Warning: This is a long post. Grab your coffee or tea, settle into your favorite chair, and let me tell you about my Saturday in Finetown…
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Imagine being displaced from your home.
Imagine only being able to find sheet metal to build shelter.
Imagine dirt roads that are so awful, they threaten to ruin your car.
Imagine, over a decade later, being in the same place raising your children in your metal shack.
Imagine sending your child to school without shoes and a healthy meal.
Imagine your country forgetting about you because where you live in unofficial.
That is Finetown. Some families live in metal shacks. Some have cement houses because, in order for one displaced group to have housing, they displaced another and they left their houses. This unofficial, forgotten settlement is populated by blacks and coloreds. (Note: coloreds in South Africa are not whites and they are not blacks. They are a mix but speak Afrikaans). Tens of thousands of people live in Finetown. Hope is elusive and the dust from the road has covered dreams.
The OCI team based here in South Africa has been working in Finetown for four years now. They have a relationship with a pastor there and asked him how best they could serve him. Instead of OCI telling the pastor what to do, how to do it, and saying ‘we’ll help you if you…’, they wanted to come alongside him as servant leaders. He asked the team to do two things: 1. Put on workshops for principles of crushes (preschools) giving them lesson plan ideas and 2. Teach Sunday School teachers how to lesson plan and teach Sunday School. Saturday I had the opportunity to go to a workshop for crush principles.
Once a month, two women have been going and meeting with up to 30 crush principles building relationship and trust with them. They listen to what the needs of the principles are. Some have up to 65 children in one preschool which is usually a room probably smaller than your kitchen. Not all of the principles are believers but they asked the women to teach them how to teach bible lessons to the children. They also, on their own, created a forum of principles to make united decisions like tuition. Therefore, instead of competing by one crush in one area of Finetown charging less than another crush in a different area charging less, these women have come together to be a united front to the community.
For Saturday’s workshop, the women asked the OCI team to teach on health and nutrition. About 30 principles came from Finetown and the surrounding area. Many of the women walked and we had people walking into the workshop up to two hours late because of the distance they had to travel. Heather started the workshop with a devotional on Jesus being the bread of life and how we pray for our ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s prayer. I had never made that connection before: how we pray for Jesus to enter our lives each day when we pray the Lord’s prayer.
Jenny then gave great lesson on nutrition including the food pyramid, games the principles can play with their students, activities to have the children apply what they learn, and songs they can sing in school. Jenny had the principles divided into 5 groups, one for each of the food pyramid groups. Then, standing in a circle, she had one group at a time step forward with the number of servings necessary for preschoolers. Many of the principles did not know how may servings of dairy and meat children need.
Heather then taught on Bible stories. She gave two examples of stories in the Bible where people were hungry. The first was before God gave manna to the Israelites. The other was when Jesus fed the 5,000. She taught that God provides for our needs even when we don’t see it. She had the principles each say something they were thankful for because before Jesus broke the bread to feed the crowd He gave thanks. Several of the women, like Gugu, Edith, and Thembi, were thankful for their jobs so they could provide for their families. Others, like Lucia and Jennifer, said they were thankful for their lives and their families.
The second Bible lesson was how the Bible is like a cookbook. It gives the recipe for eternal life. Again, I had never thought of it like that but loved the analogy, especially for children! Heather made a batch of snickerdoodles so we could all ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good‘. However, she had made two snickerdoodles with double the amount of baking soda. When she presented this lesson she said she didn’t follow the recipe for the snickerdoodles because she was pretty sure she had remembered it. She made snickerdoodles all the time, so she had to have it all memorized by now. So, she had two volunteers eat the ‘wrongly made’ cookies. However, Heather didn’t take into account African culture. Both women ate the cookie and said, ‘oh it is nice’. One even remarked at how nice the cinnamon tasted. How could these women not grimace at the taste?! Even after Heather told them the cookies SHOULD taste bad, these women wouldn’t speak poorly about their friend’s baked goods. Quickly, Heather gave them the ‘correctly made’ snickerdoodles. This time, she explained that she followed the recipe and realized what she had done wrong once she went back and took the time to read the words. The women then smiled and exclaimed how good they were! Everyone laughed! I was blown away by these women’s desire to protect their friend; their desire to save face for Heather. They didn’t want to speak poorly about her in any way but instead ate the ‘bad’ cookies with polite and positive feedback. I have a lot to learn from them.
The principles left with goodie bags full of crafting goods for their schools. They left with ideas on how to better feed their students. They left with Bible stories to teach their students. And they left knowing God provides in the hard, in the good, in the big, in the small.
I left satisfied. I left knowing we made a difference; whether that difference was for a day or a week, just us coming showed the principles we care about them. OCI’s faithfulness in four years of workshops builds relationship and that goes farther and deeper than any money or materials we can give them.
Want to see more pictures from the workshop?