Tag Archives: love

THE MOTHER CITY

Enkosi S-CAPE!

THE MOTHER CITY

THE MOTHER CITY

It has been about a week since returning home, and I am still at a loss of words for what this experience has done in me.  I have been putting off writing this because I don’t think I have the words yet to convey what I truly feel inside. People keep asking how the trip was, and I suppose I should have formulated a better answer, but all I can muster is “it was incredible!”  I have been thinking a lot about the limits of language and pondering how to express these inexplicable feelings of the purest love, joy, peace and hope I have experienced. My time at S-CAPE taught me, just as Thistle Farms proclaims, that love heals! There is truly no other force greater than the power of love.  I feel incredibly grateful to have witnessed the transformation of women by love. To see others glimpse their worth and begin to walk into their fullness, something I too struggle to do everyday. I am crying as I write this sipping my tea at Thistle Farms because it truly feels like a dream. But this is what heaven on earth looks like, and this is my heart for the whole world, to glimpse and walk into this life of love and service to each other.

My project itself looked a bit different than I anticipated, but I am very thankful for that because it was the things I had not planned on that changed me the most.  The goals I had for my five months at S-CAPE included grant writing, working on sustainable business/entrepreneurship projects with the women, assisting with fundraising, and running workshops.  I did indeed work in all of those areas along with many others.

I submitted a grant we are still waiting to hear back on, and compiled a detailed grant application and all supporting documents that S-CAPE can use in the future.  

My sustainable business project manifested more as an entrepreneurship skills training for the residents.  We received a large donation of old costume jewelry, so we used that along with other avenues to develop our entrepreneurship skills.  We began by talking about budgeting, marketing, how to set up an email and how to keep track of revenue and expenses, which we worked on during my workshop time.  Each of the residents designed their own brand for the jewelry and I printed labels for them to retag the jewelry with. We discussed revenue and expenses, along with loans and how to grow a business. The residents each received 20 sets of earrings, bracelets and necklaces as “seed funding” per say.  They reworked the items, retagging them and fixing any broken pieces. We then went to local markets to sell the jewelry at and to learn about our target market. That was probably the most challenging aspect of the project for several reasons. First of all, culturally it was very different. I did not know that the best time to sell at markets is on the second and last weekend of the month because that is when payday is.  Secondly, finding markets that actually fit our target population was difficult. We tended to sell at flea markets, or cheaper, family oriented markets (because we had a lot of kids jewelry) due to the nature of our product. In my head, I wanted Thistle Farm’s quality products, I wanted to be in all the local stores, at the bougie markets where people with lots of disposable income shop, etc, but at this time that is not feasible.  There are two values I held very closely, the first being that I wanted to women to feel empowered selling their product, thus when we went to market, these women were not victims of human trafficking but business women. Secondly, I wanted this project to be culturally relevant and be in line with the goals of the residents. And because of this, entrepreneurship skills training seemed to be a better fit than trying to create a business in my short time there without someone to hand it over too when I left.  We were also very short staffed so inevitably the neverending list of day to day activities of running the organization and keeping up with the Department of Social Development’s standards so we can retain our recently increased funding would take precedence over this baby social enterprise. All this being said, the final phase of the project is that the women have the option to buy a box of jewelry (and there is A LOT of jewelry in each box) for a low price so that they can continue selling jewelry when they leave the safe house if they enjoyed it.  The women also learned to make lip balm which we sold and used in the goodie bags at our fundraiser. Finally, the women learned to knit and made a plethora of beanies and scarves that they also sold. There certainly is an entrepreneurial spirit in the ladies I worked with. Everytime someone new came to the safe house for a workshop, or they went to church, they would take some of their product to sell. It was really powerful and encouraging to see how empowered and at ease they were when selling.

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Fundraising wise, I did help the part time fundraising coordinator in the acquisition of vouchers for our big fundraiser.  I helped create a sponsorship inquiry letter in an effort to get corporate sponsors that will donate a certain amount of say, food, each month to help keep our cost low at the safe house.  That is something really amazing about Cape Town, people are so willing to help, all you have to do is ask!

What I treasured the most though in my work is the amount of time I got to spend with the residents.  From long days at the clinic and home affairs, to workshops and outings, to covering house mother shifts and long car rides, some of my sweetest memories have been in the conversations I had with the women who taught me how to hold great love and great suffering, to embody joy, love, hope and peace while simultaneously holding the tensions and pain of the world and my life.  I miss each of them dearly, and I can hear their laughs in my head right now and them imitating my most used line, “what is happening here folks?”

In the sweetest birthday card and words I have ever received (I am not exaggerating), one of the residents wrote that I was like Esther, and God sent me to bring joy into their lives during a very tough and sorrowful season.  I immediately started to weep and told them that I felt the same way about them. Again, there are no words to convey the feeling I have when I think about the past five months. The only way I can describe it is feeling fully alive.  I experienced and felt love in a way that made me simultaneously want to laugh and cry. Like my insides were the sun and my body a stain glass window. My deepest desire is to reflect the love and joy and hope and peace of Christ through this stain glass window of this wonderful human abode.  I break so more light can be let out and heal so that the colors turn into even more magnificent and mystical hues.

And on that note, I feel it appropriate to share that this is not the end of my journey with S-CAPE!!!  It has been made abundantly clear (which I would love to elaborate on in person) that it is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life.  So, Lord willing, I will be returning to the Mother City in January 2019 for a more long term commitment to the work of S-CAPE! And the will of God is a tricky phrase, but I do believe it is the Lord’s will, if by the will of God we mean as, Thomas Merton says “the will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we submit but a creative act in our life producing something absolutely new . . . something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation (seeking first the Kingdom of God) consists not solely in conforming to laws but in opening our wills out to this creative act which must be retrieved in and by us.”  I am VERY excited for what is to come, and the real challenge is trying to be present in this season and figure out what the next few months mean, as my “five year plan” has drastically changed. But I have a great deal of peace, because I trust the direction I am journeying in now is exactly where I am supposed to be.

On one of my last weeks in Cape Town, I got up to walk on the beach for sunrise as had become my morning ritual.  I was feeling a lot of dissonance, doubt, sorrow about leaving and confusion for what the next six months will hold.  I was walking towards where the sun was supposed to be rising, but there was a thick layer of dark clouds so I turned around to walk back down the beach because it appeared I wouldn’t see the sun glide over the mountaintops this dreary morning.  I was walking and looked up at the mountains in front of me, the greatest contemplatives of all creation as O’Donahue says, and I felt this still, small voice say “Behold, I am doing a new thing” and something in me decided to turn around to look back at the sun and it was the most magnificent sight.  Rays of bright light were breaking through the dark clouds and I just had to laugh at the awe and wonder of the inexplicable mystery of God. I don’t know what this new thing is, but I know I walked home that morning with an insurmountable peace about the uncertain future.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

I am not sure how to neatly tie together the wild, life altering, better than I ever imagined adventure that the past five months has been.  I am forever indebted to the Lumos committee for receiving this opportunity, indebted to S-CAPE for inviting me back and indebted to the women who loved me so well and taught me so much.  This experience has cultivated a deeper compassion, love and authentic joy in my soul and I am very excited to share more about my time at S-CAPE with everyone here in Nashville. Stay tuned for how you can maybe partner with me and the work with S-CAPE in the future too 😉

Enkosi (thank you in Xhosa) for reading and trekking along with me on this journey.  May we live with a deeper understanding of ubuntu, that I cannot be fully me without you, and wake up to the beauty and gift that is the inescapable network of mutuality connecting all beings everywhere.

Friends from around the world

Friends from around the world

Last sunset :(

Last sunset :(

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

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Bye’s, Belmont in Africa & Birthday’s!

I am down to my last two weeks in Cape Town and I have not come to terms with the fact that I actually have to leave.  I am in sheer denial.

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

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“Justice is what love looks like in public” Cornel West

The last week has been filled with many exciting and bittersweet things!  Two of our residents left the safe house, and that is not an easy process for any of us.  One left under less than ideal circumstances, however it was best for the safety and well being of all involved.  The other had decided she wanted to return home, and even though we wish she would have stayed longer to process and work through some things, she left with grace and joy, and we had a proper farewell filled with lots of laughter, tears and faith that her time with us was enough.  One thing that was echoed during her farewell, and the farewell of others, was the love she experienced and how it was unlike anything she had ever known. And that is the heart of S-CAPE and the heart of each of us who work here. Love is not a scarce resource, though society, and many of our circumstances and experiences, would like to tell us otherwise.  On the contrary, love is the essence of all things. It the essence of our being, of God, of the Gospel. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Few places and times in my life has love been so tangible as it is as S-CAPE. The other place that sticks out in my mind is Thistle Farms, and I am not surprised. It seems that humble, honest, hopeful communities of imperfect people pursuing wholeness and living life together are the breeding ground for sanctuaries of love and acceptance.  At S-CAPE and Thistle Farms, and I would venture to say places like the Simple Way and L’Arche, there is a spirit of ubuntu that runs deep and wide, that I am not me without you, and until we are all free, none of us are free. I am so thankful to be apart of the S-CAPE family, and lifetime of learning what it means to love in the way of Jesus.  So to all the residents who have said they had never experienced a love like this, well neither had I.

Some other exciting events that occurred this week were that the Belmont in Africa Maymester arrived and I got to tag along with them!!  It is such an out of body experience seeing my University, some friends and one of the most formative professors in my collegiate experience here in Cape Town.  It has been a long time since I have been around so many Americans! It was exciting to get to re-experience some of my favorite places through the excitement of the students on that Maymester. I also got to share with some of the students about what I am doing here and my favorite places in Cape Town and that was very special for me.

 

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

Finally, it was my birthday!  My second South African birthday!  I turned 22 on May 13 and it was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!! My sweet friends know I love surprises, and so they did just that, surprised me with all my favorite things.  The day started at Jeremy’s (the Belmont in Africa tour guide and my adopted South African father/mentor/friend/life changer) church and we had proper African worship. Then my friend picked us up and took me, my friend from Belmont (who was on the study abroad) and my flat mate to Paarl!! It was magical.  We did a chocolate tasting with all fair trade, organic, ethically sourced and produced chocolate (of course), we petted GOATS!!!! And it is truly amazing how much goats smell like goat cheese (or vice versa). Then we went to a lion and chimpanzee sanctuary, two of my favorite animals!!!! And finally we ended up at my favorite market, Root 44 in Stellenbosch and I ate the spiciest curry of my life.  And to end the day, we hiked my favorite mountain, Lion’s Head at sunset. I celebrated with friends from around the world, at my favorite place in the world, it was truly a dream come true.

"It's my birthday!"-Burno Mars" -Madison Barefield

“It’s my birthday!”-Burno Mars” -Madison Barefield

Friends from around the world!

Friends from around the world!

Paarl!!!

Paarl!!!

little bokkie!

little bokkie!

Today I went for a walk on the beach as I do when I need to process, and I was reminded of the necessity of cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  I keep say that I never want the beauty all around me and the joy of my work to become “normal.” I want to always be surprised, thankful, amazed at the miracle that is life.  I want to recognize every ordinary moment as extraordinary, and every encounter as one with the Divine. There is so much beauty and hope in the world, we must just open our eyes to the magic happening around us all the time.  

I still have a lot of work I want to finish over my next two weeks, like submitting a big grant, helping with some last minute fundraising planning before our event and taking the residents on some special outings.  People keep asking me if I am excited to go home, and as much as I miss my family and friends, Cape Town is my home! It is going to be very difficult to transition back to so much comfort, as strange as that sounds.  As Miriam Adeney said, “you will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

An African Wedding 03/09/2017

My dear Grandmother’s friend had a friend who lived with her in the US when he came to America for college many years ago. He is originally from Tanzania and actually invited me to his nephews wedding! He is the gentleman I talked about in my very first post.

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Please meet Mr. Tony!

I got the chance to go to the wedding and it was WONDERFUL! Everyone was so welcoming and it was such a neat experience to be apart of. Imagine going to a wedding where you can’t understand anything anyone is saying! Of course some spoke English and I understood a few phrases but I couldn’t even try to fit in. I stood out like a zebra in a room painted entirely of pink.  It was so fascinating to see the different traditions compared to a wedding back home. The evening began with Mr. Tony sending a taxi to pick us up and one of his son’s took us home after the wedding. Their kindness was unbelievable.

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Mr. Tony’s daughter who is currently at Uni in Germany but came home for the wedding.

My good friend Simone was my plus 1 since my boyfriend wasn’t in Africa. She killed the dance floor! IMG_6192At the beginning of the reception the husband’s family makes a big line with family members on each side and the brides family walks in between them. Everyone is dancing in the big celebration line and they hug each of their new family members (the members of the brides family) into their family. Simone and I got to be apart of the husband’s side of the family and dance in the line and cheer everyone into the family. We all were seated and then the wedding party comes through and then the bride and groom came dancing in to their song. There was a spokes person at the wedding and TV’s set up everywhere so you could see everything going on.

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The two family’s coming together and the bride and groom in the center!

Weddings are VERY BIG in Africa! Everyone in the community pitches in money for the wedding. If I wrote everything out from the night it would take you a year to read so I am just going to write out the main high lights! Before the bride and groom popped the champagne it went around the entire reception hall and everyone touched it. It was then given to the bride and groom to pop open. There was A LOT of dancing, singing, and ceremonial things that went on.

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This was right before the husband was given the spear.

One of those things was the husband receiving a large spear. It is a tradition in their tribe to get this upon marriage. It shows that he is the man of the house. It is meant to stand up right in his and his wife’s bedroom. However, when he passes away it is supposed to be turned upside down. The wedding began around 5PM and we didn’t start to eat until 10PM. A lot of the foods were from the husbands tribe. I tried a bit of everything (which was A LOT). It was all delicious! We ended up leaving around midnight; however, the wedding was still going on!

It was truly an unforgettable night! They accepted us as family and were so loving.

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Such bright colors everywhere! We were right by the ocean!

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