A South African ‘Thank You'Written by thank-you-sa
February 28, 2006
Lydia Johnson - New Zealand
After one of the workshops I attended at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Brazil in February ‘06, a young Indian woman rushed up to me and embraced me, and said, "I have wanted for so many years to say ‘thank you' to you!" Then she shared her story. She had been a student in one of my large theology classes at University of Durban-Westville in South Africa in 1995.
She described herself as a ‘lost soul,' someone who was so bruised by the upheavals of growing up ‘in the struggle' in South Africa that she could not find any sense of direction for her life. She was failing most of her courses at the university. But an essay topic in my course on ‘Women and the Church' somehow captured her interest, and she found herself going to the library and actually researching her topic. Her essay came back with a good mark and encouraging words from her teacher - me. Now, a decade later, she was soon to submit her Ph.D. thesis in feminist theology, she is a ‘leading light' in church and theological education circles in South Africa, and played a prominent role in the WCC women's pre-assembly in Brazil. She told me that my encouraging remarks on her paper were the first sign of affirmation she had ever been given that she was a person of worth and promise. This (now) confident young woman was just one of a sea of faces I encountered daily in the large lecture halls where I did most of my teaching in South Africa. I often wondered if my teaching there had any positive effect whatsoever. But this young woman's ‘thank you' and the tears it elicited in both her eyes and mine were a poignant reminder of why our presence around the world as part of the Global Ministries family is so critical.
Lydia Johnson is a missionary with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. She teaches students in practical/applied theology, serves as a consultant to the theology department's distant learning center and provides pastoral care.
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