Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A full and fulfilling day in Itsoseng… Tuesday 22 July

Rose and I travelled on Monday afternoon (21 July) to Itsoseng – a township near to the town of Lichtenburg, about 100km from our base in Klerksdorp. 

We were met by Father Sam Diphokwane on the edge of the township… we thought we knew where we were going  (but really we didn’t ) and we were glad that he found us before we knew we were lost – he spotted our car, and did a neat overtaking manoeuvre, waving at us to make sure we had spotted his rescue plan.

We shared a delicious meal with Father Sam and members of his church, St Peter’s Itsoseng  – talking about the joys and challenges facing the church in our two countries… and there were many similarities.

After a good night’s sleep in warm blankets to keep out the cold – we shared a breakfast of porridge, eggs, toast and boerworst (South African sausage) – and met with Lorretta, one of the Church Wardens at St Peter’s Itsoseng, who took us to visit two schools in the area. 

The first was Reatlagile Special School, where the Principal, Josephine Morobe, showed us around her remarkable, very special, Special School.  We met a committed group of teachers all proud of their students and their achievements and the learners were delighted to meet us and show us their work – which ranged from writing to creative artwork, table decorations, napkin rings (which were up-cycled from disused metal scissors) and some delicious cakes (which we were privileged to eat later).  We discovered that Lorretta was a mentor to Josephine in her development training - a great model for making disciples- and the success of the school showed what a difference having and older mentor can make.

There was a tangible sense of partnership and a genuine love for the children on the part of the teachers. We passed a room with neatly laid out cups and chairs which looked like it was set apart for some special guests… the school had been visited by a local radio station the previous day as part of the station’s contribution to Mandela Day ( where individuals and groups are challenged to do community service for 67 minutes in remembering the contribution of Nelson Mandela).  We presumed that this mini reception was for folk from the radio station… we were amazed that we were then invited in to have tea, school made cakes and ‘say a few words’ in response to our visit.  We were happy to oblige and it was not hard to praise the remarkable effort of the teachers and learners.

Lorretta then took us to the primary school where she used to Principal until she retired – again there were enthusiastic teachers and learners and we had plenty of opportunities to practice our greetings in Tswana – much to the amusement of the children.  The school has about 80% of it’s learners who come from homes on social benefit – and live in the poorest area within the area - Ferdvaal  (which means 'lost)  and so we were glad to be shown the school meals kitchen ( a corrugated metal shed) in which three hardworking women produce nutritionally balanced meals for all the students.  Jamie Oliver would have been impressed.  The deputy head who took us around explained that the school now had it’s own borehole as the water supply in Itsoseng can be unreliable- just one of the many challenges that the folk who live her have to face daily – when we asked we were told that there were about 500,000 people living in the township!

We returned back to Father Sam’s home for a meal with two of the team members who would travel with us to Hands at Work in Africa (Kagiso and Katlego).   There was then time to call in on Canon Father Ngidi,  a long serving priest in Lichtenburg, who was unwell  He was glad to see us and we were happy to pray for his healing and wholeness and for his wife Obertina. 

Our final call was also in Lichtenburg, to pick up another team member, Elisa, who was waiting for us at the home of the priest in her church  - Revd Elizabeth Amir.

The journey to Klerksdorp went quickly and we arrived in time for a meeting with all the Matlosane team members( Rocky and Father Edward Leboe were waiting for us when we arrived)   which included us finding out some more about each other, the placed we come from and about Hands at Work in Africa.  Bishop Steve spoke to all the team and encouraged us to journey together and come back to make a difference in our local settings. Our evening ended with a shared meal before everyone departed to their hosts for the night. 

An early start awaits us as we travel to Hands at Work, White River in Mpumalanga tomorrow and we hope to visit the apartheid museum en route.  This was a very full and fulfilling day… and in it we have met some remarkable people quietly doing remarkable things in the service of God and others…and doing it for not very much material return. 

In the UK we can easily fall into the trap of assessing things by their ‘worth’ in terms of a visible outcome or financial measure.  We have seen today people and things of great value – and that value cannot have a price tag or a quantity put on it.   We have much to learn from our neighbours in South Africa.

Richard Westwood