately. He has already come by to pick up all of my paper work. He is going to walk it through the process while I am gone. Hallelujah! This is another very big and important to-do off my list. St. Paul’s is a buzz of activity as everyone is preparing for the farewell service, meeting and celebration for Rev. Ngema on Saturday. Many of the people I have come to know were at St. Paul’s busily working so I was able to say “hi” and chat for a bit with many of my new friends. What a difference 24 hours makes. What a difference prayer makes. What a difference it makes to open up and let the tears out so that the beauty and joy could come in. I hear the little voice saying “you are not alone” and realize how blessed I am to have people in the United States who love me and are praying for me and people in Swaziland who are doing the same.

Please pray for me as I prepare to leave Swaziland and pray for travelling mercies as I fly from Manzini to Johannesburg and then after a 5 hour layover fly to Washington/Dulles with just two hours to clear customs and catch my flight to Austin.

No comments: