Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sunday in Clermont

Today as I drove into the township there was a buzz of activity.  As I passed by the usually
 empty World Cup soccer practice stadium, I could hear a local pastor shouting out his
 encouragements to his congregation on the loudspeaker. The ladies were crossing over the
 street to the water pump to do their washing.  The children were playing in the street
 with the bread loaf packages filled with air -instant soccer balls.  The little Down's
 Syndrome boy was standing waving to us with a huge grin on his face. That was about
 all he had on - as usual.   I had not seen him in a month or so and he had grown taller.
 As we walked up the dirt hill I saw children shoveling up the rubbish into the front
 part of an old tube tv.  I wondered if they were doing this to clean up the neighborhood
 or if they just enjoyed having something to do.  Either way, the place was getting
 cleaned up which was a rare sight!  As I rounded the corner behind the house, I saw
one of the neighborhood boys about 11 years old scrubbing the stairs that lead up to
the toilet.  Wow, two sets of children cleaning today.

Many of the Sunday school children had already gathered to play at our door.  They were
 always there waiting, hoping that we would come.  I had been away for several weeks
and I felt like I was returning back to where I belonged.  I had missed being here and
 seeing these kids!  Eventually we had about 20 kids come to join us as Antonia began to
 sing the zulu hymns. She is a member of our church who owns the house in Clermont
where we meet.  After a few songs, she leads a prayer.  All the children have their
 hands folded and their eyes closed, except for little Kwanda.   He is always busy
and into something.  His sister who is about 10 is his caregiver.  His mom is not
around and there is an aunt in the neighborhood, but this 10 year old girl is the
mom.  I feel distinctly called in Clermont to focus on these little ones that seem
 "naughty."  To hug them, smile at them and recognize that they are full of life and
 zeal and have no one to direct where it should properly go.  I look around at the
children and what they are wearing.  Their clothes are tattered and too small.
 Kwanda has on pants and when they fall down I can see some semblance of
underwear- the top elastic waistband and the bottom part around his legs,
there is nothing there covering his bum in between.

Another little boy about 2 years comes in part way through the lesson.  He has a
 huge grin and seems very curious.   Immediately all the children start gagging
 and holding their noses because he stinks so bad.  Apparently he needs his
 nappy changed.  Antonia opens up the door to air out the room and we continue
on.  I am teaching the lesson of Jesus' first miracle, when he came to the wedding
 feast and turns the water to wine. We have appointed two children to be the bride
 and groom and all the other children pretend to be the guests.  They come one by
 one to wash their hands in a small tupperware container in water that has been
fetched from down the hill.  I ask them to imagine these are huge water pots that
 could hold the amount of water in a bathtub. They all sit back down and we tell
 them that they are at a big feast and there is an abundance of food everywhere.
We give them 2 biscuits(cookies) today and their eyes get big as they usually only
 get one.  And they usually have to wait until after class.  They eat and eat and as
 I expected, it becomes a big distraction to the lesson.  I tell them that at a
wedding feast people would be talking and laughing very loud and I ask them to do
 this.  They look at me as if I'm crazy!  I laugh and laugh and finally a few them
start smiling and one older, clever boy catches on and begins to laugh.  Once
we calm down the crowd then we tell them about how we have run out of wine!
 We ask if anyone knows how wine is made.  One boy says he has seen it on tv,
but cannot remember where it comes from.  I take a picture off of the wall of
a bunch of grapes and put it on the floor and stomp it - telling the kids that the
t is how you make wine.  They don't seem to believe me.  Out comes grape juice
I say.  Then you put it into a glass bottle and put a cork in it and then you wait
 and wait and wait, sometimes for years.  I pull out the memorial wine bottle and
 ask them to smell.  YUCK they say - doesn't smell like grape juice!  We talk about
t what a miracle it was for Jesus to have made wine not from grapes, but from water,
not in years, but in seconds and not just any wine, but the BEST wine that they had
 tasted!  How generous is our Lord Jesus!

We finish up the lesson by coloring in a page about the story.  The kids are all over the
 floor coloring - there are no tables to use.  They enjoy it and take great detail to finish
 their work.  My 7 year old son is excited to be here and wants to serve up the juice.
 He used to complain every week we would come - it's dirty mom, they smell, I don't like
it here.  Now he comments that he's sad how torn their clothes are and wonders if they
have enough to eat today. At the break when they are playing he comes to get me because
 little Kwanda has fallen and hurt his nose.  "I didn't touch his blood mom, I came to get
 you."  They learn early here about the hardships of life that HIV brings.  Poor little
 Kwanda is there bleeding and I think, wow, I don't have any gloves either.  It's just a
little nose bleed, so I quickly get my hand sanitizer, kleenex and bandaid, which is
all the semblance of a first aid kit that I have on me.  Note to self, get a first aid kit
 and gloves for the car and the building.  I say a prayer asking God what I should do,
 then come around to help.  Antonia has already started cleaning him up. Once
 again the situation is resolved by God for me when I ask.  I say a prayer of thanks
 and think about this little boy and how there is no mom to kiss his hurts.  More
and more I want to be that person for him and all the children.

We get ready for our main church service.  The regulars show up and we have 6
including Cam and me.  He has brought Siphiwe, our teacher from the Bible
Education Centre to give the talk today.  Then 2 more visitors come in. The
 little boy with the stinky nappy decides to join us again.  He seems to have
been changed, so sitting by him is more pleasant.  He chooses the chair next
 to me and climbs up.  My son is sitting on my left coloring, so I give the other
boy some colors and he enjoys them.  I notice he has on 2 different shoes and
 that his hands are extremely dry and cracking- almost looking like an old
man's shriveled hands.  It makes me think about how fast aging comes to
those who are impoverished and neglected. He is surprisingly quiet through
the talk until he yells out Unkulunkulu!  Someone was reading a passage from
the Bible in zulu and said unkulunkulu, the zulu word for God.  Wow - He
was listening!  There goes God confirming my theory that children in the
service always pick up on something! One of the gogos (grannies) behind
 him whacks him on the head to be quiet.  Shame - I think - I love what
he yelled out! He eventually wanders back outside as our meeting draws
 to a close.  There are many songs, prayers and encouraging passages of
 scriptures read.  Most of our attendees have just returned from our
annual Bible conference so we are especially enthusiastic.

As we turn to welcome our visitors that have come in, I meet a lady with a
gorgeous baby girl on her back.  Emmanuel, one of the members, tells me
that she is the lady that lives next door whose husband is bedridden by
AIDS and that she is very sick from it.  They don't have money to feed
 the baby and have been giving her mealie meal (corn meal) in a bottle
with water.  There is a great misconception here that the mothers with
HIV cannot breastfeed their babies, so they go uneducated and in fear
 and aren't able to feed their babies properly.  As we gather around
her to assess her situation I am amazed at how big and heavy this
problem seems and then with all of us working together in multiple
languages, from multiple experiences, backgrounds, countries and
cultures, we are able to come to a good plan of action for her.
The other visitor that came today gives her 10 rand for taxi
 fare to the government social services office.  Cam has recently
worked with this office in another case and is able to save her
300 rand (3 days wages) for an unneeded taxi fare back to zululand.
I offer to get a food parcel and can of formula for her and Funo
offers to bring it back by and help her fill out the forms.  The neighbor
friend that attends her church originally found out her problem and
has been buying formula for her out of her much needed money.
When we leave there she is encouraged and relieved and not only
have we helped her for today, but she has a plan in place to get
help for the future.  Our new visitor now tells me she is a certified
HIV educator and wants to come back to this community and run classes.
All of this in about 10 minutes - my head is in a spin.

It is amazing when we see how so many things come together if we are
just willing to ask God to guide us.  As I was going into the store to buy
the formula, I run into a sister from another Durban meeting.  We
chat for a moment and I tell her about my amazing morning and she
generously offers up a donation to help with the baby's formula.  WOW -
God is definitely providing.   As I drive home I think about how much
being a part of Clermont has changed my life.  How I came here out
of a sense of duty to help them and how God has touched my heart
and the hearts of my children and brought us joy and peace from our
time spent here.  I think about the passages we read in church this
morning from Hebrews 13.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without
 knowing it.  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,
and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

I immediately think of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:24 "But God
has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor
to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the
body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored,
every part rejoices with it. "

I rejoice in you Clermont - thank you for a God-filled day!

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