Umphumulo, South Africa

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coming To An End, But It’s Not Over Just Yet…

It’s been close to 10 months since being in Umphumulo and time has surely done almost every single thing you can possibly imagine; from flying by to just staggering, but overall the time has been full of smiles and cries, laughs and frustrations. It’s really, REALLY difficult for me to just sit here and sum up how my year has been for me, better yet what this year MEANS for me. Since arriving in Umphumulo’s Church Center the people I’ve met that have turned into friends and the friends I’ve made that have turned into family are really what have made my time here unforgettable. Throughout the year I have managed to grow in a way that is indescribable, I have learned how to become a stronger independent, young woman of God, and I have most importantly learned the way, the feeling, and the smell of Ubuntu that my rural Zulu community is continuously showing me and their neighbors.

So where to begin… Maybe for me, I knew this year was about trying to figure out if I really wanted to attend medical school. Well, after volunteering at the local hospital, I MOST DEFINITELY want to go into healthcare, but maybe not in the doctoral position. I have found that as I shadowed the doctors in the Umphumulo Hospital that I do love to work with them and see the things that they can do, but the time they all spent away from their own families was a deal breaker for me. Yes! All the doctors have told me it’s not that big of a deal, but then again none of them are female and most of their wives are at home, by choice not by force I might add! I couldn’t see myself not raising my own children one day… so I’ve made my decision to apply to a Physician Assistant program once I get my feet soaked back into my own home grounds. With much discernment and taking this time to really understand what I want for myself and what God has gifted me with… I can live life being okay with becoming a Physician Assistant. Yes, I still get the shaking of the head when I tell the doctors (more specifically Dr. Pukana and Dr. Gervais) that I’m going to PA school, but with the letters of recommendation they’ve written for me I know that deep down they are so proud of who I am and will become. I’ve been really blessed to have the doctors at the hospital around too; Dr. A. Pukana, Dr. G. Kabeya, Dr. E. Rajaram, Dr. Raj, and Dr. M. Parastzak… they have all been a big part of my life and growth here in Umphumulo.

Then there’s the community… who would have thought that I would have learned more about what I want to do and who I am just by being with the community. There’s this saying in isiZulu that goes, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” In literal translation this means, a person is a person by other people. When you read the word ‘by,’ however, it’s not the ‘by’ in the tense of being a result of other people, but more along the lines of being along side or next to other people. So read the literal translation again… For me this means, you are who you are as a person, but you can’t live on your own. I’ve seen that when those who have what some may see as ‘everything,’ they still go to their neighbors home to ask for something. This is not because they are stingy, but because they want that relationship; it’s more in the tense of making sure their neighbor is okay.

After the people living around where I was living started becoming more comfortable around me and I them, they kept ‘visiting’ my home and then ask for something; whether it was onions, sugar, flour, tomatoes, etc… they just kept coming to my home for something. At first, it bothered me! But as I became understanding of how the community works… better yet how my community is with one another and not trying to bring others down, but grow together… I began to see that we help one another because we may need the help in the future; not that we are ‘expecting’ the help in the future because we know we may need it one day, but we help because that’s our humanity.

Have you heard the statement, “It takes a community to raise a child.” Forgive me as I’ve forgotten who made the statement, but what this boils down to is that we cannot have everything, ALONE. God made each and every one of us to love and to have relationships of all kinds. He brings people into our lives for EVERY reason; to explore and not become closed minded about other things. Lord knows that I have learned how to accept that the way I chop onions and the way onions should be chopped in South Africa are very different, but by accepting our differences and continuing to learn something new from each other… the relationships we make within our community will continue to grow WITH and ALONGSIDE one another.

So what exactly does my time in South Africa mean to me? It’s a time to understand the real meaning of who people are. It’s a time to see people and not just brush by them. It’s a time to greet someone and ask how they are and really mean it. It’s a time to accept God’s people and recognize that no matter where I am He shines in each and every face. As for the MUD3 group, I believe this year was a mixture of a time to become more independent, a time to understand who we are, a time to reconnect, a time to get away from troubles and pressures, a time to become more faithful, a time to get out of the rate race that was unconsciously pulling us in, and a time to understand what God wants us to do with our lives. Like stated in 1 Corinthians 7:7, God has blessed each and every one of us with our own gifts. Within the MUD3 group we each have our own specialties and after this year I think that most of us will have an idea of what is to happen when we get home. I’m not saying that I have a definite plan myself, but I’ve an idea that I can only hope will turn out the way I’d like. After being in South Africa for almost a year ANYTHING can happen; as life has its way of unpredictability!

And so, God continues to work with me and through me in ways that I may never even understand or know. Above all, the relationships I have and the people I have met along the way are signs that He is seeing by what I see, He is hearing by what I hear, He is experiencing by what I do, and He is living by opening my eyes and calling my name. I’m continually grateful and blessed to remember that wherever I am and whatever I am facing God always knows, same goes for you too! With the month I still have left, I will continue to be with my community and can only imagine what’s in store for all of us here… until next time, hamba kahle (go well)…

1 comment:

heiditorgerson said...

Thanks for these great reflections, Valerie. I'm so proud of the discernment work you've been doing around where God is calling you next. PA school sounds like a phenomenal next step. Most of my family works in healthcare, and PAs are among some of the most respected colleagues that my family have. You'll be amazing.

Thanks, also, for the reflections on ubuntu and community. It's been a real gift to watch how God has worked through you this year, and how God has worked in you through others. Lots of love and prayers in this last month!