Monday, September 27, 2010

Welcome to Masealama

First of all I would like to apologize for not keeping my blog up to this point. I have been settling into my surroundings here in Masealama, and am still struggling with internet access regularity, but from this point onward the blog has become my top priority when I receive internet because I want to keep everyone connected!
It is the end of my first month here in Masealama, and you should be receiving a newsletter for the month in your e-mails, and if you haven’t and would like to be added to the distribution list, please let me know. I introduced the town a little in that letter, but I’ll summarize what I can here.
Late on the night of September 7th my good friend Moss picked me up from my bus stop in Polokwane and took me to my new home in Masealama. As we drove down the straight road through countless small towns in between the two locations, I kept my eyes pealed on the surroundings, noticing the dryness of the landscape, the flat expanses interrupted with rather abrupt rocky mounds which are called mountains. As we drove east we drove further toward the mountain ranges, and Masealama is actually the last town situated at the base of a mountain. As we drove up to Masealama, I just knew that this was the place I was supposed to be—I got the same feeling I got when I heard South Africa announced for my destination for the year at our YAGM DIP event. It was a knot in my stomach, and some kind of divine understanding that there is something special about this place of which I need to be a part. I didn’t see a sign, nor was told that the town up the hill was Masealama, but I knew. I look forward to seeing how God is working through me and the people of this town over the coming year.
This first month has not been without its’ struggles, that is for sure, and I am certain I will have many more. One of the many struggles that I have on a daily basis is that of water. We currently have no running water in my house in Masealama, so all our water comes from the pump down the street that we then carry back in wheelbarrows to the large blue bucket in out literal water closet in our house. While I struggle daily for that water, and see how I can cut my water usage, I reflect back upon my day to day life in the United States and how free flowing and easy it is to get water without even thinking about where it comes from or what a precious resource it is. I am also daily exposed to the large North South divide which dominates our planet- as I travel from a middle class family in the USA to a poorer rural community in South Africa, I have experienced both sides of that economic divide. I even see it as I travel throughout the country- seeing the dichotomy between the luxuries present in the city and the struggles present a few minutes down the road in the rural communities. There are countless more, but I know that living in these situations and being forced to view the issues facing our world from a different perspective are going to help me grow this year.
I will be keeping in touch, and please do the same for me! I try to get internet access twice a week, and will respond to your e-mails and comments as soon as possible! Thank you for the prayers and support from the across the ocean, they are definitely helping me carry through on a daily basis.

Heather Anne Nelson

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Power of Prayer

First of all, South Africa is rocking my world. The country, the culture, the people, this program... everything. Even though I have only seen a little bit of Pietermaritzburg, one small city in this large country, I can not wait to continue to be blown away.

Moving backward in time, I would like to briefly mention our orientation in Chicago. This week was a perfect start to our year of service, and the discussions which were held there both in and out of the "classroom" have already begun to shift my perspective. One particular discussion focused on "spirituality"- discussing how various spiritual practices found in other denominations and religions have a certain amount of merit which can be applied to our faith to help build our own spirituality. We participated in centering prayer, focusing, body scans, and stretch-n-pray's which are highly atypical for a Lutheran group like us, however, we all went into this experience with an open mind and were surprised of the results.

Sunday morning before I left I attended a Quaker meeting with a friend who practices Quakerism. The meetings are typically around an hour long, and members sit in silent centering prayer until they come to some realization which they feel needs to be shared with the whole group. I am not even close to adequately describing Quakerism, but what I can explain is my personal experience. While we were sitting around, and I was trying to reign in all of my thoughts from far off lands, one man stood up and spoke a little about why Quakers gater. He said that they gather TOGETHER to pray, to connect, to go deeper, and to discover what God (the Light) wants us to hear. After that I started focusing on connecting to the people around me, who I had never even met, and to God. Soon enough, those that got up to speak were speaking of issues and topics that were right in the front of my mind. They spoke of how even the smallest act can change someon's life, of how sometimes it is very hard to see eye to eye with someone of a different culture or background, and how there are walls, real and imagine, which we put up between each other which need to be "unbuilt". They even mentioned countries like Jerusalem/West Bank and South Africa directly, and thos of us who were YAGM's in the room were in awe of the relevancy of the conversation to our lives. It was as if God was speaking directly to us though the people in that room, who were acting as mirrors to direct the Light to us. That morning I got to see the power of prayer, which connects us with each other and God, in a more direct manner than I have ever experienced before. God is working through us and in us at all times, and sometimes it is through the eyes of a stranger that brings you to see it.