August - September 2003
Mike Spiller and I started from Houston and Oklahoma City, respectively on July 30, 2003. We spent the night in Atlanta and caught the morning flight to Cape Town on July 31 and arrived in Cape Town on August 1st. (I had not informed James of the itinerary change and he and the Bishop were there on July 31 to meet our plane. Thank heavens that he stayed on another day to see if we were on the August 1st flight.)
James Adams, Pastor for much of Namaqualand met our plane and after a couple of business stops we started off for Kharkams in Namaqualand. In Cape Town I bought a new printer for James' office. A nice trip through rolling hills, farmland, vineyards, grazing land of the Western Cape and then into the semi-arid territory of the Northern Cape. We stopped at Glanwilliam for lunch. Mike had a Monkey Gland burger. I settled for a regular burger. (We found out that Monkey Gland is a sauce.)
I should explain for those who don’t know, Mike Spiller is a games person and has a business called "Games of the World". He has put Christian applications on these outdoor and indoor games and activities. I invited him to go along on the trip thinking it would be advantages to be able to visit schools and give them a double dose of the Gospel Message. We worked well together but I wonder if we would have been more effective to visit schools alone and not "split" the message.
When we arrived at Kharkams it was good to see James’ wife Bernie, and the three children, Sarelda, Vonita and Terrone. I had met them last year when I went on a Volunteer In Mission trip to the area. It was at that time, when James saw me working with school children that he thought it would be good to return and work with all the children of the district.
Our original plan was to give James $3.00 a day each for our food and $200 for petrol. We increased the petrol monies to about $400 by the time it was over. We did travel many, many miles over some very rough roads, from Cape Town and back, some sightseeing in Cape Town and a side trip to Namibia. I think the money was well spent and it also helped his ministry.
I might tell you a little about his territory. With the resignation of another pastor in the area he now has 26 churches that he covers. He visits two churches every Sunday and therefore gives communion at each church once a quarter. He has Lay Speakers that he runs training for to cover the churches at the other times. The Methodist Church also owns the land that 17 of the village schools occupy and he is responsible for the land and is the last word on hiring teachers for those schools.
The Methodist Church also has a Nursing home in Springbok. James office and secretary are in that Nursing home. He is also Chairman of the Board for the Nursing home and has responsibilities for many of the problems that arise. That home has 70 residents and more room available. They are talking about opening a wing for AIDS patients.
The Methodist church in Kharkams is also starting a bakery. They received a grant and have all the equipment. It will be housed in the old Methodist Church building and be source of employment for the villagers. The bread will be sold at cost.
As I said before, this is a semi arid area and has little employment. About 70% unemployment. The villages are kept alive by pension checks, men going to the mines to work, living in the hills as shepherds or the young men and women going to Cape Town. The High School children in the villages go to boarding school in the 4 larger communities so the small village’s end up with Grandparents and younger children during the week.
Now, about our itinerary.
August 2nd. Gave a program for the Sunday School Association people that were providing a workshop for some of the area church workers. The Sunday School Association is an organization that works with people to prepare them to work in a Sunday School situation. I worked with them in Mongolia. They are a very knowledgeable and dedicated group. About 40 people.
August 3rd. We gave a program for the 70 children and youth that were in the Sunday School program. Went to Kamieskroon Church service in the afternoon. I gave a little presentation at that service. There were about 15 at that service.
August 4th. During the day went to Springbok to show the secretaries what we did so they could contact schools and get us in. In the evening we gave a program for the boarding students at Kharkams School There were at least 170 junior and senior high school students crowded in a large meeting room. Mike and I started to perfect our "dog and pony" show, as we called it. We could not split up and there was not room for active games so we improvised and filled the hour with string games, inside activities and a devotional message from James in Afrikaans.
August 5th. Went by dirt road, over the mountain pass to Tweeriviere School, a Methodist school. Worked with about 40 students in small groups. Their English was limited so much was by showing and acting out what we wanted. Of course, before we started we had to have tea. Redbush tea, a locally grown herbal tea. The teaching principal had a birthday so James gave him money for cake and he drove James’ car back over the pass to Kamieskroon to get it. It was about an hour trip, but he returned with cake for all the students.
A couple of grandmothers cooked our lunch in an iron pot over a stick fire. It was mutton stew. This would be the pattern for most schools. At the end of the day, James gave all the students a little talk in Afrikaans. We could guess it was about teamwork, trusting God, etc.
August 6th.Went over the same pass to Leliefontein School. Nice new facility with about 150 primary and intermediate students. A cold day. Worked with all the students in class groups. One of the teachers had prepared lunch at her home for us. We walked to the home and had mutton, chicken, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, rice, tomato salad, beet root salad, and tea.
August 7th. Went South to Garies. Did some grocery shopping and visited the school. We each did a couple of classes with the older students. About 60 students. It is a regional high school. Then ate lunch in the restaurant in Garies.
August 8th. My birthday. I am now 64. Went over another pass on dirt roads to Rooifontein. About 150 primary and intermediate students. When we arrived the principal had lunch ready for us. Brunch really, as it was only about 10:00. We had the traditional mutton stew cooked outside. Then split up the classes and worked with each class separately.
A beautiful day and we were able to split up the classes and take them outside. There were three teachers in this school. Each had about 50 students. One of the teachers was sick; the teaching principal was at a meeting so the remaining teacher had all 150 students. Drove from there the back way to Springbok to check on some things at the Nursing home. Then back to Kharkams.
August 9th. Saturday and had a day off. There was a funeral for a 12-year-old in Kharkams. It lent a somber view of the day.
August 10th. Sunday went to church in Kharkams and then Oom Willem (Uncle William) took us to see Bethelsklip. It is where the Barnabas Shaw, the first Methodist pastor for the area landed on the shore of Africa and went inland to this area. He started a mission at Bethelsklip and for a while spent winters there as it is a warm valley and then summers in Leliefontein. It is now deserted except for an outdoor amphitheater, which is used for some church events.
August 11th. Went to Steinkopf. When we arrived the principal was did not understand what we had in mind for his school. He was gathering ALL the students for an assembly. ALL 1,500 of them. We persuaded him to exclude the primary - k through 3rd – and just have 4th through 7th. About 1,000 students. We were given an hour. Mike and I did our "Dog and Pony" show. James gave a talk and the principal was happy. We felt that we had some impact but not like when we have individual classes and time to work with the student body.
August 12th. Pension day in Kharkams. Each month the government goes to each village and gives out the pensions in cash. It is quite a market day. The donkey carts are in town. Selling wood and picking up supplies. There is one man who brings flour to sell, another eggs, another meat. Bills are settled at the store and the liquor starts to flow. Quite a bit of excitement.
We went North to Concordia and worked with about 300 students in small groups. The faculty was very involved in that school. So much so that they wanted the students to stand back so they could learn the string tricks. Then we went to Springbok for some shopping.
August 13th. The winter rains started – finally. It was too rainy to go over the dirt roads so we stayed in Kharkams. Since I had done programs for the school last year, we did not plan on doing it again. Since we were stranded there by rain, we decided to take our programs to the school. Boy was it cold there. 45 degrees in the classroom. They were more than ready for us. The word has spread and they wanted their share. We had a great time.
In the evening the High School Drama group was putting on a program in the city building across from the Manse – parsonage. Most of it was in Afrikaans. There were about 10 acts, most of them dancing. They put on two plays, one in English. Both had to do with AIDS. They were very straightforward and did not pull any punches about the causes or transmittal of the disease. Well done for the students.
August 14th. We went over another pass to go to the village of Nourivier. There were about 80 students in the school. We were received with the usual routine of tea on arrival and mutton stew at noon.
Back to Kharkams for the Bible study that James was starting. He wants his people to grow in the Word and be able to discuss what they think. Wore many thickness of clothing to keep warm.
August 15th. Went over a pass to Kys, pronounced keys. About 80 students. A very nice small school. The students were very receptive and I learned a new string figure there.
In the evening we went to Kamieskroon to the residential facility for wayward and displaced youth. Bars on the windows and total lockdown at night. We gave a program for the students there. Mostly Junior and Senior High students. Many are awaiting trial for offences from the very serious on down. We had the total group of 100, then were able to split them up into two groups. Quite an evening that needed lots of energy.
August 16th. Back to Liliefontein for a Lay Speakers training. While that was going on Mike and I wandered the town. Of course, all the kids recognized us and we started to get a following. We played games, made string figures and just saw life as it is. I went to the boarding school and there were a couple of students that did not go home for the weekend. We did some more difficult string figures that they can teach the others. I also learned a new figure on that trip.
August 17th. Went up to Okiep for the church service.
August 18th. Went North past Springbok to Nababeep. It is a primary school of about 230 students. There are two schools there and we went to the other one later. This was Sacred Heart, the Catholic school. They were very receptive and had all the students in the hall for an assembly. We gave them the "Dog and Pony" show then split the groups up and worked with individual classes.
The principal was very chagrined that they had not prepared lunch for us. (Did I tell you we had tea when we arrived.)? He sent out for Burgers for us.
August 19th. We were in Springbok and the weather was miserable. There were snow showers and the school called and said that most of their students would not be in school. We spent the day looking around Springbok, shopping for tourist stuff and eating. It was nice to have a quiet day.
August 20th. Attempted to go to Komaggas which is over a couple of mountain passes over dirt roads. We got as far as Buffelsbank and the mud was too bad so we turned back. We had been driving about an hour and a half at that time. We stopped at Naries Guest Farm and had tea. It was neat to see how many of the visitors to Africa live. It was too wet or they would have taken us on a jeep ride to see the baboons, Cape buffalo, springbok and other local animals. We returned to Kharkams.
August 21st. Went to Okiep. There were about 240 students there. Quite a big school. It was cold and we tried to work inside. Mike had a challenge to find things to do inside. I had a challenge trying to make string figures with frozen hands. We had a good day and the students were turned on to strings and games that shared the Gospel.
When we got "home" to Kharkams, Bernie had another specialty for us. Pickled Fish. Cold. With cooked onions. Cold. And bread. I should mention that Bernie tried to fix us an assortment of local foods. We had some wonderful things. We ate in the tradition of the locality. The men were served at the table while the children filled their plates in the kitchen. The women ate as they were cooking. Nothing subservient about it that is just the way it is.
August 22nd. Went back to Nababeep to the public school, St. Crispans. There were about 180 students, assembled in the hall to greet us with singing. "This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made" among others. A nice welcome song in Africans also. We did the usual "Dog and Pony" show with James wrapping it up with a devotional then we went to each class to work with them individually. We had a great day and the principal was very encouraging.
We learned some new games and string tricks there. The children did not want to leave to go home. (As in so many of the villages, there is so little to do that anything out of the ordinary was so welcome.) It is great to share the love of Christ.
August 23rd. Saturday and we were headed North and West. To the Atlantic coast at Port Nolloth then North to Alexanderbaai. Most of the time we were traveling through diamond country. The "company" owns all the land and it is illegal to stop along the road. It is strip mining and there are great piles of slag. We found out in Port Nolloth that there was not going to be a service the next day as the families were out of town.
We drove north to the Orange River, the border between South Africa and Namibia. We drove along the river to meet with a family to the East. The land across the river in Namibia was very desolate. Just sand dunes.
Alexanderbaai, or Alexander Bay on some maps, is a company town. You need to show your papers to get in and out. (They stopped the strip searches just a few months ago.) The "company" owns everything from the stores to the school. We stayed with a diamond contractor at his house. Went out to eat at the restaurant run by the High School training their students in restaurant management.
August 24th. Church in Alexanderbaai for about 40 people. I did a short string program for the church service. After church the pastor met with some of the members about some problems that had arisen. It felt like Paul on his visits to the churches. Mike and I stood outside with some of the young people and visitors. We started doing string tricks and had about 15 people involved for about 45 minutes until the meeting was over.
We returned to the family’s home for lunch then back to Steinkopf where one of the church members there has supper prepared for us. Actually, she was in Cape Town but her daughter had the meal for us. Again, we three men ate in the dining room while the women stayed in the kitchen.
August 25th. Went over the pass toward the Atlantic to Spoegrivier. I had been in that village last year to a church service. The community has no electricity except for one of the school buildings that has a solar unit put in by the Danish Government.
Oom Willem took us in his pickup. He had the points fixed so it didn’t lurch along like last time. However, it was raining and his windshield wipers did not work. It was quite a time of trust as he would drive, assuring us that there are only two slippery places and stopping once in a while to wipe the windshield off with a greasy cloth. We made it safely. We did pray a lot though.
Cold and rainy, we met with each class and then had lunch at the home of the retired principal. He is a walking encyclopedia on the history of the Methodist church. We had a good time visiting until Oom Willem came to pick us up. He has a herd of about 70 sheep in the area with a shepherd the same age, as he is, 72.
August 26th. We went off to Namibia, to the North. We were going just to see the country. A one day drive of 4 hours each way with some time to look around. We drove to the border town of Vioolsdrift through very arid land. At the border we filled out the proper papers and paid our 100 Rand, the equivalent of about $13.00 to drive on their roads. James was very upset about that and wants to charge them to drive on SA roads. Drove past Noordoewer and stopped at Grunau, a small town in the middle of the desert and then on to Karasburg.
We did not know, but it was a national holiday and everything was closed…there was not much to be open. We ate in a gas station café. While there I went outside and started a conversation with 4 or 5 beggar kids that were hanging around. They wanted bread money. I pulled out a string and started to do some string tricks. They showed me some they knew and then a couple of men joined in and showed some things. I gave each a string and we had quite a "jam" session with strings. I went in to eat, but when we left they all were hanging around and waved us off with smiles. Man does not live by bread alone! Back across the desert to Springbok for the night.
August 27th. Back to try to get to Komaggas – across two mountain passes, dirt roads and two rivers to ford. The roads had dried up considerably and we made it. After explaining what we could do and a meeting with the principal and his assistant, he worked out a schedule for us to see the students. There were about 1,000 students and we explained that we could not see all of them. We showed that if we worked with the older ones, they could show the younger ones.
They were large classes, even for South Africa. 60 or students in a class. The teachers were great and stayed to help us. We had a great day and were so glad that we were able to make it to the community. It is a Dutch Reformed School and James did not have much experience in the area. There is no Methodist church there.
August 28th was a day to say our good-bye’s to Namaqualand. We headed South to Cape Town. Arrived at a lay pastors home in Atlantis and spent the night. Went with him to his church where there were about 40 older youth. We had lots of fun doing strings with them. They loved the figures and how the stories went with them.
The rest of the time was spent in the Cape Town area, visiting church
members in where James will be starting in January. He will have two
churches and we visited them, where he used to pastor and did some of the
Left Cape Town for the US on September 3rd.
Africa August 2002
They caught on very fast.
Serving with all of you,
South African Bread Machine