Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back in SA

Hello everyone,

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly two months since I was there in the States with all of you. It was such a special thing to see everyone and have some special moments with friends and family. Thank you for opening up you hearts and homes to me. Being with you brought confirmation again that reconnecting is vital, and though the plane ticket is costly I want and need to stay connected to all of you! Email and phone (Skype, of course) is very helpful in this regard but I do need to see you and squeeze you all every once in a while. My next visit is tentatively planned for December 2009, so I am going to have to plan more time in for Skype conversations!

Things are going well here. There was and continues to be a period of re-entry back into the community and the work. I had anticipated this, but had never done it, so I did not know what to expect. Things have gone well, though repair to relationship and “catch-up has taken time. I am still working on a few neighbors, hoping that the realationship can be as it was before I left. For the last two weeks I have been staying at a friends flat and caring for the high school student that she took in temporarily. We are working on the paperwork to have this girl come to the States to finish her studies. She has no family to care for her and is essentially without accommodation.

You may remember Nana, another young girl that I helped to care for last winter. She connected to a wonderful family in the States through one of our volunteers who was here for five months. Nana is currently living with them and attending school in Ohio. Though they did not formally adopt her she is very much their own and has already taken to calling them “Mom” and “Dad.” Her father died the day after her birth and her mother passed several years later. It is really special for Nana to have found a new mother and father. Especially because she has never called anyone “Dad.” This same family would like to take in the girl I am staying with now and we are getting all the visa paperwork together in hopes that she and Nana can be sisters in this new home. They know each other and were good friends here before Nana left. The girls are looking forward to being sisters. Please pray that everything will work out for them.

Here at Kuyasa, we are gearing up for Summer Camps and working on the end of the year programming. I have had the special opportunity to help some of our girls who are graduating look for a dress to wear to their Matric Dance (which somewhat like Prom). Recently we had a slumber party at the flat and experimented with make-up. This was the first time they had tried or even seen things like blush and mascara. After explaining that blush is not used on the forehead, somehow I still felt like I was unleashing a monster, ushering them into this new world of image and western fashion. But they had come to me and asked if I would help them learn and the youngest was 17. There are plenty of people here that wear make-up here, so I was not exposing them to anything unfamiliar. From the look of it, I doubt that any of them will wear makeup regularly, it will just be a special thing for the dance. We were all in hysterics for several hours; they could not understand why women do this to themselves! Two of the girls are going to come and get ready here at the flat I am staying in before the dance. This is really special that they want to share this big night with me, I am so excited to help.

My life is still such a strange one, both personally and professionally I feel like I have my feet in two different worlds. Staying in the township, I have the opportunity to live life with and learn from the community and the kids I work with, but at the same time I visit friends in nice homes in town, sing with a choir at one of the most prestigious Universities in the country and share skin color and language with those who are the wealthiest here. Also professionally, my life is filled with amazing kids and youth, I get to lead groups, teach guitar lessons and help with homework, but on the other side I am attending a USAID conference on grant writing and best practice for structuring the Board , drafting all the employee contracts and facilitating the Strategic Planning process. There days I wish I never had to go into town again, then there are days that I consider living there. There are days where I just want an office that has a door to lock and wonder where all my time goes and then there days when I just want to throw out all the logistics and what feels to be worthless western rig-a-ma-role and build relationships only, just listen and learn and counsel, just share life with these incredible survivors that surround me.

As I write this I am realizing that, again, my time a Casa was excellent preparation for this life (at least on the professional end). I am more free here and need to learn to allow myself this freedom. I have to trust that this freedom that I have will allow God to lead and direct me, if I am aware and in-tune, I will know what to prioritize when. It seems somehow I learned that “hands-on” work and the “more important” things that keep us huddled in an office, writing dates for meetings, memos and reports must remain separate. Here I have been blessed to have the chance to question this. How effective are all those meetings, memos and reports?

If as a Christian I am called to see the world be changed from the inside out, beginning with me, will these things I am so busy with get me there? If this is the true “target” how can the principles I understand regarding effective managing and planning be merged with my relational priorities and firm belief that lasting change comes only though real relationship. I have the “luxury” of seeing people I work with and supervise as more then assets or liabilities. I have been given the opportunity to step out of the pressure cooker that mandated performance and into a world that can take time to see people as created human beings. I get to change the questions around; not “what can they do for me and the organizational goals” but “What can I do to see them learn, grow, SHINE and become what God placed in them to become?” I am no longer auditing, I am treasure hunting. I don’t need all the lines and divisions that I have been taught. Personal/Professional, Hands-on/Management, Spiritual/Secular, Emotional/Intellectual, Rich/Poor, Black/White, Educated/Uneducated...the list goes on. The question is, can I let these go even if those around me don’t? Can I live in an integrated, ambiguous now; a life that prioritizes being over doing and remembers that at our core we are all in it for the same things; people to call true family, a purpose that will out last our small life and peace that is long-suffering, enduring through our greatest pain.