Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Travelogues # 3

Unity in Diversity, Advent in Africa

There is no way to visit South Africa with young children and not be confronted with the blunt questions this beautiful nation's history holds in the folds of her skirts. When my husband and I last lived here she was a different nation and it is beautiful and moving to see the progress that has been made. She is altogether unrecognizable from the country I visited even earlier as a child and young adult.

It is equally heart breaking to see the many still waiting for the changes to benefit them and their personal needs. Amidst what we truly (biased-ly) believe to be the most gorgeous, multi-cultural city on earth, their are four million people that call this place home. Each, no doubt, with a vital story to be told.

South Africa is a nation of eleven official languages (with hundreds more spoken). It is the rainbow nation. For every bright story of fresh burgeoning creativity and new art (Cape Town is currently lobbying - so deservedly! - to be the World Design Capital in 2014) there is a chapter of tragedy and injustice. There is no easy summary but no facile avoidance either.

Bringing my children here, we were intentional in both our preparation and what we choose to expose them to. We want them to fall in love with the international and stunning beauty. But we incorporate stories of God's heart for the people here in our evening Advent times, too, and we share reality with them in telling them friend's of Grandma and Grandpa's stories of anguish and heartbreak.

(My son, with the only offering he had to give comfort and concern, gave Martha and then James one of his treasured, collected beach shells he had gathered that morning with his Dad and Grandfather. James made me cry when he brought my son's gift to his lips and kissed it, thereby winning my little boy's heart forever.)

We take God at his word that he is near to the brokenhearted. And that if we want to be near to him, then that is where we should be, too. The beautiful thing about being here in this season of Immanuel, God with us, is that there is nothing theoretical about that importance when we drive past shanty towns and young children begging. Daily. They need God with them more than we can ever imagine. And we - such a thing to wrestle with - are offered the option to be that expression of love and kindness.

My parents are missionaries here. They work with everything from helping mothers with HIV to start small businesses, to adoption homes, to orphan care, to indigenous leadership training. Seeing their hearts poured into my own children is a gift.

My prayer this Christmas is that God will open my children's hearts to the things that he carries deep in his heart. And that they will never ever be able to be independent in their hopes and dreams again. That they will learn that the luxury of carrying only our own burdens and not our neighbour's burdens, too, is not only untenable, but a is a monochromatic choice, too.

One of the most beautiful things to be learned from South Africans is how to pursue unity in diversity, community in the tension of differences, and that it's a struggle worth not giving up on. Because here we see - so vibrantly and beautifully - that God himself is a multi-coloured God.

He is a rainbow Immanuel.

{December 16th is National Reconciliation Day in South Africa. All pictures are of polished rocks and stones here in Africa.}


Nikki said...

"We take God at his word that he is near to the brokenhearted. And that if we want to be near to him, then that is where we should be, too." --Powerful!

Chelle said...

This post, the gift you have given your children with this trip as you allow Jesus to use it to open up and make ever more tender their hearts, of this time with their grandparents and most of all the gift of your oh so beautiful mother heart and in these words, that are like brightly colored jewels...It all makes me cry and thrills my heart Misha...

Chelle said...

P.S. Really excited to get to see those pictures!!

Chelle said...

P.P.S. Jesus answered Annabelle's prayers + wishes for a sister. ;)

Misha Leigh. said...

Chelle! YAY! A girl! A sister! Yay! I am so so happy to hear this!!! : ) I have been smiling about it ever since I read this!

Sissy is praying her heart out to bring home an African baby sister. (I confess, I am, too.)

Adriana said...

I want to sit on a pile of rainbow rocks! Thanks for the design link, I love it.

Misha Leigh. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Misha Leigh. said...

Adriana - I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have thought of you here. The burgeoning art scene here is so incredible. I have so many stories to tell you. It is a city busting at the seams with new design.