Monday, September 20, 2010


South Africa is awash with new sights, sounds, and smells. The air is hazy, the earth red and dry. Trees are beginning to bear the first spring blooms, and though the days are hot the temperature drops drastically once the sun has set. It has not rained here in months.

During orientation in Pietermaritzburg we had the opportunity to spend time with Philip Knutson, ELCA Regional Program Assistant for Southern Africa. “South Africa,” he said, “is a beautiful and strenuous place.” I think I know what he means. Beauty is apparent everywhere, but then so is the strenuous reality of apartheid, poverty, social injustice, and HIV/AIDS. I suspect that the longer I am here the tension between these two will only become more apparent. In fact, that tension is probably integral to the very understanding of South Africa, and I will do my best to share this reality with you during the next year.

I safely arrived in Carolina two weeks ago, and have been welcomed into the home of my new family. They live in a house that is located between the town and the township (under apartheid black people were required to live in these townships, which are usually about 1km from town proper). This is now a mixed neighborhood, with Afrikaner and Black families living side by side. So it feels a bit like being in the middle… neither town nor country, black nor white, rich nor poor. Remember what I said about tension? It is present everyday in everything I do, yet I can only hope that with time the tension will ease into familiarity and respect.

I see people walking daily into town from the township, looking for work and food to feed their families. Trees are scarce, and education is prized. The reality of HIV/AIDS is devastating. The rolling hills of this region provide clear grazing for cattle, but also contain multiple cemeteries and informal settlements without any infrastructure to speak of. It is a hard life. For others, it is easier. They own large houses, drive expensive cars, and have more than enough money to survive.

The beauty of my surroundings seems surreal in light of this strenuous reality. As we journey together through this year I hope to be able to share with you just how much this tension shapes the lives and culture of South Africans, and what that means for us as Americans.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Big thanks to all of my September sponsors for getting me started on the right foot!

September 1- Rev. Jim Flachsbart
One year at St. James...

September 1- Rebecca & Keith Long
In celebration of their wedding anniversary and the beginning of new adventures

September 6- Julie Hatch
In remembrance of her father

September 11- JoAnn Goldhammer
Happy Birthday!

September 12- Carl & Dorothy Cottingham
Happy Anniversary!

September 15- Linda Rickert
Just because...