Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just when we thought nothing in Africa could surprise us….SURPRISE!

 Bouso Thiam, the Laurel Class President in the Port Alfred Branch, sings with a gospel choir of her mother's church.  "The Amazing Grace Gospel Group".  She invited us to attend the choir's third CD kick-off event.  Believe me, when you get invited to attend a choir concert in South Africa, you do not want to miss it.  It was scheduled to be held on Sunday, May 3rd at 1:00.  We finished our three hour block and drove to the hall where it was slated to be held.  Bouso met us and said…"President Wheeler, we are running on Africa time.  We will call you when we are ready to begin."  No surprise to us, we drove home and waited for the call.  It came at 3:00 pm and we buzzed back over to the hall.  Read on dear friends….as Gomer Pile would say...Suprise, surprise, surprise!
We approach the hall and are greeted by a lovely woman in a formal gown.  She takes us and escorts us in to the hall to a table that has been set up at the front for ministers.  "Oh, thank you," we tell her, "we are just here to listen to the choir.  "Oh, but you are our honored guests.  There is place for you at the head table."  So off we go straight to the front with 300 pairs of eyes following the only white people in the room.  By the time the program is in full swing there are eighteen ministers seated at the table with us.   We really did feel honored that they included us.  We love these African people with all our hearts.  There is more.

Typically when we attend a choral concert we expect to sit and listen, applaud, whistle, and leave.  This concert was NOT typical.  There was an opening by this lovely woman who had a voice that could have won "Africa's got talent".  I believe she was also a minister.  She did also did some preaching.  One thing we felt bad about is that the entire three hour program was in Xhosa.  We were lost.  A few things were said in English, but not much.  I was able to catch the eye of a member of the congregation that took pity on us.  She told us when to stand, when to sway, when to sing, and when to pray.  Bless this good woman.  She saved our lives, and hopefully we saved a little face.

The director of the program was Pastor Ndolo.  He was awesome!  He sang, he danced, he spoke.  He was so kind to introduce us as Elder and Sister Wheelie of the Church of Jesus Christ ministry.  Close enough.  We were honored.  He also invited us to do a dance for the crowd.  Oh how I wish I had a picture of us dancing.  You would chuckle, or better yet belly laugh.  The audience did for sure.  I can not deny that the two white people in the room did not have the moves that the rest of the congregation did.  Nevertheless, we were honored and we tried.

 This was the first choir that performed.  They were AWESOME.  These people really know how to "Rock the House".  I did make some recordings and will try to figure out how to get them either here or on my Facebook Page.  You will love it.

Dances were performed.  Some on stage and some just randomly in the congregation.  There were many hallelujahs and praises to God going on.

I sat next to this minister.  I will have to ask Bouso if she knew her.  I am thinking she is probably a Sangoma or a traditional healer.  She was dressed in the traditional dress and was just beautiful.  At one point, all of the ministers were called up on to the stage to give a blessing to the pastor from Bouso's church.  I looked at my secrect weapon in the audience and she motioned for us to follow them on stage.  We had no idea what was happening, but evidently we were being asked to give a group blessing to the pastor.  All eighteen ministers stood in a circle around the pastor and started praying…all at once.  They did not place their hands on his head.  They held their hands over his head, did some shaking and praying all praying at once.  We just kind of hung backstage and tried to be invisible. 

This little guy was the son of the director.  The head table was full of food, and he kept sneaking up behind me and I would slip food to him.  Adorable.  When we left after three hours, some of the other little children came up to me.  I think they are fascinated by my white hair.  Some of the children like to pet my hair. They don't seem to pay much attention to President Wheeler's bald head.

Bless President Wheeler's heart.  About two hours in to the program, the director started speaking English and we knew we needed to pay attention.  President had earplugs in. (did I mention that this concert was LOUD!  Headache pounding LOUD)  I had to jolt him as they were calling his name to make a speech.  They wanted him to state, who had invited us and why we were here.  He is sooooo good at impromptu.  He called up Bouso and talked about her.  He explained that she is a leader in our church, and concluded with stating that we are all brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He stated our love for them and expressed a hope that they would love and accept us also.  Much applause and hallelujahs followed.  What a great man he is.

This is Bouso's group.  She is the first girl on the left.  Their choir director is dressed in orange.  Wow.  They were so good.  We purchased their CD and will treasure it along with our Sunday afternoon surprise.  

The "Braai"…Young Men's Activity!

The word braai (pronounced “bry”, rhyming with the word “cry”; plural braais) is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast” and is a huge social custom in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It originated with the Afrikaner people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds.   When our YM in the branch planned an activity, of course the "braai" was part of it.  

They met on the Kowie River to start the fire.  Sometimes they use briquettes, but most often they go in to the "bush" and cut down trees for wood.  The more meat the merrier.  Often when they braai, you will find, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and boerewors (a type of sausage).  Our boys chose chicken.

All along the Kowie river and at parks everywhere you will find these Braai pits.  They are well-worn from frequent use.  While the meat was cooking the YM played soccer along the banks of the Kowie.  Tide was down and it was perfect!

When the missionaries heard their was food, well of course they had to drop by!

From left to right is Sonwambile, Silindokuhle, Aphwie, Sinbongiseni, Nkosikona, and Sinalo.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Paul speaks at Prom...

In Africa, your Senior Year or Grade 12 is called your Matric year.  We have two young men in our Branch who are in their Matric year.  Africa's school year goes from January until November since we are in the Southern Hemisphere.  A major event for the Matric students is their first formal event in their teenage life.  It is considered a stepping stone.  The dance is essentially held to bid the class farewell and it is very similar to America's Junior/Senior Prom, and graduation night combined.  The perfect dress, a new suit, a classy car for transportation, and food.  We were informed that it is held this early in the year so that the students are not distracted by their studies when it comes time for testing.
Sibongiseni Ngcibi is on the right.  He is a member of our branch.  We were invited to attend the pre-dance festivities.  I was not feeling well, and so unable to attend, but President Wheeler went "stag".

Imagine President Wheeler's surprise when he was asked to give a speech.   Evidently, because it is a "rite of passage" so to speak, ALL of the members of the family come and their are tributes and toasts to all.  He is casually mingling with all of the guests when he hears his name called out to give a speech.  In America, you should "never leave home without your American Express Card."  In Africa, you should never leave home without a speech in your pocket.  I love this country and their traditions.  The righteous ones of course.

Sibongiseni and his date.

Sibongiseni and his mother on the right with Canny Nobebe on the left..

The spread of food.