Thursday, June 4, 2009

Some crazy stories and crazier insights...

Hey friends out there!

I'm sorry I've been horrible at keeping my promise of writing something every week. Life has been Hectic - thats right, with a capital H. The wedding that is taking place here in South Africa takes place in only 5 weeks so I've been doing an enormous amount of preparation for it plus my regular work and the evening class that I do twice a week. Can I just say, I'm exhausted?!


But I have been thinking about writing - even though there has been an absence, I've been thinking about what to say and how to say it. Some funny things have happened lately that all center around our observations about those around us. It has taught me a few things about the importance of communication and interaction and I thought maybe I could share it with you. Let me share the crazy examples first.

Example #1 - I was asked by a Zulu friend here if it was true if white girls wore clothespins on our noses when we are small and thats why our noses are so pointed.

Example #2 - I met an old white lady at my bus stop. It happened to be Ascension Day and she told me about how she had gone to great lengths to see if the buses were running that day because it was a Christian Holiday. She assured me that they were and said, "Do you want to know why? Its because blacks aren't Christians so they don't celebrate Christian holidays."

Example #3 - I was asked by a dear Zulu friend if I knew how to wash dishes. I made a joke about her not liking my Canadian dish washing technique and asked her why she was asking me this. She said, "No, I just thought that white people always had maids".


Interesting hey? The perceptions that people have of one another...

But it made me wonder, what types of perceptions do we have about one another back at home that are inaccurate, whether they are cultural or not... I'm sure it happens more often than we know.

These 3 examples also illustrate the rift that still exists between races in South Africa even now that Apartheid has ended. Its crazy, isn't it? Its not that theres fighting or hostility but it just shows how apart the people here can sometimes be and how unknown other people groups can be too. I'm not sure if this is the same in other cities in South Africa but it is definetly true for the city of Durban. Sometimes it moves me to anger and sometimes things make me laugh but I am always surprised.

One thing that it teaches me is the importance of reaching out to others and sharing with them. I remember when I lived and worked in Belfast we often stressed the importance of doing this when doing Reconciliation workshops. During one of these workshops I heard a great Native American story about the topic that goes a little something like this: "There were two tribes that had long been at war. One day the cheifs of the tribes realized how much blood of their people had been shed and together, decided to send out the strongest brave from each side to fight each other on behalf of the people. A time was set and the tribes lined up to watch the outcome of the battle. The two braves met and fought and fought and fought. They were so evenly matched that the battle didn't end quickly but went on into the evening. Soon the sun began to set and it was decided that the men would stop their fighting and resume again when the sun rose. The onlookers retired to their homes and the two men laid on their backs in the grass, trying to get comfortable for the night. After a while one man sighed and said to the other, "my children are in bed now". The other man, shocked, sat in silence for awhile and then asked him, "you have children?". The two men began to ask each other questions about their families. When the sun rose that morning the onlookers returned and saw the two men sitting across from one another. They had been sitting together, sharing with each other all night. Seeing the onlookers made them remember what they were meant to do and they looked at each other... "How can I fight a friend?"....

Interesting story hey? It illustrates how we can often demonize the "other" person without knowing about them. Without knowing how they live, that they have a family, that they are just a person too who need love, forgiveness and make mistakes. This sounds all warm and fuzzy after a good story but its tough to apply it in real life after a history of conflict between cultures or, after someone has done something that has really hurt us on an individual basis but... its got to possible.

You know what, actually I think that the ability to forgive is one of those things that cause a distinction between humans and animals. Someone told me that if you throw a rock at a monkey, they will go and get a bigger rock and throw it at you. If you throw a stick at a monkey, they will go and get a heavier stick and throw it at you. If you aim for their body, they will aim for your head. Crazy little animals, hey? But we humans do the same thing - our ability to forgive is something divine - something that makes us different.

Sometimes, here in South Africa, I feel a bit like a bridge between two cultures. One one side of the bridge I explain to people how "the other" group can really be, on the other side of the bridge I do the same. Its a bit frustrating at times but kind of fun and interesting too.

Another thing this makes me realize is how different Mthoko and my relationship is here in South Africa. To me, Mthoko is just Mthoko and I am just me. We've always been friends and I know him. Hes just like me in a lot of ways. I don't think of his as "black" and he doesn't think of me as "white". I think when you're really friends with someone, labels like this don't even cross your mind. Haha, but people don't understand this when they see us from the outside and what shockwaves we must make! We've gotten some very interesting responses from people here - some positive, some negative - but I know that God is doing something to restore this country somehow... even when it seems impossible sometimes. I don't always like being such a political statement but, I like being with my best friend and thats what I choose to focus on.

But with this, guys, I realize how much we need your prayers. We've got 5 weeks of preparation left for our big wedding here and although we do covet your prayers for God's provision with all of the plans, we need your prayers for protection, wisdom and unity (and any other blessing you want to bestow!) even more so. Please pray guys.

Thanks so much for reading these funny little blogs. Hope you guys are well. Feel free to drop me an email. I'd love to hear from you and I look forward to seeing you guys at some point in the future! I'm back in Canada, August 6th for 3 weeks. Bring on the good times!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Little Message From This Side of the World.

Hi everyone,
Just thought I would update this little blogspot. I haven't really gotten to any of the good stuff - the good news. Over my past few blogs I've told you about the challenges, the culture shock and shown pictures of the new apartment but I haven't told you about....

My new job. Although some of you may have heard.

So to fill you in, about a month ago my friend and pastor, Sizwe Mthembu came to me and asked me how things were going. I told him about the challenges I've been facing with adjusting to a new country, work challenges, church challenges, etc. Then he asked me about the wedding plans...


Haha, the plans for our wedding have also been challenging - try planning a wedding in a foreign country - but they are coming together bit by bit. After I spoke for a bit, Sizwe told me that a position had opened up in the business that he is apart of for a Personal Assistant for himself to call clients, book appointments, etc. He said that he would love it if I could help him and that in return he could help me out with wedding funds. It would also mean that I could move into the city of Durban and live a lot closer to Mthoko so that we could also be closer to work on plans for the wedding. It all came together rather quickly. I remember Sizwe spoke to me about all of this on a Monday and then already on a Wednesday I came into town to speak with the people at his office. I then participated in a staff training session on Thursday and got right to work! I've been here in the office for a month already and have been learning a lot.

And God has been speaking to me too. Initially when Sizwe offered this position I thought, "It doesn't really fit in line with my desire to work with kids or contribute to South African society" but the more I thought about it the more it just seemed to fit. Sizwe runs two churches, he is the president of World Changers Academy (which I was previously working with), he works as a team facilitator and motivational speaker and, is also a financial advisor. Working for him, for someone who has started an NGO, is an amazing opportunity because my long term vision is actually in line with this - one day I would like to start a little somethin' of my own. I've been a part of many organizations and orphanages in the past in several different countries. The more I pray about it, the more I feel like God has been preparing me to start something new and fresh and different at some point in the future. In a lot of orphanages I've seen, the orphanages themselves work as just a transition place and not neccessarily a home. I remember in Haiti, the nannies had their favorites, the other children were left to the side, and, as in many orphanages around the world, lost kids continued to remain.... well.... lost. The kids just had to learn how to survive - even at the age of say 15 months... and when kids are just thinking about surviving do you think that the process of healing from their past life and issues of abandonment is even a possibility? No way. And you know what? I know thats not the will of God.

In Ezekiel 34, God speaks about what it means to be a great leader. Part of what He says is that we need to go out and rescue the lost and take care of the weak and broken who can't take care of themselves. As I think about starting some sort of childrens home in the future, I want this home to be different - why can't a home be a place of healing for children? As I sit and dream about the future, I think it would be amazing to someday have a place where we could use music, drama, drawing, painting, dancing to help heal kids and let them be kids again. To bring in professionals to teach kids who would otherwise would not have the opportunity, how to do any of these art forms. Who knows what a project like this could look like... except maybe God? haha.

After I get married to Mtho and receive my Spousal Visa I'll be able to study here for the same price as a local. I've already looked into a few different possibilities that would help equip me for the dream I mentioned above. This is all a dream a few years in the making but I share it with you to show you that God is really in control. I am encouraged. I am where I am supposed to be for right now. God has placed me here. God is currently equipping me. And even right now, God is using me in ways I don't know... this is hard for me to remember sometimes but it is true.

And its true for you too. No matter where you are - you don't have to live overseas but can be at home. You have been placed by God in your particular task today for a reason. God has a plan and a purpose - bigger dreams than we have - for our lives. Its exciting, hey?

Thanks so much for your prayers. Thanks for your ongoing love and encouragement. I love you guys too ;).

Also, just to let you know about the wedding plans on this side, things are moving together. Mthoko and are continually blessed to see things coming together and how God is providing for us. I still need to do some things urgently (uh.. like make the invitations and the wedding is only 10 weeks away! Yipe!) but the venue, the cook, the decor... its all coming together. What I'm most excited about is my bridesmaids. I can't wait to see them and hug them at the airport. I hope we'll get to go on some little trip somewhere to show them the beauty thats in this country.

Alright, thats it for now. Lots of love out to you guys. Write when you can!
Christy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our Flat

I had a few people asking me if they could see pictures of Mtho and my new flat so here some are. Its not very furnished (a bed, a toaster oven, an iron, a kettle and a toaster... and a fridge on the way!) but we're having fun and just starting out this way is such an adventure! I've been living here for 3 weeks now and come July, once Mtho and I are married, we'll share it together. Its a great little place, right near the harbor and nice and central in the city so that we can get most anywhere.



Bedroom



Bathroom




Living Room





Kitchen


And thats all folks!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Postal Address

New Post Address! You can now send mail to:

Christy Reed
508 Haven Court
Fenton Road
Durban
4001

Culture Shock 101

Wow... has it ever been a long time since my last update and... so much has happened. Where do I start to fill you in on life as I now know it?

Last time I wrote I spoke a very little bit about the challenges I had been going through, about the adjustments (which have been huge), about Mthoko and the apartment that we had gotten... so this is how things have progressed. I'll try to include a little more detail.

I mentioned that the challenges - the culture shock that I've experienced here - has been quite different to regular culture shock, I believe. I've experienced culture shock before but its been when I've been living someplace for just 6 months, 1 year or 2 years... never when I've chosen to live somewhere permanently. A whole new reality hits. I don't know if culture shock can be described to someone whose never moved out of their culture to another culture before but... I'll try.

It is a good stretching opportunity - I think often times people equate culture shock as being something negative. But it is challenging in a good way. I feel like a stronger person and any amount of overcoming, no matter how small or big it might be, makes me feel like I've conquered the world and accomplished something great - and I think I have!

I've been getting used to ways of doing things, to different perspectives and to a totally different environment and this is where the shock comes in - sometimes I would just rather revert back to what I know. Sometimes I hate the way something might be done here... but I'm learning.

One thing I've really learnt through all this culture shock is, not to fall to extremes. What does this mean? Well, it seems normal to think that it would be possible for someone, in the face of so many different ways of doing things, of thinking, etc., to think that their way is best and stubbornly stick to it at any cost. However, its also possible for someone to want to become a part of a culture so much that they are willing to give up their own ways and totally take on the new culture's ways. I think this was my mistake during my first few months. I knew this move would be permanent so I thought that the best way to transition easily would be to take on South Africa's way of doing things... But then I realized something...

I realized that what I was trying to do was impossible and actually, not that healthy. I had good intentions but in my heart, I am Canadian. And I love being Canadian. I love my country. I love my friends and family back at home. I love the way I was raised. I love the landscape of the country I come from. I still don't love the weather but... maybe I just need to live overseas for a little while longer? Haha, maybe then I'll come to miss snow too.

Anyway, I realized that in adjusting, I needed to maintain some balance and an open mind. Its key when going through an experience like this one to listen to all differences but to decide what works for me and what doesn't... not take on everything regardless of how it meshes or doesn't mesh with my Canadian world view and practices. I am a Canadian living in South Africa - not a South African living in South Africa and its okay for me to be me. I like that.

So this is a little of what I've been going through. Its taken some time to reach these conclusions even though the truths I've discovered seem so simple. Its taken some times of frustration, some tears, some hugs, a very understanding fiance and some great feelings of finallly overcoming as I do small things like take the bus by myself, walk downtown by myself and find new places and discover new things (for security reasons - because South Africa is much more dangerous than home, I haven't been able to do a lot of things independently until just recently. You can imagine how that made me feel being so used to hop in the car and go anywhere I felt at home. At times I would joke with friends here about needing a bodyguard or a babysitter wherever I went. However now, being able to venture out on my own feels so so good and I have a sense of ownership of where I live).

Alright, I've already written a tonne and haven't really gotten to how things have changed since I last wrote. I think I may just give you some time to read through this gigantic update and I'll write more later. Things are settling down now so there should be no more changing ahead for at least a little while. Thats it for me from now... and I promise to update again in a week.
Lots of love to all!
Christy

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prayers....

Hi everyone,

Sorry it has been awhile since I wrote something. Life has somehow gotten very hectic over here and at times, I have found it very, very challenging. To fill you in a bit, and to be honest, I've been finding the adjustment to a new culture for a permanent period of time very difficult. I'm currently talking to Mthoko about everything - he has been a big comfort to me - and I've also been speaking with leaders from our church and from World Changers, the org I am working with. I'm thankful I have great friends.

But, I also have exciting news, only 3 more months to the wedding and God has been taking care of everything. Our plane tickets are taken care of for traveling to and from Canada. My bridesmaids are able to come to the wedding in South Africa. And.... Mthoko and I found our first apartment! I love it and at some point will be posting photos of it. Its a great little place near the harbour and its safe too so I can get out and walk around and take a little more ownership of my corner of South Africa than I've been able to while living in an organization base out in the boonies. I'm so excited to have a home.

Mthoko has been an amazing support through all the adjustments I've been going through. Last night he came to surprise me at the base, just to see how I was doing and make sure I was ok. The surprise was so good as I wasn't expecting to see him for awhile and actually wasn't doing too well with all the challenges lately. He truly is my best friend.

Thats just a little bit for now. I'll update you as things progress here. Thanks for supporting me and praying for me. I know I'm a funny little missionary of sorts - I'm not really connected to an organization or a mission as most people are when they come to be a missionary in another country. But I know I'm called to love people here. Lately thats been difficult so please pray for me as I make these big adjustments in adapting to this culture. I know I am called to the message of Isaiah 61: to preach Good News, to bind up the broken, to proclaim freedom, to release people from darkness... I really want to see these things come true here for the people of South Africa. I feel like I come against a lot of spiritual attack. Please pray for me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh, & a little surprise!



We're Officially Engaged!