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Out of Africa?

June 26th 2007 No comments yet  

Where We Are Now

I’m writing from the airport in Dubai. We flew overnight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Dubai where we are connecting to a flight to Tunis, Tunisia. Although Tunisia sits on Africa’s northern coast, the culture and people are so different that it’s difficult to think of it as Africa. That’s why most people instinctively say “North Africa” when referring to countries like Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Where We Have Been

While in South Africa we stayed with Charlotte Moore, one of my students at DTS a few years back. Charlotte leads a ministry called Turn the Tide for Children. TTT4C operates under the ministry umbrella of Walk Thru the Bible in South Africa. Its mission is to work through local churches to help vulnerable children. TTT4C has adopted an approach to working with children that attempts to keep them in their normal social environment (rather than in an orphanage, for example) while assisting in providing essential care for them. For example, many children are orphaned or abandoned by their parents but, in a village setting, they remain in the care of older siblings, aunts, uncles, even neighbors, caregivers who are a part of the child’s social structure and identity. Unfortunately many of these caregivers struggle for survival themselves due to chronic poverty.

TTT4C, working through national churches, helps establish pre- and after-school care programs, feeding programs, clothing, and job training, depending on the particular needs and resources of the local community. The projects each have a little different character, but the core approach remains the same: help provide for the well-being of vulnerable children within their natural social groups and identity. TTT4C is caring for about 880 children at this time.

Sunday Worship Outside Johannesburg

On Sunday we worshiped in a local church in one of the many townships that ring Johannesburg. Townships were formed by the apartheid government as enforced segregated housing areas for blacks. Although legal segregation has ended, social and economic segregation are still powerful realities. The church we visited meets in a large tent that was provided for them by a ministry of Walk Thru the Bible in South Africa. The pastor, Joshua, is a young man with tremendous passion for worship, for teaching the Scripture, for seeing his community transformed.

Joshua invited Priscilla and me on to the platform and asked the congregation to give African names: Priscilla’s is “Nkateko,” a Shangana word which means “blessing”; mine is “Temba,” Zulu for “hope.” The music created a moving worship experience–figuratively and literally. At one point Priscilla and Charlotte joined a worshiping, dancing “conga line” at the front of the church. Let’s just say that the only two white-skinned women in the line created quite a scene. After the service Joshua grilled me about opportunities for theological training for himself and his lay leaders. He’s eager to learn and to grow as a pastor.

A Day of Tourism

We took a vacation day on Monday and visited a game reserve. The three of us piled into an open-sided truck with four others and a guide for a three-hour drive through the game park. We saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, wildebeest, warthogs, impala, zebra, kudu, vervet monkeys, baboons, and an assortment of antelope. At the end of the trip, we came upon an elephant devouring the leaves and bark off a tree right beside the road. The guide did not want to pass so closely as the larger vehicles are seen as threats by the elephants.

While we sat on the road in our truck, the elephant wandered out, looked us over, and started eating on the other side of the road, completely blocking us in. He obviously did not care about our flight that evening! At one point he became agitated and began to charge our truck. The guide, who already had it in reverse, hit the gas, and we backed up as fast as we could. Needless to say our “up close and personal” experience with a male elephant was a little more up close and personal than we would have liked, but what an incredible memory of South Africa!

On the Move Again

So now we’re headed to Tunisia, a completely different culture and climate from where we’ve come. I hope to write from Tunis tomorrow.


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