Sunday, February 24, 2008

2/24/08 Thursday-Sunday

The nightmare begins. Well it’s a nightmare if you have been a computer geek and you are experiencing multiple virus attacks. The start was my students not being able to have their first assignment done on time. There were viruses in the computers and they couldn’t print. The LTI computers are not on the University network and are not their responsibility. Besides the fact that most of them are as old as the ones I’ve replaced, without the upgrades I gave mine. Three got cleaned and rebuilt on Thursday and Friday. But the virus had moved into the two computers connected to the University network and the printer. Just about the time I think we, that is the new student IT person and me, are finished, I lock my keys in my office. Due to some previous security issues this is the only office that does not have a skeleton key, but a pad lock. Fortunately the secretary had not gone home to the north country for the weekend and a key for my room saved me from sleeping in the cafeteria.

With a email from Dawn and my reading of the Inquirer online, I know that those in Philly have experienced a good deal of winter, so I won’t bore you with tales of needing a hat because the sun is so bright and direct. The speaking requests are now starting to come in, so I don’t know that I’ll have a slow time prior to Easter, but its nice to have had a somewhat slow entry into the community. It increased the time with students from the very beginning, rather than being related just to the faculty.

Sunday started with an on campus 8 am worship. A number of students from the University have found their way to the chapel at the seminary. Sunday School starts next Sunday afternoon. The big event for the students today was a football game in the University club leagues. [soccer] I may have a picture or two of one of the students being the center referee. This evening after he played for the seminary later in the afternoon, his walk was much slower, as were many of the students who lost on penalty kicks. [fans will know what I mean.]

Afternoon tea with the Tonsing’s, one of the faculty families, was enlightening from a German or Settler’s perspective of the theological educational delivery system that is currently in place. There is great delight in that the Methodists are planning on joining SoRaT in the next year. There seems to be a question of what does it mean for the black church to get most of its candidates from the rural areas, while development and jobs are concentrated in the cities. There is great reverence for the “home” territory, eventhough many have been away from “home” for long periods of time. The time here continues to stretch my imagination and my learnings. Salani kahle – Stay well.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

2/20/2008 Wednesday

Walking to the shopping area and strolling across campus was almost an ordeal today. The weather report said that the temperature was 79F but felt like 83, but for the first time for me I felt lightheaded and took an afternoon nap. The wide swings of temperatures played havoc with student attentions. They reported that the afternoon classes were difficult to be in and remain alert. Perhaps that’s why the student protest took place at 8 am. About 140 University students were protesting this morning the lack of accommodations on campus. After successful negotiations, rooms were found for the majority in private apartments and in residence halls that had ‘no shows’. Of the 140 only 56 had signed up for accommodations, they came to school at the University on a hope and a prayer.

Hey on Tuesday morning the student demonstration made the Front Page of the local newspaper. Students are beginning to offer me assistance with the languages. There are three that predominate, Zulu, Xhosna, Tswana. My tongue will never be the same. I tried to record the worship service on Wednesday evening, but all songs were in one of the two languages above, and chapel wasn’t full. But it was full on Thursday afternoon for the SoRaT worship. You might want to listen to the service and the announcements about the School of Religion. It’s over an hour long and I'm still learning how to be audio engineer. The worship is the first 20 minutes. Excuse the first 90 seconds of overmodulation. It gets better. Next time I will break up the content into manageable sections. Peace


Sunday, February 17, 2008

2/17/2008 Sunday

Like an artichoke, plans begin to be unfolded, about other plans for my time here. It’s not just the teaching, but my hosts want to make sure that I have a “good” South African experience. There is a subliminal agenda that they do not want to see this kind of interchange be short lived. So I’ve been asked to make sure that they have an evaluative piece before I leave.

I am sure that the weather has had a good deal to do with my start here. We have ranged from 31+C to 13C, with lots of rain when it gets cold. Last night as the sun went down from a high of 30C, you could feel the chill rolling in. Yet today after the first Sunday Service on campus, I saw Adults in the swimming pool for the first time. A spirited two hour worship with all music ‘a cappella,’ led by the students, ended with a line out the door in which everyone passed the peace to every other person in worship. It really was a moving experience.

A hot Saturday was spent working on stuff that was left over from home. With my feet up and ice tea in my glass, life is more than OK, but I do miss the folks from home starting with DCS. Peace.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2/14/2008 Valentine’s Day

On the day after you’ve received 100 cm of rain, 250 people had their homes destroyed in an ‘informal settlement’, [they are now in tents on a sports field], if you are a child on the campus at LTI, the sun is out and it’s hot, and you find your water pistols. Some of the students have their families with them on campus and family life goes on. One of the doctoral students after asking me if I would have time to visit Zimbabwe, went off to assist his daughter with her home work. This is a living breathing community, and like a lot of other communities it assumes that all community members know the schedule.

In good Lutheran fashion, doors are used for posting. The chapel door has the worship schedule for the opening week and for Sunday services. After preaching at the Opening service I thought I was done for a while. Yet on Tuesday evening after I finally noticed the ‘posting door’, I found myself schedule for evening worship on Wednesday night. First day of teaching with a partner, Intro to Clinical Pastoral Education, was great fun, but then to put together a service for the evening and prepare my presentation for my first solo class on Biblical Stewardship, made for an exciting day. Though I did miss the first of the School of Religion and Theology’s scheduled “Theological CafĂ©.”

Calling my valentine early for me and not quite the ‘right’ day for her, teaching solo and seeking out their expectations was quite fun. Yet as I basked in the sunlight and a week of teaching completed, I heard singing. Investigating, I found the chapel full, for it was the Thursday gathering of all the students from the SoRaT for their weekly ecumenical service. By now everyone on campus knows who the strange American is by now, and I get a lot of greetings, “Hi, Prof.” Now, the task is to review a proposal on Stewardship for one of the grad students, who is not in my class and a peer report on two articles that were written by the Principal, Dr. Farisani for LWF. Now that is a first. Peace, with a brass choir in the background.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Viable Politicians

After I sent my son Joel a piece on American politics, I got this in response.

"You know, I never thought about the possibility – or impossibility - of having a Black president in my life time. It always seemed like an abstract idea like going to the moon or interplanetary may happen eventually, but I'm not holding my breath. I've not watched any speeches or debates, but I'm gonna pay attention..."

The irony of your disbelief is the misinformation that commentators have put out as basic fact. I'm sure that they believe that the the two previous African American male candidates who participated in the primary process were viable only because of their activities in the American Civil Rights Movement. Jesse Jackson participated early on as a young preacher who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. He organized People United to Save Humanity or PUSH. Al Sharpton was an even younger minister who followed others in the civil rights movement to prominence, especially in his ministry in the New York City area and then with more national concerns for the rights of minorities and the displaced.

From 1984 and 1988, Americans were challenged to possibly vote for a Black male candidate for president as Jessie Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President. From 1991 to 1997 he served as the Shadow Senator for the District of Columbia, a non-voting representative of a district whose vote does not count, but has everything to do with the social climate in the seat of government.

Al Sharpton made a run for the same Democratic nomination in 2004. As an activist, he says, that is his "...job is to make public civil rights issues until there can be a climate for change." Rev. Shapton was born 5 months after the Supreme Court decided the Brown vs the Board of Education decision that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Yet these are the two Black men that are placed over and against the "first viable Black candidate" Barack Obama. I find it almost insulting whenever I hear any political commentator limit the viability of a candidate to 1. being a Civil Rights Leader and 2. to being a Black Male.

How easily we have dismissed the first Black Candidate for nomination to the office of President of the United States. It may not have been about viability, but credentials, and this twentieth century politician had a purse full. The Honorable Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman from Brooklyn, was not only the first African American woman elected to Congress, where she served from 1968 to 1982, but in her run for the highest office in the United States she was able to garner 151 delegate votes from several primaries in the 1972 race for the presidency.

So you see, my son, even prior to your birth there are some of us who had a glimmer of what was possible and what might be possible, perhaps in your lifetime.


2/12/2008 Monday and Tuesday

Well it took an hour on Monday morning, but I’ve have network access, library access, and ID card. I just can’t seem to download the anti-virus software. Not bad for a days work. Syllabi take up most of the day for my class and the team teaching with Andries Buffel. I’m amazed at how more demanding I seem to be. We’ll see once the class starts and the folks interact with both of us. It’s early to bed and early to rise with 7:20 Chapel every day and Chapel at 7 pm every evening. Not all students come, but I seem to be a regular. On Tuesday evening I just happened glance at the schedule on the Chapel door, as faculty are leading this first week of services. I’m on for Wednesday night. An unexpected gift. So as I reflect on the days, I’m also thinking about tomorrow.

I had my first monkey sighting. As we walked by one of the seminary houses, behind the fence watching all the people walk by was one of Africa’s natural wonders. My student guide for the morning round of offices and ID’s said I bet you don’t have that in America. I responded that I doubt he has seen the quantity of squirrels we can offer. Email is lovely and my next post will share and exchange I’ve had with Joel about politics American style. Peace.

2/10/2008 Sunday

[clicking on picture makes it larger]

The relief on the wall of the chapel was a reminder of the beginning of this life together. Saturday was Community Day at LTI. The morning was filled with ice breakers and introductions. Students who had not been around much during the previous week were showing up and renewing their relationships. Bishop Dube was on campus on Sunday to visit his son-in-law Rev. Kenneth Mtata. I made the effort to let him know that though I teach at LTSP, I'm also a member of Upstate New York Synod, his companion synod. With rain the afternoon sports events were cancelled, but the afternoon ended with a Bible study and then the brai, that’s South African for barbeque.

Sunday was bright and clear and the walk to the Presbyterian church was quick and easy. The surprise was that the table was set for communion again. Again there was a mixture a of praise hymns and African chorals, with a strong teaching sermon. I did ask about the sacramental element of their worship and the pastor’s wife noted that the elders decided to continue after Easter Sunday last year after much discussion. They like a lot of Lutherans were concerned about it becoming no longer ‘special’. I asked how they were able to be so diverse, and she noted that the Scottsville congregation is still somewhat unique in Presbyterian circles.

A full house for the opening worship was a unique way to be introduced to the entire seminary community. [pictures to follow]. The President was thankful for the sermon, as he was the installer for the new student government, and the presider for communion. All ended in time for the sports fanatics to eat dinner and watch the Nations Cup, an African continent ‘world series’ of FIFA football. Tomorrow their lectures start and so does my work…. God give me grace and the words to communicate your word and work. THIS YEAR'S STUDENT COUNCIL

Friday, February 8, 2008

2/7-8/2008 Thursday & Friday

The Vines protect the "Green" laundry dryer.

It's humble, but its home.

A student asked me what my impressions were of LTI and SoRaT, after pausing, I said, “Hurry up and Wait.” The registration and orientation process reminds me of my student days at Wittenberg, with a lot more plastic and no punch cards. Waited all day Thursday for LAN access and am still waiting on Friday. Thanks go to the Librarian for sharing her access codes. I was able to get the Blog up and running, and lo and behold, Dawn gave the first comment. Worked on the sermon Thurs and finished it on Friday before lunch and then printed it. The students asked if it would change. My response, “wait and see.” Dawn asked for more pictures, so as I upload more today, I’ll place pictures of the place and people. I think I’ll send pictures of the birds to Robin, there are some unique creatures.

Dinner Thursday night was with Brian and Kristen Kangel, the Young Adult Missionaries, preparing to find placements for Young Adults on a mission. With a car in place they will move into their home tomorrow. Boxes and bags, but no furniture. Old high school friends they reconnected while he was on internship in Guyana and she was a Peace Corp volunteer. They went back as missionaries for a term in Guyana and were acquainted with Miriam Schmidt and her husband [senior moment-can’t remember his name] who is one of my advisees. They do have a unique challenge.

So on Friday afternoon its back to working on class presentations for next week and cleaning up stuff that needs to be emailed back to LTSP, and maybe a walk to the shopping area, if the rain stops. Too bad its here and not in the Cape area. The drought there sounds like the wild fires of San Diego in November. The world is subject to the decisions of its people, may God give us guidance in Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, and the US, where politics are all affecting the news.

2/6/2008 Wednesday

[This is the view of downtown PMB from the middle of the figure eight of the campus.]

A Wednesday for ashes – I don’t know why I felt particularly penitent today, but I needed to be in church. There was nothing scheduled for campus as students were still returning and registering. LTI Orientation is the coming Saturday. So off to the Presbyterian church where they talked about Ash Wednesday during the sermon, but they only had a 7 am Bible Study and Prayer session. It’s hot, really hot. This week Pietermaritsburg is hosting the Intaka Tech World’s View Cycling Challenge, 99 cyclists from around the world in training in a warm climate during the middle of winter. It’s hot enough to have the tires stick to the tar. It was fun to see Team Rwanda.

Planning the teaching schedule with Prof. Buffela for the Introduction to CPE. There are only a couple of truly CPE sites in SAfrica, but there is desire to have the final year ministerial students exposed to pastoral care in a clinical setting, though it is not as rigorous as a unit of CPE. The Dean stopped in to get me an ID and access to the LAN. The computer access may appear tomorrow, but the queue for the ID’s was extraordinary, maybe tomorrow, with special dispensation.

After lunch I was truly tired, having been awake at 1 am here to listen to All Things Considered at the closing of the east coast polls. I plowed on working on the sermon, as it has to be done by Friday so I can copy it on the ‘universal printer’ before the library closes. Lo, and behold, the last two student council presidents are in the midst of setting up an Ash Wednesday service, complete with ashes. Suddenly I’m not so tired and it’s the first time I’ve seem a lot of the community gathered, though there was a stark absence of white students. God and I have a couple of questions about this portion of wilderness in which we find ourselves for the next 40 days. Peace, rest calls, as does sleep…..

2/5/2008 Tuesday

Going to bed really early with the power out means that the lights come on when the power is returned. So, I got to hear another edition of All Things Considered at 1 am. The Giants won, go figure. I guess I’ll hear about Super Tuesday on my Wednesday morning. Even with an hour of being awake, you finish eight hours of sleep, really early. So it was off to the laundry room, two washers for 109 students and families. Off to the library for a wireless hot spot. Eleven hundred messages later, it’s off to the IT department to get an application for local access. Then back to the office to fill out the form and use the ID of the LTI librarian to start reading and responding to the host of email. At the break for lunch, I meet two German students who have just flown in to start their year of study. Folded sun dried laundry and I’m back to the computer purging. I’m done by dinner.

So this is catch up time and the beginning of sermon prep, and maybe a little Clinebell before the lids get too heavy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

2/4/2008 Monday

Early to rise gives one a head start on matters of the spirit, but it also makes one available for early morning meetings. Today’s after an invitation from Andreis Buffela, its off to the beginning of orientation for the Graduate Programs at the School of Religion and Theology [SoRaT] at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The Head of School [Dean] is Dr. Steven DeGruncy, and he sets the stage for introductions of Faculty, then students. Sixteen countries are represented among the students: Australia/Canada, Cameroon, Mozambique, Rawanda, Uganda, Burundi, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and one I forgot-perhaps Central African Republic. The fields of study include: Theology and Development, Biblical Studies, History of Christianity, Ministerial Studies, Gender and Religion, Systematic Theology and African Religion, and Catholic Theology and Christian Spirituality. The morning is topped off with Tea before area meetings.

I know that I’m the first one from the ELCA to take on this sabbatical travel/teaching, but it would have been helpful to have met several of these folks who were in San Diego for AAR/SBL, including the Principal of LTI, Dr. Farisani. After lunch I experience a second faculty meeting at LTI. The faculty now have the test scores for new students, and they like the faculty at LTSP have concerns about what to do with students who are on the margins. Though I was given the option of leaving early, I didn’t leave early enough. I’ve been asked to preach at the opening worship service on Sunday. That is considerably more time than the first time [12hours] I was asked to preach in South Africa. A quick walk to get a newspaper before dinner, then back to start reading for the sermon….or so I thought. [Cont. Tuesday AM] It must have been an act of God to give us Load-Shedding twice in the same day.

The national power company is only able to provide 90% of the power needs for the country. That means that the gold mines are reporting a loss of 60 million Rand per day, because of the rolling power outages. So it was early to bed, 7:45 pm, no light, no radio, just me and God, and thoughts of D, K and J; and a touch of lonliness. [Yes, I’ve got matches and candles, but I’m not reading by candle light.]

2/3/2008 Sunday

Five o’clock still seems way too early to be awake, but it does create time to read, pray, and truly be awake. It’s the end of summer here and hot. On the way to church at the Presbyterian Church around the corner, men passed me with the shirts off, almost consistently it seems that they were saving the shirt for wear when they arrived. The service was much more contemporary than I expected, but the church is across the street from the university campus. It is a mixed congregation of blacks and whites, and a few Asians. They noted that they were small, but the pastor has served there for 27 years, [it helps to have the pastor’s wife sit next to you.] Some students are regulars, and they were encouraged to be on campus evangelists to invite others. Their colorful sign noting their diversity attracted me. I got an invitation to dinner with the pastor’s family. In hesitating, I asked for a date in the future.

I’m beginning to note the things I did not pack, like a couple more t-shirts, but that I can get locally. I did forget to bring Luther’s Work on CD. I may have some use for it, but then there is the library. Finished the newspaper and attacked Clinebell again, but noted on the radio that there is a report of Tiger’s win in Dubai, soccer scores from Europe and the African continent, Cricket scores from one day matches with the West Indies and the retirement of a SA Cricketer, and only a brief, I do mean brief mention of the XLII Super Bowl. It didn’t make the TV schedule. I suppose I’ll hear the score on NPR’s Morning edition. I heard Saturday’s broadcast at Midnight, after being sort of asleep for a couple of hours. So I’ll be a couple of days late, but I’ll truly miss the advertisements.

2/2/2008 Saturday

5:18 came again as a time to get up, sleep didn’t come easy. I spent some time talking to God about this. If there was an answer, God’s recommendation is that I should be early to bed and early to rise. I didn’t find anyone in the dining facility for breakfast, so it’s back to my quarters for more cornflakes.

Clinebell takes on my attention again, but today seems hot, so shorts and a Tee make the appropriate wardrobe. Lunch looks vaguely familiar, like the broil chicken from the day before with rice, gravy and salad. The cooks are reluctant to follow my suggestion that one spoon of rice is sufficient.

After lunch its time to walk to the shopping center in the other direction for I need clothes pins, paper towels, and bathroom cleaner. The mop and bucket were already here. Halfway home I realize that I forgot the weekend newspaper. So after a brief respite it’s off to the mall near the main campus. After 5.5 miles on a warm afternoon the shower felt good prior to dinner. The fun part was taking pictures today without appearing to be carrying a camera. [Pictures to be posted when the Internet becomes available.] Students came to get their food and return to their own quarters. They also have to supply their own plate and silverware, which they are responsible for keeping clean. It is a different arrangement.

A little Clinebell, a little typing, a little radio, a lot of sleep….

2/1/2008 Friday

Faculty members are still gone today and the librarian has a funeral, so… email is postponed again. Back to the book, but 100 pages is not accomplished. It’s time to walk 2.2 miles round trip to the shopping mall on the other side of the University campus. The Lutheran Theological Institute is near the ‘outside’ center of the campus which is shaped like a figure eight. Tissues, juice, laundry soap, and newspapers are the highlight the hike. Maybe its jet lag, but a nap draws my attention and not Clinebell. Lunch with the students happens for the first time. First year students are on campus to take qualifying examinations. If they do not pass…they may go home.

The move to the Pietermaritzburg campus has settled the issues of the course of study for the students. They know that they are on the main campus for the liberal arts courses, but they believe, rather forcefully, that their courses in theology are much more rigorous. Returning students are getting settled, but the new students are worried. One surprise is that the Moravian students had been studying at LTI, but this year they returned to Capetown. The perception, by students, is that this is an issue of oversight. There are few Moravian churches in the area.

Dinner is with Phil Knutson who has stayed over a couple of extra days to get the Kankels settled and to get to know me. It’s a pleasant evening at the new mall and its good to know that there is free [200-300 minutes per month] internet. But the caution is that one doesn’t travel with an obvious computer as they make you a target. The sun has been long gone, there is a radio, but no Jay Leno, so at 10 pm, sleep calls…..

Sabbatical Travel

Thanks God for a restful night after a long day and half of travel.

It was way to early to start the day at 5:48, but I would not be alone. The faculty traveled to Durban to be a part of the meetings with the Religion and Theology Department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The departments have merged recently with Religion at Durban and Theology at Pietermaritzburg. So without adapters for my power cords computer use was not high on the agenda, so reading took first place.

I remember reading about Clinebell, but I think I was raised on Stone and Stone. So one hundred pages of Howard Clinebell filled the morning until I realized that I was tired and took a late morning nap. A little after noon I met up with Philip Knutson and Brian and Kristen Kankel. Phil is the program assistant for Southern Africa. Child of missionaries who were based in KwaZulu Natal province, this is a lot like home for him. He was also a missionary in the Orange Free State. This was his chance to get to know me and my “vast” experience of 5 short visits. At least I have some historical perspective.

Brian and Kristen brought me greetings from Miriam Schmidt, one of my advisees. She did an internship in Guyana where they had been missionaries. They just arrived on Sunday to start a new program of hosting young adults on short term mission stays in southern Africa. They were in the midst of setting up their household in Pietermaritzburg. So a bit of shopping was on everyone’s mind, theirs was a bit more heavy duty than mine.

We shared supper with a long term resident Solve Otte(?) The grandchild and child of missionaries, she is a permanent resident in KwaZulu Natal. A retired hospital lab technician she is working with AIDS victims in a nearby township to make some sustainable crafts. Beautiful free trade carry bags are the products she helps them with in dying and marketing. Most are sold through church groups and congregations. [Pictures later.]

Day is done gone the sun….