South Africa has not disappointed in terms of beautiful scenery, fascinating history, cultural diversity, and the prevalence of the church. As Erin mentioned in the last post we briefly spent two days in Johannesburg then traveled to Lesotho for a week, before returning to South Africa. Upon our return, we rented a car and headed into the the Drackensberg Mountains for a brief reprieve. The freedom that came with having our own wheels, as compared with depending on public transport or other people, was welcome. After six weeks on the road and constantly interacting with people we took a short mid trip break to relax and to recharge. We enjoyed driving through the beautiful countryside passing through a couple national parks and several quaint mountain towns. The much needed rainy season started which was great for the crops, but a little unfortunate for us as we spent a day hiking in the rain and cold. The rain only lasted a couple of days and we enjoyed some more sunny hikes at Sani Pass where we also drank a beer at the “Highest Pub in Africa.” The Kwazulu Natal region was home to several battles during the English and Boer War and we visited a couple of the battle fields in order to learn more about the history and culture. After our time in the Drackensberg we drove three hours to Durban and spent the afternoon on the beach boardwalk. The next day we returned the car and flew to Cape Town.
After a fantastic visit to Zimbabwe we headed to Johannesburg for a brief two day stay. We lodged at a backpacker hostel in Soweto and found ourselves in the midst of a neighborhood of history. Soweto was formed around 1900 as a racially segregated township for the black working force and later became home to many blacks who were forced to leave their homes, as a part of the Apartheid’s forced removal law. In 1976, police opened fire on students protesting against Afrikaanas as the official language for education. Hundreds of students were killed. However, several anti-Apartheid activists came from Soweto, including Nelson Mandela, is now home to Desmund Tutu and today its residents see their township as a beacon of hope for others who resist injustice. An excellent way to see Soweto is via bicycle which is exactly what we did, along with others and a Soweto native who gave us a great history lesson. We also squeezed in a visit to the Apartheid Museum and were blown away by the widespread injustice and violence of Apartheid, but also moved by the courage of the resistance movement captured in the story of Nelson Mandella.
Rev. Nedson Zulu dropped us off in Harare on the 28th of September where we were graciously hosted by the CCAP Synod of Harare who are in partnership with Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Harare is beautiful this time of year, with the Jacaranda trees in full bloom. We stayed at the home of Dr. Lamiel Phiri who recently received his Ph.D. in Servant Leadership. Lamiel was an incredible host. While in Harare, we conducted a three day workshop on entitled “Training of Trainers.” The course was scheduled to be held at Rock Haven CCAP Conference Center, but due to water challenges we held the course at Mbare Congregation in Harare, where we were generously hosted by Rev. Juma. We trained lay leaders from CCAP churches all over Zimbabwe. One participant even travelled 800km (500 miles) taking him 12 hours via bus to reach Harare The courrse was similar to the courses that we taught with TEEZ in Zambia, but with more of an emphasis on preaching and leadership. Many of the participants were leaders in their churches, but had little formal training and therefore were very eager to learn, and were full of good questions. English varied among the participants and we were very impressed by the way they helped each other translate the material. We had a lovely closing ceremony and we were able to present each participant with a certificate of completion.
Someone told me that our trip sounds like the Amazing Race, and in some ways that is true. Each leg of our journey brings about its own set of adventures requiring creativity, patience, humor, and some collaboration between Brent and me and with locals who continually prove to be extremely gracious and helpful. Eventually, there’s a reward when we get to where we’re going, even if the reward is that we get to take our packs off and take a cold shower. A recent leg took us from Blantyre, Malawi through Mozambique and onto Harare, Zimbabwe.
Monday, September 20 we met up with Reverend Nedson Zulu, a wonderful man who works for the Outreach Foundation; an organization seeking to connect Presbyterian churches in the US to Christians in developing countries. Nedson, a Zambian by birth, works specifically in the Tete region of Mozambique, located in the northwest corner of a rather large country. Nedson graciously offered to show us some of what he has been up to for the past ten years, as well as take us to eastern Mozambique where we visited some folks who work with New Tribes Mission.