This has been an interesting week, a little too much traveling but it has been very productive. We traveled to Cape Town (about 10 hours driving from Port Elizabeth) to meet with a new Senior Couple and train them in the Self-Reliant Initiative by teaching several Career Workshops with them. In addition, we met with the ecclesiastical leaders to train them in their duties.
One of the workshops involved 3 missionaries who were going home in a short while. The idea is to help them consider the options of schooling and employment when they arrive home. For missionaries from North America it not as difficult a transition to go from daily teaching the gospel to going to school or working, as it is for black Africans who, for the most part, have not had the opportunity to receive but a moderate education or to have ever had a job. It seems foreign to the mind to imagine growing up and never having had a job. But stop to considerate if this was the case with you. You would not understand the concept of being punctual, having a specific task to accomplish and to be accountable for it, how to make sure that you have dependable transportation, or even the proper dress for the job. You would never have developed the fundamental skill of addressing and responding to a boss, how to conduct yourself in an interview, or even how to get an interview. Again these things seem natural to us who have been raised in an environment where these things are taught and fairly well understood, but for someone raised where shoes are a luxury, anything but ground-corn for a meal is unheard of, having a bed to lie on was reserved for the elite of the tribe, and washing your clothing with anything but a scrub board is, somehow, not proper, they are concepts that have not ever occupied the brain cells.
Hence, one of the purposes of our workshops is to help bridge the two cultures. On one hand, the African missionaries are anxious to go back home. However, on the other hand, they don’t want to leave this new comfortable life where they have a room to shelter them from the elements and an assurance of food each day. They have become accustom to riding in a car or riding a bicycle wherever they have to go. Prior to their mission, walking was done without a second thought about it even if it meant walking all day to get what they needed.
Somewhere along the spectrum of success, there are individuals who peer out of the townships into, for them, another world; a world that they want to participate in; one that holds for them an opportunity to rise above their poverty stricken environment and they are willing to sacrifice whatever is needed to acquire it. The question in their mind is what do I have to do? And how do I do it? As in any culture, there are those who will never achieve their dream for a variety of reason. But there are also those whose minds are brilliant, searching, and hungry for knowledge and who are born with the determination to climb over any obstacle that gets in their way. When we have one of those in the workshop, we are immediately aware of them. You can detect their brilliance cloaked in a mind that has not been exposed to intelligence. They grasp at knowledge and potential quickly, understanding that the road to success has been exposed to them. Their thirst for knowledge, independence and, therefore, the ability to be self-reliant seems unable to be quenched. These moments are memorable, sparking within one the desire to search even harder for these, yet undiscovered, diamonds.
For virtually all missionaries, being released from their mission brings a host of mixed emotions. On the one hand, they are anxious to see and embrace family and friends; to just be back home. It is fascinating how home becomes so important to us even if it is much less than the picturesque image the term conjures up in our mind. Most often, it is where our roots are. It is where our childhood memories were generated. Life was good even if we did not realize it really wasn’t.
On the other hand, they, the missionaries, also face a time of reality check. The world they are about to return to is not always pleasant, forgiving and understanding, but is often very unforgiving, harsh and demanding. Therefore, it is part of our responsibility to help them be prepared to face this world head-on, not only to enter into it, but to enter into it with a determination to conquer it, to subdue it and carve out their niche. The earth is full with enough and to spare. It is only our inability to exercise our choices properly that keeps us from harvesting what is ours to have.
This exemplifies one of the variety of tasks we take on. This particular one is making German Bierochs (bread dough rolled thin and filled with hamburger, which Africans call mince, and cabbage) to serve at the Conference of 28 Missionaries. They were a hit.