The things most important in life... are not things.
by Susan Siu Grobler | 10 August 2012 | Africa
We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa after a 14 hour flight from New York. Although we really appreciated flying business class (as explained in our previous blog), the jetlag hit us like a bomb. It was unexpected, and the effect on our sleeping patterns was a bit of a catastrophe. We set aside one month for our time in South Africa; it was a time to enjoy with family and family friends and we were very much looking forward to it.
We will forever cherish the moments that we shared with our family and friends while travelling for a month around South Africa. Beautiful home cooked meals, delicious mango, AMAZING Braais - nobody understands BBQ better than the South Africans... especially Uncle Mac. Having a home away from home with Rene & Steven (we needed that). Staying on the “Little Farm” with puddle ducks, a big pig called Napoleon, horses, dogs and cats, camping in the African bush safari style (monkeys raided our safari tent), and safaris in the Mercedes with David & Elzet. Visiting Grandad and bush retreat campfires with Aunty Carol and learning bits of Xhosa and Chichewa from her maid and her gardener. Much needed family time with the Groblers laughing and reminiscing. Endless games with our cousin’s kiddies, surfing in the rain at Betty’s Bay, more Braais with our Cape Town family. With our love of the outdoors - camping and hiking in the Drakensberg (unforgettable), and enjoying close encounters at Addo Elephant Park with Aunty Leilani & Uncle Gordon (Aunty Leilani is good at silent screaming). Having quality time with our cousin Carey and being a punching target for her three boys under 7. Our humbling life experience visiting our cousins Gareth & Nicci learning about their ministry in Clarence, enjoy the photographs capturing our time there meeting brave AIDS & HIV positive people.
On the surface, South Africa is always perceived as a dangerous no go zone, but the reality is quite the opposite. Be assured your need to have your head screwed on, but listen to the masses and you will miss out on an adventure like no other. There is the element of amazing outdoor exploration, interesting lifestyle, culture and diversity to be experienced in no other country quite like it.
The clouds in South Africa look prettier than in any other country, they look like fluffy cotton wool like they draw in cartoons!
There are so many stories we could share during our month in SA, however the one that will always resound in our hearts will be the memories of our time in Clarence with Gareth, Nicci and their two boys Daniel and Spencer.
Clarence, South Africa
We arrived in Clarence after driving 12 hours from Port Elizabeth, and arrived about 11 at night keeping our cousin Gareth awake waiting for us.
Exploring the boutique town of Clarence, we found a treasure trove of unique local art galleries, and beautiful scenery of colours in and around Clarence. The fun part was waiting for ages during road works on the outskirts of the town, the roads were rather terrible and the many potholes caused us to drive at 40km/h on the highway!
We went with Gareth to visit the Clarence primary school supported by the local church where he is the pastor, it has around 150 students aged 3-12 who speaks English and Sesotho. Margaret the principal started the school 12 years ago in her garage with five children. Her heart is so big you can see the love and compassion she has for these children as soon as you meet her.
After play break, we headed next door to Dihlabeng Church where Gareth is the pastor. He took over leading the church two years ago with his wife Nicci. They have a ministry there called People of Hope dedicated to caring for and providing healthcare to people in the township. Clarence township has around 7000 people, all of whom are living in homes well made but made from basic corrugated iron and clay. Although living in these primitive conditions, we found the kids cheerful and welcoming, always as curious about us as we were about them; the adults seemed more cautious and worn out from life’s challenges.
Tede, Lotsy, Pauline, and Alice brought us along with them to do their visitations. We accompanied People of Hope as they did their Friday morning round which involved people who have been identified with medical or prayer needs. They ask people in their homes how they have been in the last few days, whether they would like prayer, and generally love on people however they can.
Tede used to be a witch doctor in the township of Clarence, she was born in the township and has lived there all her life. When I asked her the story of how she came to know Jesus, she giggled and told me in beautiful broken English that she is, “Happy, Jesus makes me happy on the inside, my friend told me about Jesus”. You could see the joy sparkle in her eyes and the hope that she carries bubbling up inside her in a quiet manner. I will hold that moment precious in my memory bank; the picture of her contented heart and spirit is enough to make anyone curious about the hope that she has in life, and the love that she is able to give to others because she found the God that loves her.
We walked and talked with them, learning about how they reach out to people inflicted with life threatening diseases such as AIDS and HIV. It was humbling to see a girl of 19 fighting for her life with this fatal sickness and finding hope as she prayed the sinner’s prayer and committed her life to Jesus, believing He is her healer. There was a beautiful presence there as we prayed together for her in their mud shack.
We listened to their stories of lives being changed, people being healed of HIV, and an old lady raised from the dead. In a short amount of time, our hearts grew even more for people in need. Our time in Clarence was enriching, educating, eye opening, and heart inspiring. We would encourage anyone who has the head and heart space, to go and experience for themselves. Sadly, we take for granted every little thing that we have, everyday. So let us remind ourselves to live a life of gratitude, every moment. Because the things that matter most in life, are not things.
South Africa is a country diverse in many aspects. It is a country with a western way of life, with a foundation of African culture. It is a modern country, yet full of rich and vibrant history that builds the foundation of the people. It is a country blessed with beauty, wealth and cultural variation, but with the flaws of selfish gain in the hearts of men. The soul of the people are deep, and the authentic love and passion for their country is in every South African, whether they are still a resident or not... it’s in their African blood. South Africa is a country with great potential and our heart is to see it flourish once more in all its grandeur of beauty and wealth in people and resources. May the hearts of the righteous, honest and integreous rise up and stand for this stunning country once again.
Photography tips – lessons from South Africa:
• Things can happen anywhere anytime, you have to be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone to “get the shot” you want. Be prepared, learn the skill of anticipation.
• Have respect for the subject you are photographing, especially if your subject is a person/people. They have hearts and you must learn to value them before you just lift your lens up to their face, picture yourself in their shoes...
• Being a stills photographer doesn't mean you can't try a hand at filming also... with the features of HD on our Canon 5D Mark II, we had an amazing time capturing moments in moving images. Give it a go, the camera does all the hard work, you just need your creativity!