Adapted Repost from “Cape Town 2020” | Foster Popken | ISA Veritas South Africa Spring 2020
This is the first post of a weekly blog I will be writing covering my time studying abroad in South Africa! I’m going to split my post into four major themes: Itinerary, Learn the Culture, SPIRITUAL LIFE, and ‘join me.’
Here’s how it’ll look!
Itinerary: Week 1+1/2 (Wed, Jan 22 – Sun, Feb 2)
I have been fortunate to be with a pretty ambitious group of students that are very inclusive in the excursions they plan! Also, having just arrived, ISA (International Studies Abroad) had several excursions that we were able to go on for free…ish! Here’s the low down.
- Wed, Jan 22: Left home: I left around noon after hurrying to unpack my overweight suitcase. Flew out of Minneapolis at 5:00pm and landed in Chicago at 7:00pm. Flew out of the States at 9:25pm for an eight and a half hour flight to Munich, Germany. Had a six hour layover before flying out to Cape Town, arriving at 8am Friday morning.
- Roughly Mon, Jan 27: Normalized: My body was acquainted to the new time zone, and Christ brought me into spiritual stabilization by then.
- Wed, Jan 29: Met Mission Mentor: He invited us to a little coffee shop in Woodstock where he and us four Veritas (Christian division of ISA) students could give our church background and expectations for our experience.
- Sun, Feb 2: Attended South African church for the first time: Hope City Presbyterian Church in Cape Town City Centre.
- Sat, Jan 25: Tour of Mowbray and Rondebosch: Nothing crazy! Just showing us the neighborhood where we now live, places to eat and shop as well as walking to the lower campus of the University of Cape Town where I will be attending starting Feb 10th!
- Sun, Jan 26: Tour of Robben Island and the Langa Quarter: Took a boat out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela along with many other political prisoners were held and worked during apartheid. Then ventured into the Langa township to meet the ambitious people looking to rise above the poverty they were dumped into during apartheid.
- Mon, Jan 27 – Tue, Jan 28: ISA’s Bridging Cultures Program: Here our ISA mother Ouma did her best to impart to us everything from safety to academics!
- Thu, Jan 30: Syakhanyisa Creche School in Langa: Played with the boldly loving Xhosa children on Langa! (read the ‘join me’ section below)
- Fri, Jan 31: District 6 Museum: One of the men of district 6 told us of the district’s sad destruction by the apartheid government and the intense struggles of the displaced people.
- Thu, Jan 30: Muizenberg Beach: A huge, uncrowded, white sand, 100% fines beach!
- Sat, Feb 1: World of Birds: A bird sanctuary with tiny monkeys that they let crawl on you!
- Sun, Feb 2: Hillsong Church ‘Service’: It was very much a concert with a good message in the middle.
Learn the Culture: Apartheid
Very evident since my arrival is how the effects of apartheid have haunted Cape Town to this day. Practically this shows in the drastic change of scenery just within a 45 minute drive (with no traffic). Coming from the airport I passed many townships where people of colour were dumped, being removed from areas designated as ‘white.’ Then as you get farther suddenly you end up on the waterfront that looks like it could be Miami. Mixing of races has become difficult in churches and neighborhoods because of this dramatic and long ingrained conditioning. Some people of colour feel like they do not belong in areas long designated as ‘white,’ and because of the conditions in the townships some places have become dangerous and riddled with gang violence. It has conditioned people to believe this is what they deserve, which was the wicked intent of apartheid and has left the personhood of many wounded.
This presents many difficulties for those seeking healing of the country and empowerment to those who lost their homes and livelihoods in the apartheid era. For example, in the nearby township of Langa I got to be a part of a tour that showcased the efforts being put forth by those people to rise above their situation. Langa is situated perfectly for people traveling to and from the airport, so the Langa Quarter group has worked to create a safe, friendly place for people to stay, buy something, and get a more genuine African experience. People come to Cape Town for the African experience, but Cape Town is the most Western, white city in Africa, and its tourist attractions are not culturally African really as much as European. By God’s grace this will open a window for these people in Langa to build some wealth and gain better living conditions!
Watching the happy well dressed people coming back from Sunday worship, walking through narrow streets with tiny tin houses; seeing the children play with such joy as they scurry across lawns filled with broken glass like a landfill haunts me with this question; why? How can people do such things to each other? How can men be so cruel and blind to the lives of so many? How can one lie, apartheid, cripple a nation?
I titled this post because this verse describes very much what the beginning of this spiritual journey has been for me. Leaving my family and my country happened surprisingly quick. I had cried on my brother’s shoulder the night before I left because I felt hollow and scared to go. I was beginning to have second thoughts on if this was really what I wanted, but I knew it was what God wanted whether I felt like it or not. How? The evidence that this was a step taken in faith. I was leaving everything, every comfort of this life, my family, my friends, my college, my country, for a mission God was sending me on! I had prayed many days that He would send me, that He would use me, and here I was on the threshold of an unknown culture and felt empty. I left my mother quickly as she sobbed and my heart felt even more gouged out. This is what dying to yourself feels like. This is what losing your life that you might gain it looks like. I was thankful for the communion I could have with God through my transit! But yet when I finally got to my room in this far country I felt alone in a very similar way to the first time I’d left home for Dordt. And the theme rings the same in both cases:
“Then Peter began to say to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions–and in the age to come, eternal life.'” – Mark 10:28-30*
I didn’t feel Him right away, but He is so much more than feelings, and His presence an unchanging reality, not shaken by the changes of life no matter how drastic! These lessons He is bringing from my brain to my heart that I might really know who He is and really trust in His plan for me and mainly the church in all the nations!
join me: Syakhanyisa Creche School
Come with me out of my room and into the van ISA uses for student transport. It’s hot out, the sun is bright, not a cloud in the sky. It’s terribly windy, but that’s nothing new in Cape Town. I’m nervous, because children make me nervous and being vulnerable in sharing love makes me nervous. Toto’s Africa plays in the van and God uses it to lighten my heart, showing His love to me for this place in the words “it’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you…” O God, You love these people, and seeing Your example of how You loved us, to die on a tree, is the basis that I might be able to love them as well! We’re here in Langa. Tin homes and friendly faces invite us into the township. We walk past a church to the school and enter. It’s bright! There are walls with colours; yellow, orange, and blue. No sooner do we all file into the little building that the children suddenly explode from their classrooms! Tiny little black hands reach up to be hugged or held! Totally unconscious of the physical limits of our person, at least five children want to be held at once! One little boy grabs my face and plants two slobbering kisses on my cheeks 😀 Another just wants to feel my face and hair! As the children filter and disperse among the some 25 ISA students, I am left for a tranquil moment with a little girl who’s name I still don’t know. She lays placidly in my arms, so content; not up then down like the rest of the spirited children. This is one of those amazing moments that God opens your spiritual eyes and you catch a glimpse of the beautiful walk of faith He has us all on! I need to be more like this little girl, boldly running to the arms of God without context, no shame, no fear, just wanting love! And I need to wait quietly and contently on God who holds me securely in His mighty arms! Eventually we coloured with the children, I rescued a hat for my spiderman themed buddy, I fed a little girl who was making a mess left to herself, and gave ample piggy back rides! This time with these children I had been prepared for without knowing from taking care of my younger cousins in a life that seems so distant, and looks forward to a time when perhaps some day I will have children of my own to cherish and spiritually pour out myself into! As we left, the chorus of bright ‘bye!’s yelled at the top of the children’s lungs was overwhelming, and I left honored to be so loved and appreciated! How much more is God’s love that made this all possible!
Lol, sorry for the length of this first one! No promises that they’ll be shortened though! Please feel free to comment if you have any questions or want farther explanation! God bless!