24 December 2007

have you got a minute? (of christmas, candlelight, and gun blasts)

Have you got a minute?

- Apparently, in South Africa, a “candlelight service” just means “a service with no lights on”. We had a “candlelight service” on the night of the 23rd and there were no candles provided. And no one seemed to expect any. So, I am left to believe that “candlelight” simply means “dark”. Now you know.

- To give you an idea of the way things sometimes go around here, I want to share a story...

A few weeks ago, Pastor Willie got this brainstorm that we should put together a “living manger” where people could have their pictures taken as Mary or Joseph or a sheep (as a family) and leave a donation for the church in the meantime. So, I got to work on a flyer to promote the event. Stef helped to organize all of the costumes. And then together we managed to hang a 40 x 30 drop-cloth depicting a cartoonish manger scene as the backdrop.

We send the flyers out to be printed (for free – Willie’s connection) and they come back badly misprinted; all 1000 of them. Apparently, we are going to be doing a “LIVING MANAGER SCENE” which sounds like the title of a Patrick Lencioni work. We also noticed that the church address was entirely incorrect. What can you do? Welcome to Africa. We handed out all of them anyway. (I half expected a swath of young professionals to arrive for a managerial seminar.)

The day rolls around when we are going to be doing this living manger scene and, strangely, Willie fails to mention it in his morning announcements to the congregation. Then, he again neglects the announcement in the evening service.

Then, as people are leaving after the evening service, Stef tells me, “Willie said we’re not going to do the living manger thing.”

Simple as that.


- I am writing this on Christmas Eve. It is 8am. A gunshot just rang out pretty close to the Mission House, maybe 5 or 6 houses down. I wish it startled me. But after the experience we had a couple of nights ago, I am not so easily spooked.

Two nights ago, we were drifting off to sleep around 11pm when two gun blasts shook the house. I mean, we hear gun shots, but none ever as close as these. If someone wasn’t in our yard, it certainly sounded like they were climbing the fence. (We later found out that the shots came from the alley directly behind the house - and there was a noisy mugging in the same alley two nights later which woke up a significant portion of the house.)

I grasped for Stef, who was pretty much in “quiet shock” mode. We listened intently and heard nothing more. No screams. No rustling. Nothing. Then, thirty seconds later, another shot a little further away (about like the one we heard this morning). Then, another fifteen seconds and a last, more distant blast rang out. Quiet returned. Slowly, we drifted off to sleep, much closer together than we usually lie.

We probably hadn’t heard a gunshot in a couple of weeks before this last spate of ammunitive exploits.

All we can do is laugh. I imagine the Charlie Brown Christmas music playing in the background as these gun battles rage in the streets. Ah, Christmas time in Joburg...

- I made up the word “ammunitive.”

- Would you believe that Feliz Navidad is a beloved Christmas song here? Well, ya, it is. Willie even forced us to sing it at the end of our Christmas Carol (by candlelight) service. Weird.

That’s all for now...Merry Christmas. Happy Festivus. Enjoy your holidays.

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