Monday, June 21, 2010

Doors and Windows in the Wall

Doors and Windows in the Wall

I am uneasy with the saying, “Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window.” I understand the meaning, of course, but windows are not intended for travel; the saying leaves me feeling that God is restrictive.

I prefer the road metaphor - “This is the path to which I have been called to go.” One of my favorite books as a child, A Door in the Wall, blends the two metaphors: [When thou comest to a wall,] “thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.”

I borrow the phrase this week since I have the opportunity to walk a different road than I initially planned: BYU has rejected my request to go to Capetown and its accompanying World Cup match. Indeed, my coordinator (the person in charge of all the facilitators and all of the BYU Field Study students around the world) has strictly forbidden it, “walled it off.” Fortunately, I will still be able to attend a match in Port Elizabeth, but I was disappointed not to be able to travel the “Garden Route” from East London to Capetown. The landscapes and destinations along the route are supposed to be stunningly beautiful, and Capetown itself is said to be one of the prettiest places in South Africa. I had also looked forward to climbing Table Mountain and thereby bagging my first summit on the African continent. Both the mountain and the route will have to wait. I'll extend my future Kilimanjaro journey and tour South Africa first, take a trip through Malawi, and then conquer the shortest of the seven summits.

However, I find that this new set of opportunities may be as or more rewarding than a jaunt to Capetown. The evening I found out my request was denied, I was asked to escort someone to a “matric farewell.” This is the equivalent of a South African prom, but has the pomp and festival of a Latin American sweet sixteen celebration. It's entirely platonic – the girl is sixteen, I think – but it will be an interesting experience; a different side of Africa. Similarly, that same evening I was invited to accompany some local fisherman on one of their trips in the bay and out into the ocean. Although this may not initially sound fun to a non-fisherman, the sardine are currently making their run to Durban. Every time these fisherman go out, they see dolphins, whales, birds of prey, and interesting fish. On many occasions, the dolphins are close enough to touch; last week, a whale surfaced no more than 100 meters away. Also, I enjoy fishing, so enjoyment is guaranteed on that front as well.

I now have a chance to go to the annual Grahamstown Arts Festival; it's a yearly cultural event featuring dance, theatre, film screenings, live music, and a host of other activities. There's one performance in particular – San, a representation of the Khoi-San people - that I intend to attend. Again, it's another side of Africa; South Africa's own expression of itself through the performing arts. I was looking forward to South Africa's natural and historic wonders; along this path, I get to experience the living, human symphony as well.

I get another week to conduct research, including another two Sundays worth of meetings in my congregations. I don't have to miss sacrament meeting and can continue to work with my young men. I have been praying for help to do what I need to do here; that prayer has been answered through one way being hedged up, and another opened, blessed, and prospered. “Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy way and defend thee! Surely His goodness and mercy will ever attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who, with His love, doth befriend thee! … Hast thou not seen how all thou needest hath been granted in that He ordaineth?” (“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” Hymns no. 72)

I was stopped in a restaurant this past week by an inebriated man. We had a brief conversation, and then he said something profound: “You have something you need to do in this life. You don't know what it is – you must think about it a lot, and [pray] a lot [and figure it out].” Though intoxicated, what he said was true. I thought the Lord wanted me to go to Indonesia and Capetown; instead, He has provided other opportunities that will better enable me to do what I need to do. In this case literally, “it may not be on a mountain height … my Lord will have need of me” (“I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns no. 270)

I realize as I write that the “doors” the Lord closes are only windows onto daydreams; the “windows” he opens are pathways leading to our purpose, our eternal growth, and our ultimate exaltation. Indeed, it is often through the walls He puts in our way that we are led along the pathway we should go, until we come to the doors leading to the right experiences and the best blessings.

This is the lighthouse at West Bank. My hostess is starting a little catering business on the weekends, so I helped her nephew go and pick up tables this past Saturday from a restaurant down by the harbor.

And here was my first look at real Sprigboks! In their native, golf-course habitat! The Springboks are kind of a national symbol for South Africa. The national rugby team are called the Springboks, and South Africans are justifiably proud of them - they won the last Rugby World Cup, and are probably in the top three teams currently. (In fact, a Church member told me that the cricket team is also in the top ten, as are several other teams. Apparently, it's ONLY the soccer team that isn't in the top ten; Bafana Bafana is ranked 96th in the world.

Here is what I spent a good part of the week doing. I volunteered with a Baptist church's soccer camp, and helped to make sandwiches. I became the official logistics guy - it wasmy job to keep an accurate count and sort of the different types of sandwiches, which went to which leaders, etc. (once some of the sandwiches had been made and bagged. Until that point, I was part of the line). We got better thoughout the week - by Friday, we turned out 201 sandwiches in less that an hour and a half. It was actually pretty fun. Keenan, one of the young men, and I determined that if we made 200 sandwiches at 1R each, and sold each one for 5R (about 75cents, and the going rate for cheap food on Oxford St), that would be 800R profit each day, for about an hour and a half's work. Not shabby. The other people helping told us we were on our own, though - what, who doesn't want to make hundreds of sandwiches day, indefinitely?

Here are the YSAs at a fun Karaoke night on Saturday evening. It was a good group.

I opened the evening with the Backstreet Boys' "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely." In my defense, I only knew the chorus (I am a man, after all), but made sure to ham it up. Sadly, the person I asked to take pictures struggled a bit with my camera, so we only got blurry images, but one person got a video of it, so it is recorded somewhere.

They're probably planning on using it for blackmail, actually, now that I think about it.

The uppermost image, in the body of the post, is a picture of a really nice restroom (read: literally including a chandelier and mirror mosaic) in a girls elementary school. I was going for an abstract photo (remember, it's deep), but then thought it worked well with the title and so left it up at the top.

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