Of Discouragements and Encouragements
Written by: The Bridge on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Brian and I had an early Christmas here in Palmgrove, Africa. On August 14 we went to Uyo to pick up our DHL which was sent to us from Crystal Spring. Oh boy, did we ever enjoy and exclaim over the contents which we opened by lantern and flashlight that evening!From Debra’s awesome little package of coffee, to the turbo charger for the loader, to Rachel Basel’s diary…;everything was appreciated!!! And still is. The past month of July was mostly spent not feeling well by both of us – not our choice of a useful or happy pastime. This made the DHL even more welcome. Right away we ate an Eatmore bar or two and made ourselves a cup of instant coffee (have to save Debra’s ‘pripz’ a little bit!).
As we all know, it is a lot easier to feel discouraged when one is sick. This discouragement is a constant struggle here in Palmgrove, even when one is feeling top ‘o the world! Brian and I often ask ourselves is there a point in being here, in trying to help Palmgrove? Do the people even appreciate it? Do they care? Often, often it seems NOT! In the morning when we take our breakfast of white bread or eggs or fruit (well, why not have an Eatmore for breakfast too), we try to read something encouraging. Lately we have taken to reading the 1st Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, so imagine us sitting and marveling, asking ourselves if we could go through such persecution for our belief, never mind if the Palmgrove people could!
Brian and I are both single, still young people. We like to think we are growing in our Faith. We know we have shortcomings and struggles, but the Palmgrove people seem to have such childish problems sometimes. Like, grown men shouting like ‘klana shuel kitz, young people asking questions that we learned in grade school. My biggest personal question about Palmgrove is do the people really want to live communally? I can’t help comparing the attitude and lives of these black people to the people who founded our church in Europe in the 1500’s. Jacob Hutter, Peter Riedemann, Walpot, etc… It took such rock firm, unshakable faith to get our Hutterite Church started. Seems to me that you can’t make people want to live in community… They have to want to themselves, and I feel that is lacking here. What to do? Hmm…
These are the discouraging thoughts we face when we read the chronicle. What a difference. Also, I asked my mom to put a copy of Rachel Basel’s (Crystal Spring) Diary into the DHL, so I’m reading that now. I am so glad I have it; it is so so so fascinating!! I keep reading excerpts to Brian and exclaiming over similarities and differences of Palmgrove in 1999-2000, when she was here a year with her family. Sad part is, things seem to be exactly the same in most ways. I can’t believe how much!! People STILL need to be admonished for exactly the same things! Fancy clothes, wigs, jewelry, cleaning up, being late, turning off taps, having visitors stay for days without asking, etc, etc; it seems ridiculous to me to still be harping about those things even 8 years later! On the other hand we do struggle with some of the same things in the community at home.
I’m so impressed with Rachel Basel. I can’t put her book down until I’ll finish reading it. What a grand Ankela! She has become a role model to me. She often asked herself the same questions I do, (p.260. “Our time here is running out more and more, but the big question is did we make a dent? Is the church doing a worthwhile deed in helping out this struggling ship?” Brian and I are asking ourselves the same thing, seeing as we plan to leave for home near the end of September. The church at home would like to see more of an improvement already in the lifestyle and values of this African Colony. It is so easy to feel discouraged, but there are encouragements! As I read the diary I can see that the young people now are a much better, – as in less stealing, more honest group than then. More likely than not there is a positive response whenever the church sends more responsible leadership.
I get the feeling as I read that the Baers had a much tougher time here than Brian and I do. Then, the church was much newer and still was struggling to get some sort of system in place about the work, trying this way and that way (read the Sunday, April 9 entry). Daniel had to be steward. One improvement here is that the black people now have their own steward, though they have a long way to go in learning how to manage money. Now, in 2008, the families are more self sufficient; they don’t have to come to the Macaras for daily essentials like toilet paper, toothpaste, rice, etc. This is a big improvement when the colony can’t afford to pay for the people’s needs. This is also a bad thing because they have to find ways to supply it themselves and that it is not the way community of goods works. Who dares and who is brave enough to answer the question Rachel Basel poses? “Is the Church doing a worthwhile deed in helping this struggling ship?” Whose task is it to decide? Isn’t doing God’s work a life-time commitment? Do we dare stop assisting if we feel the people are living here without the right spirit? What will God say to us or ask us if we do stop? These are questions we have. As a Hutterite girl, I don’t get to make any major decisions in the community in areas that are the men’s priority and responsibility. I find I don’t mind at all in this case. I feel some relief over that fact.
But still I can respectfully voice my opinions; the truth should not be repressed in any way at any time. I admire Rachel Basel, Daniel, Karen, and Clare so much; they tried, to do their part. They gave a whole year of their lives; it is not easy. Let me end with another quote from the diary, “Die Gesunden bedurfen den Arzt nicht, sondern die Kranken”
Palmgrove has a lot of different kinds of people. Some will give a job their best effort while others won’t. I have to respect some of them for their effort. It seems that the problem lies more in that there are few who will take responsibility for a job and see that they organize people to do it. Everything that gets done costs money that Palmgrove doesn’t have. If there is little or nothing, then the people responsible for doing a projects or running a business are left hanging and get discouraged. The new school house is a good example.
There are a few who work very hard at this school project and then there are others that sit on their front porch. It’s easy to just look at the person on the front porch and forget about the people working at the school. It’s very important to encourage these people that show more effort. It goes without saying that the same people that take responsibly upon themselves are also the same ones that you can see leading a healthy Christian life or at least showing greater self-respect. There is a direct relationship between the two.