South Africa – but a brief pause…

Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg… SA you’ve shown me many sides of yourself. And you haven’t been bashful or reserved … for the most part you’ve unapologetically said, “This is us, this is who we are.”

These two months in SA introduced me to people, attitudes and beliefs as different from one another as different can be. It would be similar to putting together a picture of America by visiting New York City, Mobile (Alabama), El Paso (Texas), and Monterey, California. The food and language (if only the accent) change, the common stories, the culture, the weather, the topography, the worldviews … and often very largely the politics take on varied and different images, heroes and villains, mantras and foci … for life looks a little different depending on the vantage point you have. History, choices and opportunities deal different cards and cards dealt don’t necessarily feel very fair or make clear sense.

South Africa I am nowhere near figuring you out …

…so let’s just pause the conversation while I head up to Jerusalem. I’ll be there for a couple months. In the Holy Lands I will begin to experience both the sacred and the secular of a place that provokes many images as well … everything from majesty and triumph to division and fear.

So till next time SA…

May God continue to heal your wounds and bless your efforts to reconcile and find justice. May God bring enough to those who know only want. May God relieve those who burden themselves with hate. And may God bring wholeness to all your people.

I like the “s”

I’ve been in a place called Lutheran Theological Institute (LTI) in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. It’s about 60 kilometers North of Durban. It is pretty much on the opposite side of the country from Cape Town. It’s a different state with a different dominant culture and language, Zulu.  But here on campus the students come from all over Africa. My roommate is from Zimbabwe, and other friends are from Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia and, of course, South Africa. There is also a large Indian population.

It’s a stew of nationalities, ethnicities and ideologies.

LTI is connected with and right across the street from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). LTI is a Lutheran college and UKZN is a secular university with a Department of Theology. LTI is steeped in traditional liturgy and church structures. UKZN’s Department of Theology is a school of liberation with a history of fighting apartheid through liberation theology and a progressive stance.

I have been attending a few classes and lectures mostly at UKZN. One of the classes I really enjoy is an African Worldviews theology course. The class proves over and over again that the most significant letter in African Worldviews, is the letter “s.” Just like the class, this place is varied, colorful and challenging. It has plenty of mind blowing contradictions and discrepancies. It has thoughtful conversations and mutual interest. I like the “s.”

I might be in class at UKZN but I live, eat and attend daily chapel at LTI. Some pictures of LTI…

Goodbye India…

India you loved me, you hated me, you fed me, you starved me, you clothed me, you stripped me of my expectations, you shocked me, you gave me a gentle peace, you shared your stories with me, you gossiped behind my back, you kept me separate from you and you took me in as one of your own…

India you clarified, confused, challenged and helped me to better understand me, my hopes, my prejudices, my way of seeing the world … You gave me many opportunities to think twice, notice the subtleties and consider a different way to react and to be…

I see you differently than before I arrived … not better, not worse just more truly, more humanly, less naively.

Goodbye India … don’t forget me, I will never be able to forget you …you are now a part of who I am.

I’ll see you again … some day …but for now, I will carry you in my heart …

(And no I’m not back in the states … my next post – South Africa…)