A life of 'Ubuntu'

Jordan Muller

 A life of 'Ubuntu'

Jordan Muller hiking near Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Aftrica.

The KwaZamokuhle Diaconic Centre is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa and has many community projects that it assists with.

Some of these include making communion wafers that are shipped around the globe, arts and crafts that are made in the more rural areas and then sold, a sewing center and a computer center to teach people new skills, and several large gardens.

The day starts at 8:00 a.m. with prayers in the chapel and ends around 4:00 p.m. It is dark by 6:30, so it has been a challenge keeping myself entertained at night. I often fall asleep before 9:00 p.m. but then wake up before 6:00 a.m.

I spent a lot of this past week packaging boxes of communion wafers in the morning and then taking them into town in the afternoon. Who knew my gift packaging training at Bed Bath and Beyond would come in handy here?

I also typed a few letters for Ms. Constance, the manager of the center, on a computer that ran Windows 98. Talk about old school!

Most of my time is spent following around Goodness, one of my host’s assistants, and going with her into town to run errands. Although the town is close, it always takes several hours when we are there but it is nice to just listen to the things that Goodness has to say.

Quiet weekends

There isn’t much going on at the center on the weekends and not very many workers live onsite so I am mostly on my own. On Saturday I took a kombe into town just to explore and buy a few things.

I am still working on getting reliable Internet but the one store that seems to carry what I need is out of the right parts now but hopefully they will have them soon. The town was pretty busy, but it was nice to just walk around and see the different shops and stores.

On Sunday everyone goes to church. The closest church to me is only a 15-minute walk away. It is supposed to start at 9:00 but it didn’t actually start until 9:20. When I arrived at 8:50 there were only three people in the church, including myself.

Church services tend to be much longer (two to three hours or more) here, especially if it is Communion Sunday. The sermon usually takes half an hour and offering can take upwards of 30 minutes but there is a lot of singing and dancing during it, which makes it exciting.

There has been a lot of adjusting to get used to and all the quiet time at night gives me a lot of time to think (and a lot of time to be homesick). I am sure it will get better as time goes on and I meet more people in the community.

I know that the site I am at is not an easy place to be but I also know that I have a lot of people supporting me and I am comforted by that. In Africa there is a word that is used to express a sense of community and solidarity.

The word, "Ubuntu," is often translated as "I am because we are." In essence, I am who I am because of all the people in my life. So to everyone reading this who has been there to support me and love me and cheer me on, words cannot express how grateful I am for you!

And I will live to carry Your compassion, to love a world that’s broken, to be Your hands and feet. And I will live with the life that I’ve been given and go beyond religion to see the world be changed. By the power of Your name.
-- Lincoln Brewster, "Power of Your Name"

Editor’s note: Jordan Muller is spending a year in South Africa with the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program.


Originally posted September 12, 2011, at Come Alive. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Jordan Muller’s entry on the blog Come Alive at Lutheran Blogs.

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