Friday, December 18, 2009

Preschool Graduation and more from iTipini

'Tis the season for all things that give us a break at Tipini. Tomorrow I head off to Durban to enjoy over a week there, plus more time off while in Mthatha. The build up to this break has been quite something. One of the big events pre-break has been the preschool graduation, which is a really really big deal for the whole community here. It's hard to describe if you haven't witnessed it first hand, but imagine organized chaos that is filled with dancing, laughing and children with big big grins on their faces and you've got a decent idea of what went on. Here are some pictures:

Aside from this, we've had our Community Project Staff dinner, a big Christmas celebration at Bedford hospital, where I reside, and other fun and similar get-togethers  around Mthatha.

I've gotten more used to the rhythm of other volunteers coming and going a month and-a-half or so at a time. I must admit that it is difficult to lay down the solid roots of friendship and then have to wave goodbye at a plane speeding away with a months worth of relationship building on it. Se la vi. Nonetheless, each of these people have been blessings, and I continue to learn and (hopefully) grow each day. Where God is leading me, I do not know, and when I'll get wherever this place is is even foggier. But as the Advent meditation guide put out by the national church for young adults points out, Abraham had less of a clue than anyone, and he dropped all at God's mere words to discover what lies beyond for him. Here's hoping I continue to feel God holding my hand as each day seems to fly by.

I promise to be a bit more regular with the New Year. Thank you for reading, and as you go into the Christmas mode after this Advent, may you see that the mysteries of God always end in a love for you and for all of us for whom his son was sent.

The blessings of Christ be upon each of you always.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trip to Grahamstown

Well, after nearly 6 hours of driving I arrived in Grahamstown. The first leg of the trip was a complete haze, I couldn't see more than 30ft (9.144m) at any time, with cows running around in some places in traffic jams in small towns National highways go right through towns here, no bypassing. But we got through that first leg, and things were ok. The sun came out, we had gotten through most of the towns. God provided a lit path. The picture to the right was taken at around 6.30pm on Friday.

The next day was a little surreal, I woke up to the sounds of the monks doing vespers at 6am on Saturday. I took Mkusele, the leader of the iTipini choir among other things, into Grahamstown for some music session, then I went and hung out on the street with hobos who I got to play guitar with. I asked if I could play ones guitar and he let me, and there was sat, jammin' out (he did most of the music playing, relief there). A lot of folks looked at us funny, but it was pretty cool. After this I went to a coffee shop where I ended up talking to the owner of the place about Biblical and theological issues over coffee on the house. We disagreed about quite a bit, especially over issues of homosexuality and women in the priesthood, as well as a few others, but Tinnis said that "it was still good because it was so congenial and God centered." Then I saw Rob, a fellow Yascer, for a little while. It was good to see someone doing something similar to me.

Once Sunday rolled around I got to head back to Mthatha after church was finished at the monastery, and that little place was packed. They said good-bye to one of the other YASC volunteers here, and it was rather touching. At one point, Brother Timothy of the Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery said that "you don't need to like doing the work of God, you just have to do it." That struck me as true, as every once and a while things get a bit stressful here. But you do it, it gets done, and hopefully things will be better because of it.

I got home Sunday at around 1pm and things have gone back to normal.

Blessings to all.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mthatha, I can call you home...

Well, I had a good weekend away in a rural coastal village called Mdumbi where there is a backpacker's lodge that has been established by a group of folks who aim to bring the community, not necessarily development as Westerners might think of it, but sustainable growth through giving the folks in the local area occupations and businesses. I was helping teach a small business class (I'm not sure I was quite qualified to do this, but I felt confident about the help I gave) to a group of 19 people who all plan on receiving grants from the non-profit Transcape. It was wonderful to fall asleep to the sound of the Indian ocean and to breathe fresh ocean air again.

However, when the time came to go back to Mthatha, I actually thought of it as home, which took me aback for a minute. I've really dug in here, and while I doubt my recapitulation for another year (any real thought of that decision seems a long way off) as my predecessors did, I certainly feel I've cut something of a niche out for myself. It was something of a joy to get back to the clinic and get back to work as usual.

That's all I really wish to say for now, and please, as always, stay tuned.

God bless.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The lazy blogger returns!

So, one of the most amusing anecdotes I have from the past few weeks is this:

There's a woman with a child waiting in the queue at the clinic. I ask her for her baby's card number (we number the new borns, believe me, it makes it a lot easier to find their number rather than their name), and she says "571." I look through the baby files, no 571. I look at the chart that has all of the numbers, it stops in the 550s. I explain to her in a mixture of hand signals and broken Xhosa that no such file exists. "What's your baby's name," I ask, ready to write down whatever I hear. She looks at me for a moment, just a slight pause, but it's too long. She shrugs, and walks out.

That was surreal.

I ask myself why that would happen, knowing that I will never get the answer and that I don't want to know it. There are a lot of things that go on over here and I feel that way, a lot of questions to be asked. Why is the free condom container always filled, no one ever taking them out. Why don't some of the TB patients come in as regularly as they should, if at all, especially for free medical aid. Why are the fatality folders so thick. Why this, why that. These questions, let alone the possible answers, can drive one to total disillusionment quickly.

My solution? Thick skin and the knowledge what little bit that does get done to help people around here really does count for something. The pre-school allows me to hear the songs of happy and confident children and this lets me know that things do get better, and that God doesn't ignore any of his children.

In happier news, I've become popular with some of the local dogs, as I've provided them with dog treats. At first they just sniffed them, or thought I was going to hit them as I approached them with an outstretched arm with some weird looking small thing that doesn't smell like garbage, and thus couldn't have been food. Some learned quickly, others must think that I'm poisoning their canine comrades as they avoid me and the treats I throw at them with such stern rigour.

Also, I got to head to Coffee Bay, on the Wild Coast this weekend. Spectacular, you see the images above. It's pretty undeveloped, quiet, and small. It seemed like the last place on earth in some ways, though it certainly isn't.

Well, I feel I've said enough for now, expect another entry this week though, as I try to get better at doing this whole blogging thing consistently.

Monday, August 24, 2009

T.I.A., for sure.

So, I've been here a week, and things have been interesting. When I arrived in Mthatha, at just about 8AM local time last Monday, I got to meet my host and new boss, Mrs. Jenny McConnachie, who quickly whisked me away to Itipini, and the clinic (shown left), where I began working. However, after 2 days of flights and little sleep (I've never slept well on planes) I crashed within an hour.
Fortunately, I got over jet lag over the next day-day-and-a-half, and was then driving about in what must be described as the most terrifying experience ever. No horror film, roller coaster ride, or other experience could have prepared me for this sort of driving, on the wrong side of the road (from my perspective) and the total lack of regulation, and blatant ignorance of what there is. I must say, that by far has been the most frustrating thing so far.

Xhosa lessons will be starting next week, so maybe I'll be able to say more than "molo" (hello) and the typical quick phrases one learns so quickly. Again, fortunately, I'm able to get most anywhere with the use of English, but it quickly gives me away as a total foreigner. No one seems to mind though, and fortunately, most people I've come across so far have been quite pleasant and friendly. There have been exceptions, but it's been mostly on the road, as I eluded to above.

The job I do at the clinic mostly involves filling prescriptions and registering patients, so far. I'm well aware that I will be doing more and more as times goes on. There's a small class of young folk I get to help with English a couple of nights a week, and I've promised them a movie night in the not too distant future. I have yet to start micro-loan work, and have only had to drive people home so far, thankfully.

There has been one incredibly distressful experience so far, on my first full day of work, last Tuesday, when a woman brought in a very young baby who'd been given traditional medicine. Very soon the baby and its mother were taken to the hospital, but as we found out the next day, it was to no avail. For what I hope would be obvious reasons, this has been stuck in my mind. That same day, a 17 year old boy was brought in, and it was revealed to him that he needs testing for HIV/AIDS. The poor guy was shaking when he left.

More places on earth have much worse problems than Itipini, but still, having come here from a very happy and healthy America, by comparison, I've stepped into the third world, but not just for a week or a month, but far at least a year. I spent the rest of that week happily going about what now seem fairly mundane tasks in life at the clinic in Itipini, but that first full day set the frame for the rest of my time here. Reality, I'm afraid, is much more real than one anticipates or envisions from afar. Sounds daft, I know, but I've found that to be true all too quickly.

But, I've really been enjoying myself so far, and I'll tell you more and more in coming days and weeks and months. For now, though, I think I'm ready for dinner!

Have a blessed day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

One more day to go...

Well, the time is nigh. I've managed to finally get a camera, so this whole thing will look a bit more appealing once I hit the ground Monday. I'm doing my last minute packing, the last good-byes have been done at church, and I'm mostly ready.

I apologize for never having written much so far, that's due mostly to the fact that I'm very very busy, even on break at home. When I do find time to do this I'm being pushed to get going usually, and on top of that I have dial-up at home. So, soon, I hope that there will be a blossoming of my posts, both more (a few at least) and longer, and again, with picture.

I get to spend two days in a plane or airport soon. Pray that I get through that with my sanity.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Two weeks until I'm still in the air...

Two weeks from today I'll be in the middle of a 18 hour flight from Washington Dulles to South Africa. Wow time flew by, it's almost time to go. Now I've got to get a few last things in order, and then I'll be all set.

More to come, as usual.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So I skipped the last 4+ days... of blogging

Hello again all. The last four days of legislation left me in such a state of weariness that upon every return back to the hotel I would practice personal hygiene and then fall into bed. So... I didn't do much to inform folks of anything.

Many other important things took place, all of which are a hazy blur at the moment as I'm just back home and sitting in our parish house using a decent internet connection. Needless to say, those things will be overshadowed by other issues. Just know the the Episcopal Church will continue to support the work of Christ throughout the world, hopefully more than ever, and that I will be a part of that in merely a months time, maybe less.

More news will come your way once there is more news. God bless.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Legislative Day #6

I've not been keeping up with this blog the last couple of days because I would get back to the hotel completely exhausted, so apologies. Now that I've got this morning off everything is more or less back in balance.

Yesterday, the House of Deputies approved the Strategic Plan's outreach to Hispanic and Latino populations, which is already one of the fastest growing segments of the Episcopal Church. This will make a great effort at further outreach to this emergent population. That was probably the biggest thing to happen as far as mission funding ($3.5 million +) for the upcoming triennium.

Keep us all in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for reading.

God bless.

Friday, July 10, 2009

General Convention, Legislative day #2

Well, unfortunately I was unable to track what happened with resolutions relative to this site, as I was wrapped up in Structure's urgent conversations. More controversial discussions were brought forth before the House of Deputies, concerning past convention decisions. For my personal opinion (which you won't find here), please email me ( and we can discuss it. Needless to say, there is much necessary dialogue to sort all of this out.

Either way, here's a shout-out for all the folks at the Young Adult Festival here in Anaheim, thank you for your presence, it means so much to many of us.

God bless, stay in touch.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

General Convention day #2, Legsilative day #1

Tonight the legislative committee on World Mission heard testimony on resolution A128 which provides the budgeting for the missionaries (75+/- in total) over the next triennium. Testimony was heard by the committee (your's truly participated in the giving of said testimony) on that resolution because as it it right now, the numbers that the Program, Budget and Finance committee proposed and the ones in A128 are not cogent. The big change (that will come from the World Mission committee) is going to concern the ammount needed to fund the missionary's health care.

There will be a 12% increase in insurance costs (in all forms of insurance in America, regardless of the company), so the committee is considering increasing the ammount of funding specifically for this issue, health insurance. We'll see what comes in the days ahead.

More to come, as always. God bless.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

General Convention day #1

It turns out that I'm on the Structure Committee, which has a load of great people on it and what are actually interesting issues. I mention this because a subcommittee we formed (formed by Bp. Robinson) that is looking at how the Standing Commissions and Executive Council committees form policy, and how they meet and do that. This could have direct affects on how the Church Center (815 2nd Ave. NY, NY) staff carry out their work. This links firmly with the mission field, which I'll be in in a month-and-a-half.

I'll be sure to keep you posted. Keep all of us in your prayers out here.

God bless.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Still up North, but not for long!

The 76th General Convention is fast approaching, and I have to get prepared. Frankly, everything about GenCon and Anaheim is, figuratively, worlds away from my mind right now. Bad, yes? Well, I know there will be much to do when I get there, so don't worry about reality snapping me directly into action in the very near future. The resolutions that will come forward and the issues surrounding them will very soon consume my being. It's not a bad thing, it's a beautiful thing, the church in action, at least legislatively. Particular interest for me will revolve around the church's global mission, as that will be my life in about a month-and-a-half's time. So, expect me to blog a bit about that, since it is very near to the purpose of this site. Why not inform you of the greater church's roll in the world of mission and volunteerism?

However, I will not be writing at all about other issues at General Convention, nor expressing my opinions of them. The reason is that they will have little to do with the purpose of this site. Inter-church political issues were not the reason this site was put up. The mission issues are directly relative here, though, and you will be hearing about them, with little to no opinions being issued from me. This site is informative, not a political sounding board. Expect the facts, not my views.

Still trying to think of the format for the site upon arrival in mid-August. Right now I'm thinking that there will be a post at least once of week, towards the end of each, where I'll tell you about the 5 coolest things I've seen, done, or experienced since the last post. Any suggestions are welcome, but don't expect me to carry them out. :-P

More to come, as usual, and thank you. God bless.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back up North.

The last time I entered a post on this, my first blog (which I swore to myself I'd never do some time ago, my how things change) I was in Toronto with a simply amazing group of people from all over the U.S. and Canada. They were a group of mostly like-minded people who will all soon be strewn to the four corners of the Earth to serve others in one way or another. I will dearly miss all of them, and wish them the best.
As things stand on my end, well, fund raising, fund raising, fund raising, and getting that darn visa. I will say it's good to be at home for a short while before General Convention, where it is quiet and deep in the woods. This does present the problem of accessing the Internet, however, so while I'm still in Wisconsin there will be few updates on here. On the other hand, this gives me more time to narrow down the purpose of this blog. So basically what I'm trying to say in an incredibly round-about way is: stay patient, stay tuned, and wish me the best!
God bless you all!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Just started.

Well, this is the first entry. More to come in the future, I still have to think of my exact format.
Thank you for checking it out already! I hope you can find out more about me and the place I'm headed. God bless and stay in touch.