Originally posted April 30, 2012, at Grow. Serve. Love. Republished with permission of the author.
April was quite an emotional month for several reasons: My parents and sister were able to visit me for a week around Easter, and the other 11 ELCA volunteers and I had to say goodbye at a short, impromptu retreat to our country coordinators, the Konkols, as they returned home to the United States.
It was a month full of happiness, sadness and thoughtfulness, as we prepared to say goodbye to the two people who had guided us through the uncertainties, the joys and the struggles that the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program can present, as I prepared for my family’s visit, and with the Easter festivities as well.
I was a little apprehensive about what was in store for Holy Week in South Africa, I had heard stories of people sleeping and staying in the church from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday and people visiting the graveyard Easter morning, among many other stories. So I was unsure what Holy Week meant for me in Mabopane.
Luckily, my congregation is not among the few that sleep there the whole week or visit graveyards at dawn, but it is among the few that has one service on Maundy Thursday evening, then two on Good Friday. I worked it out; I went to my friends’ (Lerato and Petunia’s) church three times within 24 hours, a certain first for me.
Maundy Thursday was quite solemn with Holy Communion, which I expected. The morning Good Friday service was a regular service, and then the children of Khutsong (Lerato and Petu’s congregation) performed a skit of Jesus’ final days.
The afternoon Good Friday service was by far my favorite. It was the seven words uttered by Jesus on the cross. Seven pastors were invited; each took 10 to 15 minutes to give a short sermon about each of the words. It was definitely one of my favorite services I have attended so far, even if I did not understand it all.
Then there was Easter on Sunday, my second favorite service for a few reasons. My family was there to attend it, which was wonderful, but also it was incredibly joyous, lots of singing and lots of dancing (we even got my parents to dance a bit).
My family arrived on the Saturday before Easter, and, as I mentioned, we spent that Sunday at Modisa in Mabopane. My family seemed to enjoy the service, but it was their first experience of a four-plus-hour service (there were 16 baptisms and one confirmation), so they were rightfully a little tired by the end. We spent a few days in Pretoria/Mabopane, as I wanted them to see what it is I have been doing, and a few other days in Cape Town before they had to head home. The best day was taking them to the crèche and school. They loved meeting all of my kids and my kids loved them. I was happy for them to finally see why I love Mabopane and South Africa so much.
One of the most interesting things during my family’s visit was the opportunity I had to experience South Africa through their eyes. Everything we did and saw, for the most part, I had already seen or done, so it was cool to see them put pictures to the words.
They’ve all heard so much about “kombi” (taxi) rides and life around Mabopane, but for them to see it for themselves was great. It was also cool for me, because it was the first time I got to see someone experience South Africa for the first time (besides myself, but that doesn’t count). I got to witness what shocked them, what surprised them, what puzzled them and what they loved. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed having them here, showing them my “home.”
The day my parents and sister left I had to head to Pietermaritzburg for the unplanned retreat due to the Konkols’ upcoming departure from South Africa and the role of country coordinators. The majority of time was spent talking about how we move on, how we say goodbye to our sites, etc. It caused most of us a little bit of anxiety to begin thinking about leaving three months away, but Brian and Kristen know what they are doing, and they are right.
We don’t need to focus on leaving, but we need to prepare ourselves so that we are not in absolute distress come July. It was hard to say goodbye to the people that were the most supportive this entire year, who understood exactly what was happening and guided me through my joys and struggles. Though it was the right move for them and their family, they will be sorely missed over the next 2½ months.
Find a link to Elizabeth Daubert’s blog Grow. Serve. Love. at Lutheran Blogs.