Saturday, January 25, 2014

19 Jan 2014

Another week has flown by leaving in its wake an everlasting trail of memories, some of which bring tears of joy & jubilation and others tears of sorrow and mourning.

First let us share what happened in the life of one of our workshop students, Nandipa, that will always bring us joyful memories as we reflect on her story. We were first introduced to her five plus months ago during a workshop we did in one of the townships near Port Elizabeth. What made her stand out amongst the other class members was her sincere desire and determination to become a nurse. She was encouraged to pursue her dream, do her research to locate a school, get the registration and financial enrollment details etc.

At the close of the workshop, we gave her additional encouragement to reach beyond the confines of her cultural boundaries and grasp that which was beckoning to her. We hoped that she, along with the rest, would in-fact over come the fear of failure, of insecurity and fading self-confidence that is an obstacle to the majority of these people.

Then one day, the phone rang and Nandipa asked if we would help her get a loan so that she could go to school to become a nurse. Joy and optimism was in the air at her willingness to take the bold step even though she was 7 months pregnant.

The financial figures, school dates and forms, and signatures were assembled to make application for the school loan. The loan process is meticulous, time consuming and, at times frustrating, involving many lengthy forms to fill out which require various signatures and legal stamps. Although the application process is tedious, even for one who is not pregnant, she got all the required material together in plenty of time to work its way through the bureaucratic chain to determine approval or rejection which is advertised to take three to four weeks. A telephone number is provided when the application is submitted with the encouragement to call the number periodically to check on the status of loan application.

  Weeks stretched into months and each call rendered the same “application still being processed, please check back” recording. Fear of being rejected began to creep into Nandipa and us – the process was taking much too long. Then in late December, Nandipa called to remind us that her registration day was just a couple weeks away and she needed the loan in order to register. Again calls were made yielding the same results. Finally, the decision was to go around the standard system and find someone that could determine what the hold up was. A secretary in the loan office was finally reached; her response was one that only stimulated aggravation – “it’s the holidays and no one will be available until January 6th.” The problem was, January 6th was the day of registration. The decision makers, contacted by their gatekeeper (the receptionist), suggested that it was no big deal and the applicant would just have to apply again next year.

 There was no apparent alternative than to call Nandipa with the discouraging news. The news was received by her with disappointment but, even more sadly, with no surprise as if it was just one more normal day in the life of the downtrodden – it should be expected. The feeling they have is, don’t let your hopes get up as they will only be crushed and cause you hurt.

At that point, calls and emails were immediately sent out to the very top echelon demanding to know why, just because it was the holiday season, there was no one paying attention to details that impacted peoples lives in such a manner as this. Literally, within minutes, phone calls and emails were received apologizing for this unfortunate situation. Assurances were given that they would pay personal attention to the matter and get the loan approved and that letters reflecting that decision would be sent to the school administration personnel. They requested that we call Nandipa and let her know her loan was approved (outside of the traditional system and without the aid of the normal loan personnel) and that she could register on schedule. When the call was made, the phone vibrated as Nandipa expressed her delight as she received the news. There were expressions of jubilation, of unbelief, exhilaration and emotion as the unexpected news soaked through to the core of her brain.

We helped her go from place to place on her registration day and still she was giddy with excitement – her dream and hopes were coming true – her prayers had been answered. A week after her school started, she again called to express her gratitude for the help she received to help make her dream come true. Our emotions come close to the surface as we are able to see despair and darkness suddenly be replaced with hope, joy and brightness as the noonday sun.  So, you can understand why this experience gives us a memory of great joy and satisfaction.  

Another set of happenings this week in the lives of individuals close to us, did not bring the same rejoicing as those of Nandipa. An uncle of Angie’s, Harold Buen, and additionally, the son of a close acquaintance of ours in Florida died this week. We all understand that death is inevitable in all our lives and is lurking somewhere around the corner. However, it seems to always send a shock to our system when it grabs someone we know. Expressions of surprise, of wonderment, and questions encompass the responses of those who know the deceased.

In the case of the individual in Florida, the man, who died of a heart attack, was only in his early fifties. He had a wife and children; his parents are still alive. A parent is always expecting that they will escape the sorrow of seeing one of their children buried – that they, the parent, will die before one of their children. But, the reality of death is that we are not privy to anyone’s timetable. A man once said, “There is nothing we can do to extend our allotted time here on earth, the only thing we can do is shorten it due to our stupidity.”  

Invariably, when those who have lost a loved one talk about that loss, the Lord is brought into their reminiscing. Along with those utterances, the concept of being reunited with them when they or others of the family pass away is expressed as if it is a given regardless of how they or the deceased have lived their life. It is, in fact, a glorious and comforting concept. However, it is also a fact that, most of the time they are speaking of something they know little about. They speak as if “heaven” and, being together for eternity, is an entitlement – it just happens – that is just the way it is in the hereafter.
 The truth of the matter is that it is not an entitlement nor will it just happen unless we do what the Lord requires of us to do in order to receive those blessings. Blessings from God are gifts given to us in return for our obedience to eternal laws that govern all aspects of life. All of His blessings are available to everyone but they are conditional upon us conforming to His laws. The sad part is, many people will not listen to those desiring to share those determinate messages with them. The world has been duped into thinking all is, and will be, well no matter what we do in life. The Lord has made it very clear that there is order in His kingdom and there are no shortcuts – there is only one way to receive His blessings and that is by obedience to His laws. The laws are easy, we just tend to ignore them.

These comments are not intended to be judgmental but rather simply statements of fact. We hope that the lives of both individuals mentioned above were in harmony with the Lord’s laws. And, that the lives of those family members left behind are such that those eternal blessing they desire will be theirs. 

Funerals here in South Africa are a big deal in more ways than one. The laying to rest of a person here involves family, relatives of any possible connection, neighborhoods, church affiliates, or anyone that may have known someone who may have known the deceased. We have witnessed funeral processions that are literally miles long, made up of cars, busses, mule carts, taxis, walkers etc. When they are assembled around the grave site, it is tough to imagine that they can all hear what is being said.

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