Moving from one life stage to another is a daunting experience. After many years of studying, it was time for me to start earning a living in rural Eastern Cape, without the support of my parents. This process included things like meeting new people; learning how to budget, cook and plan for leave; and making new connections within a new church and community. Growing up, I heard people increasingly say, “Let’s do life together”. Living here at Madwaleni has demonstrated what that looks like fully.
Meeting New People
On the last day of December 2019, I arrived in what looked like the ultimate one-horse-town. Picture long grass teeming with wildlife, tin houses and free roaming goats (or ibokwe). Being greeted by this scene and saying goodbye to my parents were overwhelming moments. So many new names to learn! So many faces and stories accompanying each face!
Within the first week of being here, I was rearing to get involved and become friends with the people living here. There is something so natural about people living with each other. Yes, we are separated by different homes, but there are no coffee shops, restaurants nor movie theatres. One could say that we are forced into doing social activities, but I believe it’s the way God intended for us to live.
Living in community is encouraged in 1 Corinthians 12:12: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though its parts are many, they form one body.” And for all my desperation to be accepted into this new community, God was and is still teaching me all about patience in building real and deep relationships, as well as how to live with my brothers and sisters in Christ. This is something that may have been lacking back in the bustling city. It seems quite uncanny really.
Being an Adult
My first two weeks of work were terrifying. After four years of ‘constructive’ criticism and assessments, I feared my course had not taught me enough. I doubted my ability as a physiotherapist. Yet everyone in my multi-disciplinary team had such confidence in me and provided the right amount of support for me to gain confidence. It has been so wonderful to receive this support from the people I get to do life with outside of work too.
Why should there be such a large divide between ‘work’ and ‘the rest of’ our lives?
I am struggling with speaking isiXhosa still and regularly receive blank stares or flat out laughter in return from my patients. Its a work in progress to say the least! I recall a patient telling me, “Ndiyapiswa”. Unsure of what that meant, I later asked a nurse for help. Confused, he told me it means ‘I need to defecate’. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ll ever need to say that to anybody. Seriously though, I do believe being able to communicate effectively is authentic and expands our opportunity to do life with so many more people.
Before arriving at Madwaleni, I heard stories about a large Christian community. This helped my transition into this community kakhulu (a lot). There are so many things to get involved in! Monday morning prayer meetings start before work. What a great way for us to integrate our work into our lives and because mainly all of us are involved in healthcare, we have a common understanding of the needs of the community, hospital and staff – and can be unified in prayer.
There are Thursday night church services – welcoming all staff, patients and community members. We worship in isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English. The programme is different from any church I have attended before: we gather in small groups to discuss scripture, listen to a message prepared by one of the elders (with translation) or visit a neighbouring church.
Welcome Church hosted us and were considerate in keeping the service ‘short’ for us, as they understand we have comparably short services. (The service still went on for double our normal time.) We have also done a 12-hour bible reading marathon day. People popped in for a few hours of the day; each taking turns to read out loud from the New Testament. For me, there was such power in reading out loud and noting the things which were controversial and mysterious.
“Do Life Together”
This idea of immersing myself into this community is very exciting. I am learning every day what that looks like and am trusting God is at work in this space: work, social events, personal growth and relationships – life!
This period of Lockdown has not been easy. The sense of isolation has been compounded by the fact that we live so far away from everything. However, sticking with a neighbour-couple has been one of the few saving graces in this time. We have shared fellowship together with our church via Zoom and partake in some weekend activities together.
Another blessing would be that I get to work and socialize while walking to work and back, catching up with my friends. Everyone here is dealing with Lockdown differently and trying to find out how best to support each other, without breaking rules, has been interesting and takes continual concerted effort. But I am lucky and thankful to God for being able to do it with this community of people. Strength to all you all for holding it together in this time! Salani kakuhle (“Stay well everyone”).