Monday, July 1, 2013

bafana

Our "boys" - Aubrey, Bobo (our nickname), Chris, Teboho
(kneeling) Lele, Laurens, Mabuti
The scene is burned into my mind like a silver and black image that will become a photograph if developed in a dark room.  It is the image of our African sons dancing at our going away party.  We left nearly four months ago and the image will not go away. 

It makes me smile when I am alone, it makes me ache with sadness when I lay in bed at night.  It is impossible to divorce myself from the familial relationships we built in South Africa. 

The other night, while doing a drive-by on facebook I saw a post from one of them.  He was upset, hurting…and lonely.  Normally, I would have called and invited him to dinner.  Now dinner would be nine hours earlier and on a different continent.  It would involve an eighteen-hundred dollar plane ticket.  All of this solidifies the distance between us – the physical one.

I am happy to be home- there’s nothing quite like it.  I love being nearer to family and it is where I know God wants us to be.  I have no doubt we were supposed to make the move and I don’t look back with any kind of regret or doubt, but I do miss our boys.

Laurens, Chris, Lele
That’s what we called them: our boys.  It all started with Lele, Laurens and Chris – the standout kids we met at Junction.  We took a trip with them to build Hlanganani (our church’s program for aiding the needs of widows and orphans in the township).  To do this we travelled to a township in the lowveld – about three hours from Johannesburg, on the border of Krueger National Park. 

It was there, on that trip that we bonded and played and joked and visited.  We met their families, heard their dreams and prayed deeply for the future of Diepsloot, Junction and South Africa.  The boys had a better view than we did of all three.  It was interesting to be invited into their world – as invited as white foreigners could be.  Like our own kids, they were on their best behavior around us.  Like our own kids, they had secrets from us.  Years of this…

They called us “Dad and Mom” – and their numbers grew.  Next came Aubrey, the sharp dresser with a winning smile. 

Then came Mabuti, the little pastor.  He had a deep heart and shared it freely.  Then Teboho, the singer with the heart of gold. 

They all became friends with our own kids – even our niece. 

We built a church with our boys.  We had them over for soccer days, dinners and parties.  We knew their families and visited with them where they lived.  We met the girls – disapproved of their choices – and didn’t have the heart to say “I told you so” when they found out we were right.

We feasted with them; laughed until I couldn’t breathe… We loved them like sons.  They needed fathering – a lot – and Mario cherished the job more than any other he held in eldership.  We held them close to us and before we knew it, they carried our hope.  I think of them all every day.

That is why this image of them dancing will not go away.   They said goodbye to us in the coolest, most celebratory way they knew how.  Even though they were sad for us to leave, they danced for us with all their hearts.  The one they chose – the procession - is a dance typically done at a wedding: homage for the new couple done to usher in joy of a new life. 

It was sacrificial.  I watched them, shouting and screaming and proud – like a mama.  Mario cried through the whole thing.

The word bafana in Zulu translates to “boys” – or “young men” – at least that is the literal translation.  In reality, bafana means “our hope” or “the next generation” – the ones who will carry us all into the future.  Without them, we lack vision and sight to see where we are going.  They need wisdom and shepherding, yes, but they also need to be empowered to move forward. 


The Zulu understand this – most cultures do.  I pray we do not forget it.