Thank you for all of your love and support I am so excited to share this experience with all of you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I have been reading Desmond Tutu’s phenomenal book No Future Without Forgiveness. It is incredible to be reading this book and living in Soweto. Having always loved history I have never been so close to so much history in both location and time period. There are times when I must sit back and remind myself that people my own age were not only born under Apartheid but have memories of life under the system. I walk around the neighborhoods where so much of the anti-apartheid movement was born. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that Tutu chaired does not have documents that need to be translated or put into historical context. The goal of the TRC as described by Tutu was to find the truth of horrors that occurred under Apartheid, grant amnesty to those willing to come forward and confess, a place for victims to tell their story and as a nation forgive. I received this book as a gift from ELCA Global Mission in June, it sat on my desk to read all summer , I had the best of intentions to read it before I left, but like many good intentions I ran out of time. Now that I a here, “in-country,” I have a much deeper appreciation for the work of the TRC and Tutu’s insight end eloquent writing of his experience chairing this revolutionary commission.

Tutu introduces Ubuntu as a concept numerous times throughout his writing. He explains Ubuntu as the essence of being human. If you have Ubuntu then, “you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have.” For a Western audience Tutu breaks it down as it is not the “I think therefore I am” mindset, it is “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” (From page 31 of No Future Without Forgiveness.) In terms of the TRC Ubuntu takes the center stage of Tutu’s theology and philosophy. We are bound together as humans, according to Ubuntu, and therefore must acknowledge wrong doings and forgive in order to have the opportunity to move forward together. The horrific crimes and human right violations that occurred under Apartheid needed to be acknowledged, there is no doubt about that. But simply punishing those who committed this horrendous acts punishes everyone since, through Ubuntu, we are all connected. In acknowledging and forgiving we are able to grieve, learn, and grow together. The TRC is a unique in both it’s approach and philosophy. It is through Ubuntu that it was able to be such a success in uncovering the truth and building a new South Africa out of the horrors of Apartheid through years of hard work, hearings, testimonies, and a final report handed to then President Nelson Mandela on October 29th, 1998.

While adjusting to life in South Africa I have found myself seeing Ubuntu everywhere I lay my eyes. Ubuntu is clearly evident in both the small daily interactions I am apart of and the larger society I have been welcomed into. I have been raised to be extremely independent. I have a hard time asking for help as I have been taught that I should be able to do anything if I work hard. I am the Westerner Tutu speaks of having no context in which to be able to even explain or understand Ubuntu. My language focuses on self; self-control, self-esteem, self-improvement, self-discipline. One of the biggest adjustments I am making is changing from the mindset of self to Ubuntu. My role in accompanying my South African hosts is not about me; it is about how we are all connected. It is learning from each other. The days that I feel like I am doing very little I look around and see how everyone’s work fits together. I can easily see how this work fits together by living in a compound that forms a community built and sustained by those who those who live here, those who work here and come here for support. All these of these things are tied together and I see the tangible examples of Ubuntu by looking out my window. There is a garden at the compound, a part of the DAM support group, but everyone here takes responsibility. Together we reap the benefits, share the work, and are all able to experience Ubuntu

With this changing mindset I have been able to see Ubuntu in the larger society. I have always used the language of social justice to describe how my faith is most fulfilled. Once again focused on myself, this time being self-fulfilled through action. My mindset and philosophy are not changing but my understanding of the world and how I articulate this understanding is slowly moving from my independent Western ideals to an understanding of all people being connected as humans. Social justice exists because of Ubuntu. For example, at morning devotion every morning we pray for those “infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.” At Diakonia AIDS Ministry (DAM), my primary placement we not only work with those who are HIV positive but also those who are directly and indirectly affected by this virus. The reality of South Africa and the entire world is that we are all affected by this pandemic. What happens to one person will affect each one of us. Perhaps not directly but since we are all connected it changes that chain of connection.

The other aspect of my placement working in the Soweto Circuit has also opened my eyes to another aspect of understanding Ubuntu. This past Sunday I was able to accompany my Dean to a ecumenical service in Soweto with the Catholic, Baptists, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations coming together to worship. Through college I was interested in ecumenical work and even spent a j-term looking at the work that had been done in the United States and Europe for ecumenical services. While the concept seemed simple enough, we all believe the same major aspects of our Christian religion it seemed that the details kept people from seeing eye-to-eye. Papers on ecumenical relationships took years between each denomination. Sunday I witnessed a service that everyone was participating in, simply worshipping together. There were no large document discussions or debates. It was a chance to come together as Christians. We came together no longer defined by our different denominations but joined as one Christian community. On the way home the Dean and I spoke about how this group came together 6 years ago. The ministers worked together and realized the importance of joining together both as ministers and as parishes. The group is continually changing as the pastors have been moved around to different parishes but the service still takes place once a month. The location changes between all of the churches and a different minister preaches each month. As I continued to reflect on this coming together of faiths, I could not help but return to the concept of Ubuntu. Since we are all connected it only makes sense that we can easily come together. When we look at the larger picture of being connected and not the details of self it becomes much easier to see our connections rather than our differences.

Ubuntu has been, perhaps, the most tangible way I can express my understanding of South Africa and my experience thus far here. Ubuntu as given me the language to express what I see all around me, in my living space, work space, and spiritual life. How will this understanding change as I spend more time and grow more connected to life in South Africa? I am eager to see how I retain the concept of Ubuntu in my own life when I return to the United States, the land of self and independence. It is my hope that I not only continue to see Ubuntu but am able to show others this beauty and understanding of the world in which we are all connected.

This blog entry was written for the ELCA MUD3 (The YAGM program of South Africa) blog, which can be viewed at: http://elcamud.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Diakonia AIDS Ministry and an Address!

Diakonia AIDS Ministry (DAM) is one of my primary placements for this year. It also happens to be where I live. To say that I spend a lot of time here is an understatement. But it is a great place to be. I love the fact that I live here, I am meeting the people who come here often, and feel like I am starting to become part of the DAM community. It is a community in every sense of the word.

DAM was started in 2002 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) and the brain child of Bishop Phaswana who felt the church needed to respond to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Thus DAM was created. It is on the same compound grounds as the ELCSA Central Diocese office and is an official part of the diocese, directly linking it with ELCSA both in doctrine and in physical location. Through its eight years the programs have morphed and changed into the DAM that has welcomed me with open arms.

DAM is organized by departments; each of these departments focuses on a different part of the community affect/infected by HIV/AIDS:
Orphans and Vulnerable Children(OVC) which works to support children who are orphaned, both in child headed households and living with extended family members. These children receive packages of food and household items when they are available. They are also assisted with obtaining IDs and government grants. The children come to the compound about once a month.
Support Group/Income Generating Projects
this is for people who come to DAM and reveal their HIV status. They join the support group and also join projects that generate a monthly income. The current projects include a garden, daily meals prepared and sold to staff of both DAM and the Diocese Office, chickens for sale (hence the chickens who also live here and will never ever let me sleep past 7 am), and bead work.
Home Based Care (HBC)is on the ground around Soweto caring for HIV patients. They go out every day and literally care for people in every sense of the word care. They travel door to door checking on patients. They ensure that people have all IDs and grants they could obtain as well as nutritional food and all medications needed and that those medicines are administered as prescribed. When needed they schedule and accompany people to appointments.
Education and Training goes out and makes sure people have up-to-date and correct information on HIV/AIDS. They go to churches, malls, parking lots, and sometimes create their own events with simply a truck and loudspeaker!
is the final department. This department sends out a quarterly newsletter. The newsletter includes testimonials from members of the DAM community, what is new, what is continuing, and what is starting.

I am helping in whatever manor I can be of service. I have filed papers in the office. I have sat in a meeting with HBC learning about the challenges they face day-to-day. I have even spent an afternoon weeding in the garden! For more information about DAM check out the power point at this website: http://www.mcselca.org/who/companion_synod/ Hopefully that gives some idea of what DAM consists of, it is so much more than the small paragraph I received in June. There is no way words can do DAM justice, how can you describe a community using words? It must be experienced but hopefully I can share the experience with you through this year.

Unrelated but very exciting....I have an address! The mail is not delivered to individual houses here but to the post office. People have post office boxes and it took some asking to figure out where exactly my mail was being sent and who I needed to speak to about picking up mail. As it turns out my mail is sent with the Central Diocese mail. It works really well as the bookkeeper of the Diocese goes about every other day to pick up mail. If you decide to send anything please let me know and I can give him the heads up that something is coming for me! Rumor is that it takes between 2-3 weeks for anything to reach here from the states. So if you want to find me:

Joy Waughtal
C/O Diakonia AIDS Ministry
PO Box 1210
South Africa

As always thank you for thoughts, prayers, and support. I cannot say thank you enough or tell you how much it means to me. I am so thankful to be able to share these experiences.