Our week in Soweto was FULL of incredible learning opportunities. These included museums, monuments, memorials, university lectures, etc. However, our first impressions of the place could not be described as academic. As the bus pulled in to the community centre, we were met with the excitement and love of more than 50 children. Our week overflowed with these kids and we could not have asked for better company every evening.
Sunday morning we all dressed in our best and loaded the bus for Orlando Baptist Church. When we got there, we were welcomed by many who helped us integrate ourselves among the congregation members. Everyone present would say the sermon was powerful, even though only some of us had a translator next to us. There was passion that included tears of joy and of anger. At one point, the preacher invited two young girls up to the front to kneel at her feet as she prayed for the children of South Africa. This deeply impacted many of us. Before and after the sermon, we joined the congregation in singing and dancing. There was so much dancing, it would be hard to compare it to a North American church service for sure…. After the service, we enjoyed fellowship at a barbecue.
As the week progressed, we were led by longtime Outtatown partner Mpho and his student leaders – young university students from South Africa – in all sorts of activities and trips. They were an excellent resource to us throughout the week and many of us felt particularly blessed by our new friendships with these people. Over the course of the first few days, we were able to visit the Apartheid museum and the Hector Peterson Museum. We also visited Constitution Hill where, in the court room above the eleven judges chairs, there were eleven black cow hides hanging with a white spot in the middle of each; the black of all the cow hides was meant to represent the desired unity and equality among all South Africans, while the white spot was different on each one to show the individuality and uniqueness of every person. I (Sarah) was impacted by all the monuments and art pieces containing symbolism to remind South Africa about how they are moving on from their hard past. I think this is a beautiful illustration of how we should view others.
We also had the privilege of attending a lecture at Witwatersrand University about South African education. These sessions made many of us grow in appreciation for the freedom and excellent education opportunities we are blessed with back home. It has been amazing to learn about all the transformations in South Africa and to see how it is still growing towards continued freedom and equality for all citizens.
For the last three days in Soweto, we were split off into smaller groups to serve at various different places including schools, orphanages, community centres, etc. I (Hannah) was impacted by these few days, as I was blessed with the opportunity to serve at the Salvation Army Carl Sithole Children’s Home. Coming from a Salvation Army background, it felt very much like home and I was able to connect with the officers there and several of the staff members that I spent time with. It was particularly impactful to work in the kitchen with one of the student leaders named Mpho. She taught me several Zulu phrases that I was able to put into practice in the kitchen. We also learned from the wisdom of one of the kitchen ladies there who told us her incredible story, as well as what her life looks like now. At the end of our time there, I could confidently call her a friend, and both Mpho and I look forward to keeping in touch with her.
We finished off the week with some pretty hardcore gardening followed by a party planned by us for the kids in the community. It was an incredible week to be a part of and we will all remember the incredible memories made in Soweto. Unfortunately this blog is written by only two of us, which means that you are only hearing from two perspectives. There were MANY other impacts made on students in our community and we wish all could be included.
Written by: Sarah Martens and Hannah McNeilly