Re-connectingApril 1, 2014
Home again in California after one year in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It is wonderful to re-connect with family and friends. And yet, I know in a sense I will never again be truly “home.” For home is always where our heart is, and my heart is now in so many places with all the wonderful people I have met. How fortunate I am to have the experience to serve on your behalf. I hope you have had the opportunity to see all the pictures on my blog, www.LolettainNamibia@blogspot.com. If you cannot get into it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to help! It was a joy to post pictures from the day I left until I returned. I tried to post pictures primarily, with the intent that you might experience what I was experiencing; directly and without any ongoing commentary.
From February to June I was in South Africa and Botswana waiting for my visa from Namibia. I had many opportunities. I visited the Moffat Mission in Kuruman, South Africa and began to understand the history of the missionaries in Southern Africa and the journey to become the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. I toured the historical sites and Apartheid Museum and gained an appreciation for the horror of Apartheid and its legacy. I was able to go back to our “roots” at the Cradle of Humankind Museum.
I was honored to be invited to lead the devotions at the week-long Executive Meeting for the UCCSA in Botswana. This was followed by a joyous week in Gabarone and Molepolole, Botswana. I co-lead a woman’s retreat on the Spirit and shared Holy Week celebrations with a wonderful colleague and her congregation.
In June I headed to Namibia! I was able to visit the capital, Windhoek and meet the people in leadership for the Namibia Synod, UCCSA. I stayed in Otjiwarango and was able to worship with the Otjiwarango portion of the Kalkfeld Congregational Church several times. But the majority of my time was spent in Kalkfeld, Namibia. To say that I miss the people there would be a gross understatement as you will see if you view my blog!
Kalkfeld is a settlement in the north of Namibia, 200 miles north of Windhoek and 50 miles south of the nearest town, Otjiwarango. The people speak Afrikaans, Damara, Otjiherero and English. Although Afrikaans and English are the official languages of Namibia since independence, remoteness limits the use of English.
There are approximately 2000 people in Kalkfeld: 950 under 16, and 150 over 60, which is retirement age and considered an “elder” in Namibia. The rest are primarily young mothers or unemployed laborers. Many children live with grandmothers while parents live and work in another town. There are two schools, one K-10 and one K-8, and 180 of the children attending live in the hostel at the school. To attend high school a student must score well on the National exams, transfer to another town and pay the fees for boarding and classes.
There is a post office, a police station, a sewing project, a clinic and a few small mom and pop convenience stores. There is no other employment in Kalkfeld. Some people work on local farms or ranches but most of the employment age individuals live elsewhere and visit their family only when they get a holiday. The incidence of alcoholism and drug addiction is high.
There are two sections of Kalkfeld- the church grounds on the south side and the Location on the North side. The Location is a remnant of Apartheid in Namibia. It was the area that non-whites, particularly “black” persons, were permitted to live while they worked for white farmer, ranchers and employers. Approximately 35 years ago there was a dairy processing plant and a couple of other white owned companies in Kalkfeld that needed labor.
The first congregational church in Namibia was established in Kalkfeld in 1935. The sanctuary building and most of the congregation live on land donated or purchased from a white farmer. The members are considered “colored”- a term used during Apartheid to refer to persons of mixed race- predominantly black and white. There are 11 houses on the land and several ruins. Five of the houses are occupied by families, and one family lives in a garage. The other houses are used for holidays or the occupant and lives most of the time on a remote ranch for work.
I served as the Pastor for the congregation. There were 7 to 15 persons in worship, including 8 children under 16, one teen, a few in their 40s and the rest over 70. Worship was in Afrikaans, except for when I spoke of course. I learned basic phrases in Afrikaans but was dependent upon translation. Most of my ministry was with the children. They asked for Sunday school the day I arrived. I walked with them every day and we sang, danced, colored, painted watched movies, baked, and played together. We worked on a Nativity play and decorated the sanctuary.
I also visited the elders and tried to plant a garden in the hot sun in the hard soil. I participated in dedications for two tombstones. I learned about the animals there- mostly the critters to avoid! I volunteered at one elementary school, reading and singing with the children so they could hear English from a native speaker. I attended the UCCSA General Assembly and was warmly welcomed and appreciated as a missionary from Global Ministries.
I lived with the people and learned from them, and wished every day that I could do more for and with them. I was sorry to leave. I would go back in a heartbeat and take books and art supplies for the children. I would go equipped to provide drug and alcohol counseling. I would go with transportation for me and for them. But in the meantime, I send my prayers and I send notes of encouragement. When it came time for me to leave, things happened that showed me that even in a short time, their lives and mine were changed by living and acting in love.
Rev. Dr. Loletta Barrett completed her term with the Namibia Synod of the UCCSA in Kalkveld, Namibia. She served as a pastor.
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