Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Joys of Studying With My African Sisters and Brothers, Contextual Bible Study, HIV and AIDS, Empowerment, and Abba

“Bayete, Bayete Inkosi, Bayete, King of Kings, Bayete, Bayete Inkosi (singing),” ☺

I just came back from a chapel service with a group of Lutheran students from all over the continent of Africa. How awesome it is to fellowship with brothers and sisters! For the last week and a half I have been at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Theology studying with people from all over the continent of Africa. Today I listened to a South African Indian woman present her research about the indentured servitude of Indians to South Africa in 1860 from India and current implications for working women in the context of a patriarchal Indian society. I listened to a man from Burundi speak about how the Pentecostal church needs to stop focusing so much on prosperity, but needs to focus on assisting with social issues in the community such as HIV and AIDS. I listened to a man from Tanzania speak about the importance and helpfulness of organic farming in rural areas. In my African Woman’s Theology class I listened to African women and men share their stories of polygamy, domestic violence, patriarchy, motherhood, education, being refugees, strong mothers and so many other realities in their context. I walk around and I see brown faces, black faces, white faces. It’s interesting because not so long ago White, Indian, Colored, and Black people had to attend separate colleges because of the color of their skin (only 17 years ago). But, now you see people of all ethnicities sitting in the same classroom. Reminds me of Dr. King’s dream. However, the interesting thing for me is that after the class ends you see a division of race very clearly. The Indians are together, Whites together; South Africans together, then foreigners are together (people from other African countries). This makes me think about Beverly Tatum’s book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.”

I feel very blessed to have this experience. I have been focusing a lot on how to put into practice something called contextual bible study. This is where bible stories are used to actually help people dig deeper into certain societal issues and in turn used as a tool of liberation for people living in intense situations. The bible story is presented in a way that the community can work to make meaning and interpret the story in their own way. The text is then used to dig deeper into societal issues, and also used as a call to action in many cases. I have been focusing a lot on the text of 2 Samuel 13: 1-22. This is the text of Tamar, David’s daughter, who was raped by her brother Amnon. The abuse happened in her own home. The focus of the text is sexual violence and incest, but it is also focused on Tamar’s courage. In the midst of everything Tamar in 2 Samuel 13: 12 did say “NO”! And even after her rape she did all that she could in that context to embrace courage and strength in the midst of be violated. It is texts such as these that I hope to bring to communities to assist them in engaging more about societal and communal issues, while also working to provide tools for liberation and healing.

One of the very empowering women I met this week is doing this good work with people living with HIV and AIDS. She told me that 5 of her siblings died from complications, which came from AIDS. She is now raising 6 of their children. Sometimes I wonder how and why we are called to do certain work. Today I shared my story of sexual violence with Maria who is doing lots of work with contextual bible studies and gender based violence. I told her that before seminary I used to say, “what the devil meant for evil God meant for God.” However, my theological training has caused me to question what this really means. She encouraged me to remember who God is for me. And noted that throughout her life the experiences that she thought were going to take her out is what actually drives her in the work that she does now. Those bad experiences, those bad relationships, those rough times actually allow her to be able to minister and serve the way that God has called her to. So today, I embrace again, “WHAT THE DEVIL MEANT FOR EVIL GOD MEANT FOR GOOD!” Hi-FIVE! ☺

Sometimes I think about my life and I am like, “God, really, what’s going on? Why am I here? What are you preparing me for?” But, then I stop over analyzing and I realize just how good God is. My professor here often talks about my Pentecostal background and my faith in God. I told her 2 years ago that I was going to come to South Africa for the summer and that I believed God. 2 years later, she couldn’t believe that I actually made it here. This week I did not have a ride to go visit an AIDS clinic I wanted to visit. I told my professor that it would all work out. Last night I met a student who agreed to drive me to the clinic, and she actually knew already where it was in this rural area of the country. Today my professor stated, “I wish I had your faith.” She stated, “I am a liberalist, but I wish I had your faith.” The bible says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed it can move mountains. If we believe, if we truly believe in God and in the gifts that God has given us in our own uniqueness we can go anywhere, we can do anything, we can accomplish anything. Now, I am not saying that I never doubt. We are all human. But, what I am saying is when you believe, have faith, and trust in something beyond yourself the unthinkable, unimaginable can happen.

I have approximately 2 more weeks left in South Africa. It is quite hard to believe that time is flying by so fast. I am making friends. I am seeing new things. I am hearing so many African languages daily. I am seeing the beauty of Africa and it’s people. I am seeing the beauty of intelligence and the privilege of education. I am seeing a history of people who have been oppressed and who have also been liberated in a sense. I am seeing and reading the Bible in a new, liberating way. I am seeing really how good God is. This week for the first time in my life, while in prayer I unconsciously started calling God, Abba (Aramaic word for daddy, papa). I am grateful.

Tomorrow I will be going to visit a hospital called the Don McKenzie Hospital located in the Valley of 1000 Hills. This place serves a lot of people with Tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the entire world. How intense is that! I will be visiting the hospital with a group of New York University Public Health Students. I hope to also go to this place that still preserves traditional Zulu culture. I’m going to a funeral on Saturday, another contextual bible study, then to a local church on Sunday. Next week I have class, will visit another HIV and AIDS org, the World Methodist Conference, another day with Ms. Ela Gandhi and the Gandhi Development Trust, then off to Cape Town, South Africa to spend 5 days with Sivan! Life is Good! Dare to Dream! PLEASE.


Argrow "Kit"

PS: I have not been taking as many pictures because I have been around people and often don’t want to seem like the tourist on campus taking pictures of daily behavior! :-p My mother turned 61 last Sunday! I do miss my family and friends. But technology is the best! The lizard in my bathroom had to be captured by the maintenance man who helped me! The lizard and I were not good roommates! Until next time...

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