I’m Not on Vacation Anymore…

…So you may be wondering what I’ve been doing in South Africa besides being a tourist. Though my first three weeks were filled with exciting excursions and stimulating events, everything has finally begun to settle down with the start of classes. I am thoroughly enjoying all of my core courses, which include Poverty and Development, Social Research Methods, and Xhosa (the most prominent African language of the Western Cape – it has clicks!). Each of these courses is designed to directly inform and enhance our service experience in the townships.

I, along with two others from my program (Ore and Dania), have chosen to work at Masiyile Secondary School in Khayelitsha throughout the semester. We’ve been visiting the site more frequently within the past few days, and I am becoming more and more convinced that this is exactly where the Lord wants me! The first time we were introduced to the classroom environment was…let’s just say…interesting. Mrs. Matyatya brought us to her “Life Orientation” class and, deciding to deviate slightly from her original lesson plan, wrote a word on the board that made the students instantly erupt with awkward yet infectious laughter.

Students Erupting with Laughter During Matyatya's "Talk"

I can safely say that I did not expect to get a sex talk that day, but it was interesting to notice the stark differences between this ad hoc lesson and the education commonly received in the U.S. The primary emphasis was on how HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancy can impede students’ ability to escape poverty. In fact, this aim was integrated into the curriculum in one of the math classes I attended as well. While teaching the kids about multiplication, Mrs. Matyatya asked them to close their eyes and imagine how different their lives would look if they had R195,000 (the amount that one could potentially earn per year after graduating from university). With this prosperity in mind, she reminded them repeatedly of the importance of studying hard to one day “achieve their dreams.”

Though I was somewhat disheartened by the idolizing of wealth and material goods, I realized that there was a deeper underlying issue: economic injustice. When asked about her R195,000 fantasy, one young girl confessed that she would like to add an extension to her one-room “house,” which currently accommodates a family of six. This circumstance not only goes unaddressed here in South Africa, but reflects the common reality of millions. Others fantasized about cars and other gadgets, only to be left with disappointment, realizing that the given sum of money would only put a small dent in the cost of the desired item.

The Reality of Life in Khayelitsha

Today we met with our academic coordinator who spoke about our capstone project, which is to be completed by the end of the semester. In addition to the service that we do on a daily basis, we are also to engage in a greater capacity by doing in-depth research or implementing a project that meets a specific identified need. As Ore, Dania, and I spend more time at Masiyile, we are becoming more aware of different areas that could be strengthened within the school.

After talking with Mrs. Matyatya, it was evident that very few students that graduate from Masiyile actually pass their exams and make it to university. She was sad to regret that most students never escape poverty and at best, end up working as store clerks or maids in white neighborhoods. Her own miraculous story is one of unwavering fortitude and fervent determination to break the cycle of poverty that had kept her family in bondage. However, many of the students, Matyatya admitted, are weighed down by the reality around them…it’s binding, it’s hopeless, but it’s all they know. All too often, their true potential remains untapped and God’s purposes for their lives remain unfulfilled.

A Quote From the District Six Museum

So that’s our simple task…to instill hope, infuse purpose, draw out strengths, and empower students to see beyond their reality. Easy, right? Oh man…I’m going to need a lot of guidance and wisdom, so please pray for me as I seek to discern God’s will here at Masiyile. “I can do nothing on my own…I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 5:30

*Pray for a powerful night of worship tomorrow during the Hillsong concert here at the University of Cape Town!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mallory aka Your Sister
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 00:03:56

    Keep on seeking Jesus in the secret place that is where He will put fire in you. Sustain your intimacy with Him. Be naked before the Lord. Matthew 6: 5-6. A place of solitude is key to keep the fire of God burning inside.

    Reply

  2. Janet
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 04:56:21

    I think the lack of hope and empowerment is problem in more places than just cape town africa! I will pray that everyone realizes their true potential in Christ and that that would provide eternal hope! I hope the Hillsong concert is mind-blowing!

    Reply

  3. Dad
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 12:51:08

    Hi Hon,

    We will be praying for discernment and guidance as you seek God’s will for your capstone project work. Just remember God created us each as individuals with unique skills so try and stay true to yourself while expanding the skills and abilities that God has blessed you with. I am sure He will be walking with you the whole way.
    Love Dad

    Reply

  4. Robin
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 14:40:16

    Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. 1 Chronicles 16:29
    Sharing my bible verse for the day – thanks for sharing and love the seeing the pictures of the country and you!!!

    Reply

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