Tag Archives: God

Simplicity

There is a small rural village in Rwanda. It spans several hills, as most towns do. I ended up staying there for the first part of my visit to Rwanda, the “culture plunge”.  I plunged thoroughly into the culture! In this town, I drank rosemary tea with creamy milk, I worked the fields with women, I carried a baby on my back, I chewed on freshly-cut sugar cane and enjoyed fried green bananas and my first much-anticipated cassava, I attended a three hour long Catholic mass in the local language Kinyarwanda, I spoke probably more French than ever before, and I took my first trip on a motorcycle taxi.

The Rwandan countryside is incredibly beautiful to me. Far more so than I expected. Often I was left just staring at the hills around us. The earth is so abundant there. Almost everybody owns not only a home, but also a piece of land behind the home – sometimes quite a large piece like a hockey field in total, broken into blocks over the hill.

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The knowledge of how to cultivate one’s own lands for subsistence has not been forgotten in Rwanda. Households, even when some members earn salaries, are encouraged to grow plenty of their own food and the surplus they load in a basket and carry down to the market. Maybe there are parts of South Africa where this still happens, but I fear most of us forgot how to live like this because of urbanisation and land dispossession. I explained to Rwandans that many South Africans live in shacks very close to each other, with no land to grow anything. When such South Africans have no money, they have no food. Standing in a field of sweet potatoes and mielies, banana trees and avo trees overhead, my sketch of South African poverty sounds almost too terrible to be real. No-one seems to believe me.

While there are many things I learned in that town, what God has most strongly revealed to me, so far, about the experience is simplicity. Life in there is simpler than any life I have ever lived. If you ask people what we are going to do tomorrow, they have two, maybe three things on the list. One evening I asked what we would do the next day and the only reply was: we will be washing clothes.

The value of a simple lifestyle is that, with all the clutter of my ordinary life out of the way, I began to hear myself think.

This was not as terrifying as I expected. Maybe you are like me, almost afraid of being too idle because you’re not sure you would like having a conversation with yourself. It wasn’t as scary as that. It was gradual and gentle. I thought more things through, I prayed about more things, and I felt more at peace with myself.

Live closer to the things growing around you, and you will notice your own growth.

It is the third month of the short rainy season. Go down on your haunches in a field. Look down and see the deep red earth, pushed aside with a hoe three months ago to make a shallow planting hole. See the darker bits of composted grass and cow dung, stuck into the hole before the bean was planted there, so that when it germinated it would be surrounded by nutrients. Look how the bean has grown, finding next to it the tall dry branch that the careful farmer has stuck in next to it, and beginning to climb. See the first tender flowers.

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See how green the plant is, seeming like it lacks nothing. It has abundant food, warm sunshine, and plenty of water. Like you. And now let the skin on your feet feel the red footpath, trailing the side of the hill, homeward.

The first few days back in South Africa, I was very pleased when the desire to reflect and to write down brief insights in my journal did not fade. I sensed in myself a hint more grace for people, too; inner peace spilling over in outer peace. I thought that Rwanda has changed me.

But two days later, I was back to rushing from one thing to another and the journal entries dried up. I realised that the peace was a result, at least in part, of the simplicity I had lived. And that I would have to consciously seek out such a life if I wanted to enjoy that peace.

I went to my allotment garden at Ariston. I planted the “dodo” plant seeds that Consellée had given me. And I felt something of the peace return. I will keep seeking.

vegetables and ideas

in english for once.

two people in my house are vegetarians. they eat veggies and they say they were convicted from eating meat. they say it is because they have come to respect life and that they think it is wrong to kill unnecessarily (it is unnecessary to eat animals if you have access to other food).

that, and the fact that one of them has confronted me with rip-the-carpet-out-from-under-you worldviews concerning racism and injustice, is making me feel quite uncormfortable. i kind of feel oppressed,  as if i am a blind person and they see the light. as if there is shame hanging over me. it hangs over me and makes me feel unwelcome.

i hope that this is not what people feel like in the presence of christians like myself. it is hardly a wonder that i’ve come to be really gentle, especially on non-christians, because i cannot expect the holy spirit to water the seeds i plant in their lives through my arguments of morality. instead they often feel condemned, written off, unwelcome. and they’re more likely to run than be attracted to that light.

but i am learning that if i am to survive in a world with many mixed messages and strong statements, as a christian, i’m going to have to be in constant dialogue with the spirit. he’s going to have to tell me whether my discomfort is just from being the only one who holds a certain position, or whether he is actually exposing me to wisdom that he wants me to incorporate into my own way of thinking.

i believe that he is the one in control of my life, meaning that if i listen to his voice he will lead me where i need to go and i will have nothing to fear, not even in terms of “missing out” on spiritual development because he will help me prioritise.this includes the ideas i am confronted with, the books i get the oppurtunity to read, the people i meet, the relationships i enter into, the chances i get to help, the people i get to ask help from, and everything else that builds into and changes my life.

besides veggie stuff. there’s so much to change about the world. there are so many valuable books. so many trails of thought to develop. where in the world do i start? and how much time do i spend gathering tools, time which could be spent using the tools i already have?

he is my guide. he better be. i’d be so lost without him.

ipod farewell

Dit was die 17e Desember 2008 en die eerste been van my rit huis toe het pas begin. Dit was ‘n bittersoet totsiens in Parys, waar Pieka sy vlug later die dag sou vang. Die einde van ‘n era, en ons het dit geweet.

Ek was teen hierdie tyd ‘n pro met die treine. My ipod het Tree63 gekies en ek het dit van random afgehaal sodat dit op Tree63 bly. “All of your days I’m walking home with you…”

Ek het my oe toegemaak en probeer tot rus kom, maar die trane was maar vlak. Hoe nader ons aan Duitsland gekom het, hoe kaler het die wereld geword. En hoe meer sneeu het God soos make-up op die yl landskap gesprinkel. Oorkant my het ‘n jong vrou gesit met die pragtigste twee donkerkop dogtertjies. Sy’t probeer om nie te wys dat sy kan sien hoe ek huil nie. Ek het ‘n prentjie in my dagboek geteken van die telefoonpale waar verby ons ry – swerms en swerms voels vir wie die Here so rg, selfs in hierdie ysige koue. Daai versie het my vir die eerste keer regtig getref.

Ek het gedink oor die maand wat verby is. Nadia-hulle in Belfort, dapper en opgewonde: die byna underground kerkgemeenskap. Maureen, die pastoor se vrou met die plooie en die vrede. Dit is maklik om saam met hulle te glo en te sien dat die Heilige Gees aan die beweeg is in Frankryk. En die Van Reenens – my en Irie se spring-spring deur die diepe sneeu; tannie Windred se ongeergde wysheid oor my wroeginge. En hy. Ek het my hart toegelaat om uit te freak in my.

‘n Spierwit koppie bo-op ‘n skaterende mensie. Sy was seker nie vier jaar oud nie en sy’t vol selfvertroue op en af gewaggel in die paadjie. Waggel-trippel tot teen die glasdeur en ek maak dit byna outomaties vir haar oop. Cara! Dis ‘n driejarige, en jy help haar weg-waggel van haar familie af, in die volgende treinkompartement in? Ek het maar opgestaan en haar terugbegelei in haar ouers se rigting. Sy’t my vertrou – sommer lag-lag.

Die ure het verbygegaan. Ek en die vrou oorkant my het in ons ewe gebroke Frans gesels oor haar twee dogtertjies, haar onlangse egskeiding, en haar toekoms vorentoe. En myne. Toemaar wat, het sy gese, jy’s nog jonk. Dit was duidelik dat sy glo haar romanse is vir ewig iets van die verlede, so beeldskoon soos sy is op dertig.

Net voor een van die Duitse stede het die blonde kind se gesin opgestaan en solank by die deur kom wag. Die blonde kind het maats gemaak met die donkerkopdogtertjies. Watter taal praat sy? het ek haar ma gevra. Eintlik drie tale, het haar ma verduidelik – Frans, Engels en Duits. So ‘n klein dogtertjie? Ja, regtig. Sy’t vertel hoedat hierdie bondeltjie winterjas selfs al met Duitse familievriende Duits begin praat en met Engelse familievriende weet om in Engels te gesels. En hoedat sy, by die aankoop van ‘n nuwe rokkie, daarop aangedring het dat dit nie ‘n Duitse jurk is nie maar ‘n Franse robe.

Dit was een te veel vir my. Nog ‘n Europa-kindjie. Wat is die kans dat sy ware lewe vind; ware vreugde beleef? Skattig. Godloos. Slim antwoorde op alles behalwe die doel van haar lewe. Ek het my gesig in my Philip Yancey boek weggesteek.

Net toe die trein stop, let haar ma skielik die boek op. “That’s a great book,” se sy. Ek’s verstom. “You know this book?” “Yes, it’s amazing, I read it a couple of years ago.”

Ek voel nou stupid hieroor, maar die volgende ding wat ek gese het, was “There are Christians left in Europe?”

Sy’t gelag, maar nie ongemaklik nie. Goedig. “Oh yes!”

Die blou ogies was besig om die donkerkoppies se speelgoed te verken. “… Then she’s in good hands.”

Haar ma het geglimlag. “Yes she is.”

En toe is hulle weg.

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culture shock

Nog ‘n tuiskoms, nog ‘n kultuurskok.

Ek is al hoe meer oortuig dat, ten spyte van alles wat op Stellenbosch aangaan, dit eintlik ‘n flippen maklike lewe is. Die regtige diep goed; goed wat jare onopgelos kan bly en/of vererger; die goed wat regtig seermaak wanneer jy daarmee gekonfronteer word en probeer om dit te verbeter, gebeur in jou kernverhoudings: jou familie.

Die naweek was Namrock – volg die link in my vorige blog, jy sal die spyt wees nie – en dit was om ‘n hele paar redes cool. Maar iets wat sal uitstaan as ‘n unieke ervaring in my lewe, was die woorde van oom Isak du Plooy. Hy’s die boer op Nukois, naby Karasburg, en ek en hy het lekker gebond tydens die altesaam 4 ure wat dit gekos het om Pieka by die hospitaal en terug te kry.Oom Isak.

Boere ken regtig almal mekaar! Toe ek noem ek’s ‘n Meintjes, toe trek oom Isak se oe op skrefies… toe ek se my oupa het naby Ariamsvlei geboer, toe se hy versekerd: Ek het daai Meintjese geken.

Nie net het hy hulle geken nie, vertel hy my later, maar my oupa Kobus Meintjes spesifiek het ‘n indruk op hom gemaak. Dit moes seker die 1950’s gewees het toe hy begin oplet het dat, wanneer daar verwarring in ‘n dorpsberaad begin kom het of die spanning bietjie hoog begin loop, dit Kobus was wat kon opstaan, die feit netjies van links na regs uiteensit, en rustig ‘n goeie voorstel maak vir hoe om die saak op te los.

My oupa. My Meintjes-oupa.

Ja, se oom Isak, om die waarheid te se hy en ‘n paar van die ander jong mans in die distrik het nogal opgekyk na my oupa in hierdie opsig. En hy’t ‘n belangstelling vir die politiek ook gehad, met ‘n opinie wat die moeite werd was om te hoor. Hy was ‘n SAP.

Pappa Theo, as jongste seun, het maar nie veel meer as die streng Kobus op die plaas geken nie, en boonop was Pappa van graad 1 af in die koshuis. My ma het al gese sy dink een ding wat Meintjese goed doen, is vasbyt. Maar dat Oupa iemand was om na op te kyk, en dat hy (soos ek!) belang gestel het in die politiek… dit het ek regtig nie eens geraai nie.

Hoe cool is dit. Ek aard dan dalk bietjie na daardie kant van die familie ook. Daar’s ‘n dieper connection met my Meintjes-kant as ‘n van waarvan jy altyd vir mense moet herinner daar’s net een “i” in. Ek weet my oupa het gesorg dat al sy kinders ‘n goeie opvoeding kry, al het dit swaar gegaan. Maar hierdie brokkie bewondering, seker 50 jaar later, van oom Isak, spark iets soos… trots in my. Die cool soort trots.

So Meintjes-wees is om nog ‘n rede cool.

Maar nou kom ek by die huis en … wel, alles is maar ver van perfek hier. Pieka cringe altyd as ek my ouers – veral my pa – kritiseer en ek stem al hoe meer met hom saam: eer jou vader en jou moeder. Want daar is beslis by ons drie girls saadjies van ‘n gebrek aan respek vir ons ouers, gepaard met min waardering vir die ongelooflik baie maniere waarop hulle ons seen.

Maar dit maak dit nie vir my maklik om te kom uit ‘n wereld waar my mees complicated verhouding die een met my kamermaat is na ‘n wereld waar ek dink my sussies beskadig my ouers, my ouers beskadig mekaar en al my jare van gebrek aan respek het die hele situasie vererger nie.

Dis regtig in gesinsverhoudings waar 2 Korintiers 5:19-20 die grootste uitdaging is vir my. “Ministers of reconciliation”… eish. Maar ok. Ek wil mos he God moet deur my werk. Binnekort spring vier uit die vyf Meintjese in ‘n kar en toer vir drie weke deur Botswana.

Mag dit goed wees.

My ma Nelleke en haar ma, Hanneke.