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South Africa 2002

My trip to South Africa October 6 – 23, 2002 was organized by the Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City. One of the pastors there, Jeremy Basset is a native of South Africa and went with us. After arriving in Cape Town we toured that beautiful city and down to the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. 

We stopped at a black township, Masiphumelele. It was much like the pictures with cardboard, tarpaper shacks and lots of women and children. 50% of the people there are HIV positive. We stopped at a white block building that is the new church built by a mission team. The old church was a shipping container.  

The pastor and his wife made us all tea. It was Rooibos tea, an herbal tea that we would become very familiar with. There were a couple of other people there. Jeremy and some of the team members showed the new string tricks they learned. It is such a good way of breaking the ice in these situations. A young mother wore a scarf on her head as is their custom and was most pleased when they taught her a trick. 

The purpose of this trip was to do construction work at Karkams and Klipfontein. These communities are in Naugaland, an area about five hours north of Cape Town. The area reaches to the north to the border of Namibia and to the west to the Atlantic Ocean It is arid with rolling hills and worn mountains. The people are Khoi-San, earlier known as Bushmen. In South Africa they are termed “Coloured.” Most live in small villages. Unemployment is about 70% in that area. People raise sparse fields of wheat, herd sheep and goats, and do what little odd jobs are available. 

The sixteen people who went included a wide range of ages and occupations. When we arrived at Karkams we understood that we would live with families there. Instead, four related families vacated their homes and we slept in them. One of the homes had a flush toilet but no other running water in the house. Two had an outhouse and the other one had nothing. There were faucets with brackish water outside each home. 

We ate at the church, with our meals being prepared by the Church Women’s Society. Meals were very good, consisting of a lot of lamb, goat, cheese, rice, pasta and potatoes. No deserts while we were there. Our diversion was to walk to the small store in the village and buy chips or a soda. 

I was involved in some of the construction projects but my primary activity was to go to the schools in Karkams and Klipfontein and work with the students. I met with each class and told them a string story, then passed out strings and we proceeded to learn string figures.  They had already heard about the strings from the Pastor’s children so they were excited. Many of the students knew one or two figures and were not unaware of how to handle the string. 

They were especially pleased to show me one, two, three, four, five and six diamonds.  Two of the figures they made were new ways of making those figures to me. They also made a spider web that I had read about but not seen anyone make, and a see saw figure. The students at all levels were very good at watching me and using their hands to copy what I was doing. They caught on very fast. 

I worked one on one with many of the children and adults in Karkams, teaching them new things and they taught me what they knew. They were very excited to have something new to do. There is so little to do in this area.  

Klipfontein is a very small village that just got electricity the week before we arrived. The village has three cars and a little store. The high school students are boarded in Karkams so the school there was just primary students. They also loved the string activity and wanted to learn everything that I knew. 

I went back to Klipfontein for the Sunday Morning service and there were a number of children working with their strings. While their bodies were being most attentive their hands were busy with string. They kept looking over at me and giggling.  

A small group of us went to Lilyfontein where I presented a string program to a group of adults training to be lay speakers in their respective village churches. (The Methodist pastor covers 26 villages, so much falls to the local leaders.) That school also has a number of boarding High School students and we went to their area and started teaching them some figures. Two others in our group had been good students of mine and they loved taking a group off and teaching them what they knew. This does empower others to become teachers. 

I also met an extended family that was from the farming region in the east that was over evangelizing. They were most interested in the String Ministry and so I spent an hour with them explaining it and teaching them some of the figures. 

One Sunday I went with the pastor to Spoegriver to present at the church service there. The service was only adults and they were most receptive to the message through string. They were all having a good time and thanked me over and over for coming. 

The pastor was thoroughly impressed with the string ministry and when I suggested that I could come back to South Africa, he immediately cornered me as to when. We have it set up that I will return there for August 2003 for the month. That is the middle of their winter and school is in full swing. We will try to get to all 26 village schools and/or churches in his area. 

I am now trying to raise funds for that trip, as it will cost about $1,200 just for the 7,000 strings needed for the venture, not to mention the $1,500 for the transportation there. My expenses there will be minimal, as I will stay with the Pastor and his family.