Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weekend in Swakopmund

Youth Weekend Retreat
Swakopmund Namibia

This weekend with the youth from our church in Windhoek was a test of my patience. In the face of a lack of respect of time and mostly of others I found myself needing a lot of grace and mercy in order to love and be kind to these young people. I spoke up a couple of times, however I do not think it was well received or listened to. It was very discouraging because the pastor who came all the way from Luanda Angola was speaking on relationships and building others up. They have dynamic ‘Praise’ times, but they don’t yet realize that “WORSHIP” is 24/7 and not just limited to a time of singing! They will learn in time (I pray) but for now the weekend was very stressful (especially for those in charge, and Meagan and me).

Friday morning:
I was asked to be at the church in Katatura, Windhoek (Pioneer Baptist, our Angolan Church in Namibia) at 8:30AM. {Remember we had to drive into Windhoek (a 45 minute drive) and then on our way to Swakopmund we would drive past our house again!} They had told the young people (these were people anywhere from 16 to 35) to be there at 7AM. When we arrived there were close to 20 hanging around inside and out of the church. Some had been there since 7AM, and others had been straggling in intermittently. I was told that we would leave at 9AM, which was why I had decided with the leadership that showing up at 8:30AM would be the best as then I would not be sitting there waiting for 2 hours (knowing full well those told to arrive at 7AM would not be there until 9AM). However, I was completely WRONG… I should have come to the church around 1:00PM and then I would have not felt so much frustration before the trip even began. The more responsible individuals who came between 7AM and 9AM were very frustrated also. We discussed how not being places on time is a lack of respect for those around you, and we were right, as those people proved to be the same throughout the whole weekend. We were also frustrated with one of the leaders who left a bunch of photocopying (photocopies that were ‘so’ important we never even used them the whole weekend) for the ‘morning of’ and she never arrived back at the church until after noon. Of course, they ‘knew’ that they would not be left behind so they just did their own thing.

Friday afternoon:
After the 40+ arrived and we managed to get everything packed up we headed out on the highway for Swakopmund, traveling together in a convoy of 3 combi’s, and two cars… filled with the 40+ people, camping supplies, clothing, bedding and food for the weekend. The distance from Windhoek to Swakopmund is around 400km, and starting out late we had hoped to just ‘move’ and not be stopping too much along the way, but that was not to be. There were many fuel breaks (even though there was no way the vehicles needed it) and potty breaks… and then as darkness was about to fall two of the combi’s began to overheat. The hunt was on for water to fill the radiator of the first combi (amazingly later when the second combi started to overheat we found that HE had 4 jugs of water in the back of his vehicle… which he did not share with the first one!!! I guess he knew his would be next and why share?!?!). We drove to a town, took a rest, let the vehicles rest and guess what?!?!?! They didn’t bother to fill all the empty jugs with water!!!!!!!!!! Now that is basic planning, and not one of those in the overheated vehicle thought to do it, and those in our vehicle automatically assumed that they would… wow! Just a few km’s out of the town it began to overheat again, and one of the guys was stopping at every car asking for water (I turned to my passengers and said, please tell me that they are NOT asking for water?!?!? Sure enough). So I ended up driving back to the town, filling up as many jugs as we could find, and purchasing some radiator flush (for when we got the campsite) and some coolant (not even so much as a thank you… but this was just the beginning of the thanklessness!).

Friday NIGHT:
Now remember we left the church around 1:30PM for a 3 ½ hour trip to the ocean (the speed limit is 120 the whole way, so actually it should be less than that, but we’ll allow for potty breaks). We should have arrived at 5PM (before dark) and had enough time to set up the tents in daylight and have people prepare supper… however… what happened was we arrived at 11PM!!! Of course, they all pile out of the vehicles they are making a lot of noise (and there are several other campers in the vicinity of our camping spot)… some begin to socialize and I get my tent out and Meagan and I start setting it up! Then the boys move into action and start setting up the very large tent that they brought (where most of the boys slept)… the girls went and sat at the picnic tables wrapped in blankets, complaining about the cold and not lifting a finger to help with their 3 tents (which the boys finally had to go and set up after finishing theirs). A couple of the boys came and helped pound my tent pegs into the hard ground (for which I was very thankful… Alex and Stephan… they had also been passengers in my car… nice boys). Once my tent was set up the girls who were going to stay in my tent came with their stuff and began to set up their beds, and THEN after beds were set up some of the girls went to the kitchen and began preparing the chicken and rice for supper! I think we ate around 12:30AM, perhaps it was later! When we finished they announced to us that we would be getting up at 6AM sharp… no really… because the theme this weekend was “Discipline” (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… ok that started out on the wrong foot didn’t it… we’ll see if they learned any by the end of the weekend!).

Saturday morning:
Around 2AM we made it into our beds to sleep and well one of the ‘leaders’ in my tent set the alarm wrong “4AM” and got up and started rustling things around, making all kinds of noise… of course waking me up (not anyone else in the tent… Meagan slept in the car… smart girl). Then she goes outside, starts clapping and making a big noise to wake one of the other leaders who gets up and tells her it is 4:30AM… so she goes back to bed for a half an hour and gets up and goes through the whole noisy process “again”!!! Ok this is the start of my weekend!!!! You can imagine where it goes from here! The girls come out of their tents at 6AM and all 20+ head for the 8 showers and they are supposed to be out and ready at 6:30AM for personal devotion time and they hear it for their lack of discipline in this area! Breakfast starts late, and then we go to the hall for our meeting (late) and listen for an hour to the LIST of RULES for the weekend, this is very Angolan! You can’t have a church related thing without a long list of rules… however… there are really no consequences for breaking those rules (perhaps the more serious ones, but not the petty little ones that were listed for the bulk of the hour). Zeka tells everyone that the consequences will be expulsion (but no one is expelled for being late… for lack of respect for others… etc!!!). The Praise times are energetic, people swaying, bouncing around, excited, clapping, etc!!! However, there seems to be no connection in that you can be emotional before the Lord, but in your moment by moment walk you must be disciplined, courteous to others, loving one another, etc and THAT is worship! They divide us into teams and we are going to have a competition, at the end there will be a prize for the team with the most points (there was no mention in the end of who won, or any prizes given out!). They are terribly competitive people, and so ensues (almost) a war between the groups… they choose one group to make lunch that day and that group will choose the next group who will prepare supper.

Saturday afternoon:
The group prepares a marvellous lunch, but late! Then they wait for everyone to arrive so that they can serve the lunch! My group is chosen to prepare supper! We are scheduled to go out ‘on the town’ to see the sights of Swakopmund as only a couple of people in the group have ever been there! Because we are late we manage to drive into town, stop at the boardwalk… walk to the end, get some photos and get forced back into the cars and head back to the campground because now we must prepare for another meeting. We were scheduled to go to the Aquarium but that didn’t happen (mostly because they ran out of money before the weekend was over… but also due to lack of time, because people were ‘late’ for every single event!).

Saturday evening:
My group was to prepare supper (they eat their big meal at lunch and then just bread at supper)… guess what? They didn’t purchase enough bread for the size of the group, and so we ran out… we were the ONLY group to begin the meal ‘on time’ with or without all of the people and so the accusations began and voices began to raise, and insults were hurled and basically those who were late were down right ignorant to those of us who had prepared the meal with what we had been given. Zeka went out and bought more bread, and everyone ate, however I did not because by that time my stomach was in such a knot that I couldn’t even think about eating! Of course, supper didn’t finish until after 9PM… but they were still going to have their evening meeting (come hell or high water) and so off they went, I chose to stay behind (making up my bed IN the car… so I could get ‘some’ sleep) and was reprimanded by Zeka for not setting a good example. WOW… he was lucky I didn’t lose it on his head at that point… but I was way too tired!

Sunday morning:
I was set to go into Walvis Bay to attend a marvellous English church. I had discussed it with the leadership and they had agreed that this would be fine… however Zeka had other ideas… he came to me and told me that “NO you cannot go”. He used guilt and manipulation to prove his point, however I did stand up to him and let him in on a few secrets about the weekend (HA)… he told me that I couldn’t go because I had come as a camper (even though I had to bring my own car and pay for my own gas, and everyone else had their fuel paid for and one guy charged N$100 per person riding in his vehicle) and that I ‘knew’ they would be speaking Portuguese all weekend (yes I knew that, but I was really looking forward to a bang on message in English) and that I needed to be an example to the young people (which I had been the whole weekend and no one was listening or watching… they were too concerned with themselves to notice) and that if they let me go I would feel that they were using me the whole weekend, but they really wanted my presence with them (however the opposite was clearly true, my presence was not only not needed but they were using me… they needed my car for the trip to the beach after the meeting for the Braai that they had planned, and they were to leave at 10AM… guess what time they ended up leaving… 1:30PM!!!!!!!). I explained my situation and shared my frustration about the whole weekend and finally he relented… but I told him that I would not go because of the guilt that he had placed on me. NOW I wish I had gone… I needed not only the break but I needed the refreshment and good preaching! I cried harder than I think I have cried in years, maybe even in my life… it was so incredibly hurtful and I was so incredibly tired… bad combo! Then of course after the meeting was finished and we were supposed to be on our way (10AM)… I sat crawling out of my skin because we didn’t leave until 1:30PM and I could have gone to Walvis (a 30 minute drive) and back several times and still been able to be ‘used’ for my vehicle! They didn’t need or appreciate me… and the lack of respect for time and others proved that quite nicely!

Sunday afternoon:
We go to the beach between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, get set up, they Braai the food and we eat, and then (although this was supposed to be a relaxing day at the beach 10AM to 5PM) we pack up and go back to the campsite for one of two evening meetings.

Sunday night:
The first meeting begins late… then we break for supper… then the last meeting begins after 10PM… and I decide this time to go to it… we don’t finish until after midnight and you guess it, we MUST be up at 6AM again on Monday! I must say that the pastor from Angola was amazing… he is filled with grace and he has good doctrine and is considered a rebel in the organization in the church in Angola… because he is not legalistic! LATE night!

Monday morning:
I sleep in until 7AM… and guess what; I hear it from almost everyone. I just shake my head… these people are so frustrating! I took down my tent (with the help of some of the boys) and got my car packed up! The girls left their tents up… waiting for the boys! Breakfast is late again… then we set to go to another meeting… I stay behind and finish cleaning up the kitchen, and watching the food that has already been started for the lunch meal (at the Dunes). I also took time to have a shower and ‘then and only then’ did I go to the meeting! They were having an open microphone! So, I did get up and share with them that unfortunately this had been quite a frustrating weekend for me and mostly it was in the area of time… I told them that by being late all of the time it was showing that they had NO RESPECT for other people. I thanked Alex who had helped me several times throughout the weekend ‘without being asked’, he just saw that I needed help and came and helped, I had also observed him doing the same for others… the only one (other than Fenguito the leader of the weekend). I also thanked the staff (because I didn’t wish to just single out Fenguito… but man was he tired after a weekend filled with frustration!!!

Monday afternoon:
After the meeting they explained to everyone that they really wanted to get going quickly, so please help pack things up… the meeting is over and 6 of the boys go to the pool table while Fenguito, Alex, Tony and myself put all the chairs away… and Claudio packs up the musical equipment. Figures! Then we go back and the boys have to take down the tents for the girls and get all of their things packed into the vehicles. This takes a lot of time… but finally we are on our way to Dune 7. Of course we must stop in town for fuel again (either these vehicles suck a lot of gas or they just like having a full tank all of the time)…! Amazingly we do reach Dune 7, the wind is blowing sand all over the place, everyone is complaining… but finally we convince them just to Braai anyway, and stop freaking out about everything! We eat and I manage to climb the Dune and roll part way down (feel quite sick after)… but then it is time to go! We leave there at 5PM.

Monday evening:
Now we are on the road, we stop again at Swakopmund… more cars get fuel and people get snacks for the road! At 8:30PM we begin to experience more car troubles and well we don’t arrive here in Okahandja until 11:30PM… another LONG day! Thankfully I convinced them that they would have to squeeze three people and all of their stuff into another vehicle for the trip between Okahandja and Windhoek; otherwise I would not have gotten home until around 2AM!

Well, as I look back on the weekend, I am not really sure why I was there… except that there was another vehicle needed. God did grant me a lot of grace to make it through the weekend and I do hope that one person noticed and will realize that God is powerful and can give grace in horrible situations. He didn’t change the circumstances but He allowed me to get through without a complete nervous breakdown! I did get to know some of the kids and it was nice to be able to share experiences and the idea of God’s grace (as apposed to legalism) with them. I have no idea if my being there made an impact on anyone, but I do pray that somehow there will be one or two who will stand up and begin to show respect for others and be a leader in change!

I felt so bad for Fenguito (the youth president)… he worked so hard, was so tired, had headaches all weekend and no one really gave him any thanks in front of the crowd (probably not wanting to offend the other leaders who didn’t take on nearly the responsibility as he did). He was very upset about what happened on Sunday morning with Zeka coming to me, but I told him not to worry about it!

Although everyone else’s weekend cost them N$280… mine cost over N$1500 (including Meagan)… because I paid for the fuel for my vehicle, I bought snacks for my starving passengers on our 11 hour trip that should have taken 3 ½), I purchased radiator products for the other vehicles, I helped with the pastors expenses, and more snacks for the long trip home! Only one person knows and I told him just to keep it under his hat… I explained that people just assume that because we are missionaries we must have a lot of money (and many missionaries’ do, if they are with a big organization)… however with us that is not the case. I couldn’t afford N$1500 for the trip and I would have stayed home if I had known that it would be this much! However, God wanted me there for a reason (I do not yet know what that is… but I will have confidence that he did have a reason)! I explained to one person that God will supply the N$1500 and he will do it in a way that is surprising and I will be grateful for his kindness and compassion! Now I will wait, and I won’t forget to share with him when it happens! I want them to know that the power of God is at work and sometimes we are just not paying attention!

Pete summed the weekend up in one thought after I got home and had vented to him… he said these young people are here in Namibia because their families can afford to send them for a better education, most of them are spoiled and affluent which is why they are able to be here. He is right… sometimes we give our children too much and don’t ask them to lean on God for their provision and they become those who take advantage of others, calloused and uncaring about those around them… they only care about themselves and their happiness and contentment. This was exactly what I saw displayed this weekend! He hit the nail on the head!

Aside from all of that God is good… All the time and I am glad to have experienced his grace this weekend… even though every situation was a disaster from my view! I will wait and see how God will restore my strength and provide for my needs in the future. I will have faith in his kindness and compassion toward me… his future grace! I will also watch and see how God has impacted the lives of some of those young people this weekend and pray that they wake up and realize how important it is to serve rather than be served! May God be glorified!


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