Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turning Point

Occasionally, there come points in life, larger than normal, that change the course of our behavior. One such point came to me. Point is the wrong term – it's more of a turn, a curve rather than a discrete angle. One such turn came to me this past week, as I battled with a second bout of culture shock. This round was not so much a panic as a general unease, a nervousness in everything I did, the continual feeling of being a “fish out of water.”

These feelings were exacerbated by my attendance at a Pentecostal (I had originally thought they were Baptist, hence their inclusion in my research) Getaway weekend. Not only was I struggling with South African cultural expectations, but also with the difficulty of adapting to and operating in a different religious paradigm than my own. (Not that this involved many direct, external stimuli – most of this battle was in my head).

The trouble with the Pentecostal congregation really brought to a head the other difficulties I've been having. The people were wonderful – that wasn't the issue at all - I simply didn't know how to respond appropriately to them (in terms of humor, topics of conversation, etc – the thousand little things that cue and guide our actions everyday). Because of my unfamiliarity with this South African culture – my inability to speak the “language” of this country - I had been paralyzed with fear of offending someone. I was acting out of cowardice. Not that my behavior itself was all that different – simply, my motivation was fear and doubt, leading to over-caution and a lack of confidence in everything I did.

After feeling, and probably being, uncomfortable for about a day (the camp was a three day affair), I went paddling on a “paddle-ski” (like a kayak that one doesn't sit into, just on top of), I thought about it, and decided to be confident. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, come what may. I'll try my best, and if I fail, or offend people, or whatever – so be it.

There was a lot of divine help with that decision; it was made in prayer. That change had been building for about a week - I found out this week that I will not be going to Indonesia this year, as I did not receive a Boren scholarship. I was selected as an alternate, which is an honor, but it was still disappointing. I was grappling with some of that disappointment when I made my decision.

The decision made, I have seen a stream of blessings flow from it. Everything is falling into place. The person who had taken my previous teaching job contacted me and said that they would seek employment elsewhere, so I may have a position when I return. Similarly, I was blessed, the day before I found out about Indonesia, to see the benefits of not going – graduating a year earlier, opportunities to date and get married, and opportunities to teach in East Asia over the summers.

Choosing to shed my fear and live in faith – for that is what I believe happened – has enabled me to enjoy my experience here to much greater degree. Do I have to like this food? NO! But will I taste it to be polite? Yes! Will I try to like it out of love for the people? Yes! Does that mean it is or that I should pretend it's pleasant the first time? No! Do I really like this particular thing (about South Africa, about America, w/e)? Yes – regardless of what a local, or a fellow American, thinks about it. Faith seems to give a person the opportunity to be themselves, genuine, to be different from others. Fear demands conformity, shuns the challenge of independence, and denies an individual the right to think or believe as they wish.

Faith also allows the Lord to speak to us; “by faith miracles are wrought,” especially the miracle of revelation, “for he had first seen these things with an eye of faith.” That seems to be a key to this life – that we walk in faith, without seeing (That's a Swedish translation. We walk by faith, and not by sight, is the proper English). Since choosing to be confident, I have had an easier time hearing the Lord's direction and following it.

I therefore testify of the scripture, “I would that ye were hot or cold.” Be decisive. Live in faith, not fear. “Whatever thou doest, do it wholeheartedly.” If you fail, fail giving it your best shot. Be committed to what you do. Win or lose, believe in what you're doing – and if you're doing wrong, change. Either way, don't doubt. Ponder, consider, decide, and follow through.

This has become a sermon, but I one directed at myself. I share because this is probably the best description of my week.

As a note of some of the other things going on – The World Cup has begun! The first day was exciting – the morning before the opener, I went into town and bought a Bafana Bafana jersey from a peddler on the street, and also bought a vuvuzela (one of the African horns that soccer fans are using. Vuvuzela means to kill with sound; apparently, it was originally an instrument used to stun or kill baboons. The noise it produces is supposed to mimic an elephants trumpet.) People were honking horns, and blowing vuvuzelas everywhere – the cacophony was amazing, and joyous. The person I was walking with remarked that the World Cup was really bringing South Africa together – whites, blacks, coloureds, and Indians were all cheering on Bafana Bafana together, and everyone was blowing the vuvuzela in support (even if they'd hated it a few months ago). It's a fun and exciting time.

And it's a fun and exciting time for me as well. I'm learning a lot, growing, changing. I'm having fun with photography, and taking a lot more pictures – I'll have to show you all when I get home. Things are going well, my project is coming along beautifully, and I feel that the Lord is with me. Who could ask for more?


Here is a sunrise in Cintsa, where I attended that Pentecostal camp. The location was beautiful, so I made sure to get up early Saturday morning and catch the sunrise. I wasn't disappointed - it was a fantastic experience.

Here's an interesting war memorial, to Boer-Afrikaners who fought in the First World War. This monument is at Buffalo City Public FET College (basically a Junior college) - now called Walter Sisulu University. Sisulu was a black freedom fighter in the apartheid years.

Cintsa again - the camp was beautiful. I was taking pictures all day - I think I ended up with about 400 - but couldn't get the midday ones to work until I tried close ups of some interesting plants. Here's one of my favorites from that little shoot.

This is my friend, Chris, on a paddle ski. Chris was the one who invited me along. This is Saturday evening.

Here is a little girl, Raywen, with a butterfly she found.

Here are two of the teenagers I was working with over the weekend - Cloey and Lynnae, if I remember correctly.

Sunrise again, a little earlier than the previous picture.

Saturday, sunset on Cintsa beach at the Cefani Resort.

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