Yesterday was a good day. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Just good.
It was the last day for the Timbali women to turn in their finished products before this month’s payday. There were only about 15 ladies that came, bringing their own completed bags,and also the work of the other women who had stayed back to cook at the care points. We sat at two falling apart wooden picnic tables, with bags piled around us. We registered who had turned in what, we did quality control, we folded, we sorted, we talked, and we LAUGHED until our faces hurt.
We are starting to make plans for our annual camp coming up in August, and since there was just a small group of us sitting around, I thought I’d get some feedback on what they have liked about past camps, and what they’d like to see happen at future ones.
Their first suggestion of something new we could try: an ATHLETIC COMPETITION! Keep in mind these ladies range in age from 23 to 84, with the majority probably 40+ years old! Once the idea was presented though, they all had thoughts to add. One woman mentioned a soccer tournament. Based on the way they competed at the 3 legged race a few years ago, I immediately had images running through my head of roughed up African grannies strewn across the soccer field. They also want to have foot races, and said that since there are so many of them, we would have to divide them up into two categories: fat women, and skinny ones. Then they decided there would actually need to be four categories: old and fat, old and skinny, young and fat, and lastly, young and skinny. I think I mentioned in my last blog that these ladies tend to be pretty direct in regard to comments about physical appearance!
FOOD was another big topic of discussion. The boarding school that we usually rent out for camp always wants to put pizza on the menu. In the past I’ve always had them change it to the traditional rice and stew these rural women seem to be most accustomed to. So yesterday I asked the women if they would like to have pizza at camp. They erupted with fist pumps and shouts of, ‘YES!’ except for one gogo (Siswatti word for grandma), who clearly stated that she “would not eat the pizza.” (She didn’t seem to object to the race for fat old women though.) One year spaghetti accidentally made it onto the menu and I was sure there would be a rebellion, but actually, the women LOVED it. I will forever have a picture etched in my mind of Zanele, who tends to be a little more proper than most, sitting at a table, a fork in each hand, shoveling her new favorite food into her smiling mouth. I guess I should have known they’d be excited about pizza too.
One year we had hundreds of bras and undies donated (particularly LARGE bras and undies, which can be hard to find here) for the “store” we have every year (another big favorite at camp). Yesterday, after lots of crazy hand motions that had me wondering what was going on, Gcebile looked directly at me and said, “MORE BIG BRAS!” (Note to self: we should probably hand out the bras prior to the athletic events.)
Later the women talked about all the singing we do at camp, and how they would like to have instruments (which for here, normally means a keyboard and an electric guitar cranked up as loud as they could possibly go) to accompany our normally acapella praise and worship time (which in my opinion is absolutely some of the most beautiful joy-filled singing you’ll ever hear!). They also brought up past speakers…things they had taught and testimonies they had shared, and how they had stuck with them over the years.
I LOVE moments like this…when the Lord reminds me in such a sweet way of the things that he has done among us here.
In June it will be 9 years since I met most of these women. We were at a weekend retreat hosted by a visiting mission team. I was a sleep deprived new mama of a 5 month old (ADORABLE!!!) baby girl and had strep throat along with a high fever the whole time. I was a mess. I was also in charge of the menu and still fairly new to the culture, so I served them food they didn’t like at all (i.e. these are not soup and salad eating sort of women. They want meat, meat and more meat!). The women actually went home and complained to their pastors that we had starved them! Really, after that first crazy weekend, it’s a miracle any of them ever wanted to see me again! I had no idea then how God would bring our lives together.
There are days when I want to pull my hair out over things like two purses, cut from the exact same pattern, coming back totally different shapes or a bunch of finished iPad covers that are too small to actually fit an iPad! BUT THEN THERE ARE DAYS LIKE YESTERDAY when I look around see community and growth and a bunch of beautiful women laughing until they cry, and my heart is really happy and hopeful…
…and my hair stays on my head for another day.