Last Sunday we had the privilege of having lunch with an African missionary couple who wanted us to join with them in eating a ‘traditional meal’. When we asked, in our typical Western thinking, “What would you like us to bring?” at first the answer was “We need nothing, but you can bring what you like” but then changed to “I know you white people like something specific, so could you bring nappies. Size 2 – 5 kgs.”
We were happy to oblige. This young couple had just been delivered of twin girls only 6 weeks before (4 weeks premature) and being a missionary couple, working for Campus Crusade for Christ, they struggle with finances and disposable nappies are quite expensive, especially when you have to buy for two. Fortunately, although the girls were both very underweight when they were born they are both home and doing well.
As we chatted and shared a simple meal of mahanga (thick porridge made with a type of maize meal) and vegetables with this delightful and special couple we found out that they both had Angolan parents but were Namibians; she was born in Namibia and he was a refugee who now had Citizenship status. They are two of many Angolans we have met on our travels over the past three months. The long civil war in that country, which thankfully is now finished, wrecked havoc on its population and many fled over the border to Namibia to relative safety but not necessarily ease.
The stories we have heard from these Angolans have many similarities. There is a shared experience of relatives (sometimes immediate family members) being executed; of brothers or sisters in hospital being given a prescription but having no money to go down to the market to buy it and so dying there; of serious interruptions to education; of surviving on very little; of separation from family; of courage and of God’s provision and grace amongst it all.
We were amazed to learn that this inspiring young man, who speaks at least 5 languages fluently, started in Grade 1 when he was 15 years old by swimming across the river separating Angola and Namibia each day, joining the 7 year olds in the classroom. His natural intelligence, perseverance and diligence meant he was accelerated through some grades. At one point he was ill and missed another whole year of school. Another year saw he and his brother trying to survive in Windhoek on N$150 (AUD $20) a month – impossible. Eventually a relative living in Rundu in the far north of the country took him in and he was able to finish Grade 12. The following year he went to Theological College and completed a four-year Divinity Degree (accredited university standard). His passion is to reach out to the youth of Namibia to give them a sense of hope and a future, hence his work on the various university / college campuses.
What amazed and humbled us was his absolute gratefulness to God for all the blessings in his life and for providing for him; we were ashamed to admit we were thinking of all the difficulties and challenges he had faced. He now plans to go into the very isolated desert region in the east of Namibia in 2013 to reach out to a San (Bushmen) tribe who has never heard the gospel. This will involve he and his wife (and twin daughters) learning a new language (they are a tribe who speak one of the ‘clicking’ languages) and many other hardships but they are both convinced of God’s calling to this task. They are currently raising support for this venture.
We are so humbled by their story; we really have it so easy in Australia. It takes the sharing of stories, the coming alongside and taking the time to listen, to really appreciate this complex world in which we live.
Herero ladies taken at church last Sunday