Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday: Keeping Up with the Homeless

Monday (Dec. 4) was a day of making up for all that rest the team had had the day before.

My pal Susie picked me up at 8 a.m. to get me to the homeless shelter in Muizenberg so I could lead the devotional for the "clients" and staff. They were already gathered when I arrived, so I found a place in the circle and got ready to dive in. I shared some thoughts on Jeremiah 29, not only the passage everyone likes to quote for comfort (29:11-13, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you, not to harm you...") but also the context in previous verses where the Israelites are instructed through the prophet to prepare to be in their exiled (or "homeless") state for quite awhile....not the word they were probably looking for. The point was God is in control even when we are not happy with our circumstances. I finished with my song on that topic, "God Never Says Oops."

During the tea time that followed a few Christmas songs, one of the guys told me he had taken my words to heart. We had a good discussion.

I took some time to step out and take a short walk down the street, to check on the possibility of renting a phone (no dice) and pick up a snack and some vitamin C for my ongoing sinus/cough condition. Forgot they charge 15 cents (100ths of a rand) for sacks, so when I asked for one after paying for my purchase, I sensed the cashier was hiding a bit of irritation at having to ring it up separately. Live and learn!

By the time I returned the team had arrived and the Christmas luncheon was getting underway. Everyone crowded into seats behind tables and the team served up the meal. I pitched in as I found room to stand, passing plates brigade-style. I didn't see a place to stand to serenade the crowd, but Avril asked me to do a few songs for/with them. After several presentations and short speeches of appreciation by various staff, I launched into some Christmas songs on guitar. Before long it was a matter of my keeping up with the enthusiastic singers in the crowd, of which there were many. Then I gave up pretending I was leading the songs and got my camera to try to get some visuals of the celebration, not only of the season, but of life itself, it seemed to me.

After the dinner was over and the room had been cleared (inviting attendees to accept a gift on their way out), the team hurriedly cleaned up and jumped into combies to head for the next party, the carnival at Capricorn. Most had not had a chance to eat lunch, so in the inevitable delays getting started some grabbed a soda as they could from a nearby store.

The area Living Hope refers to as simply Capricorn is a settlement or township with sparse infrastructure (water, power, etc.) and too many hastily-built homes (many of them shacks) crowded into the given area. It lies in utter contrast to the neat & clean developed community that is alongside it, off the same traffic circle. Living Hope has a bright orange shipping container as a semi-permanent base of operations near the entrance to the impoverished community. Containers are often used as ad hoc buildings in these areas.

The local volunteers and staff had already set up the huge inflatable slide when we arrived, and the jumping castle was being inflated. The sunken "field" they were in was basically the overflow basin for both communities; hence the lush covering of grass at the bottom. That and the occasional shard of broken glass in it made it less than the ideal place to tromp around in; I was glad I wasn't barefoot like most of the kids...and especially glad for dry weather.

All this was irrelevant to our 300-400 attendees, though. They stood patiently (considering) in line to climb the back of the slide for the thrilling ride down, and to jump in the castle. And for everything else being offered. Keeping kids in line was not just a metaphor today! Some received pinwheels on sticks, some played with homemade Play-Doh, and I joined a few in squeezing out the last few bubbles from a soapy concoction in a basin.

While taking a much-needed break from the searing sun (never have been a hat person), I was entertained by Ed Newman's tale of dealing with an area bank after a malfunction at the ATM. He's not one to suffer fools gladly, but few enjoy telling the story afterward more than Ed. After a couple hours or so of crowd control, taking pictures, and escorting a couple of team members to the nearby shopping center for bathroom visits (and for myself, a sample of biltong; like soft beef jerky), it was time to head home.

After dinner I had a visit from a South African songwriter named Donovan, whom I had met on my previous visit at the songwriting seminar I taught for the MusicMakers meeting. We had been corresponding via e-mail about a possible co-write, but I never could come up with anything to offer the song he had in mind. I don't have much experience in co-writing so far, though I'm willing to try. We shared some songs and got better acquainted during his short visit.

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