Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day 2007

Dear Friends and Family:

Floyd and I wish you a blessed holiday season. We are so enjoying our time with Becky and Kurt. And on Sunday, we had our very first, spontaneous opportunity to really participate in the Cape Town community. But I should begin with Cape Town and its holiday season.

Cape Town itself is a truly international city. Large Muslim and Christian populations live here, side by side, peacefully. You wake up to the Muslim call to prayer from the mosques each morning and listen to the church bells ring at noon. And, both groups have holidays that occur during this season.

During the latter part of December, most of the festive holiday activity centers around Adderley Street and the open air, night market. The Christmas and holiday lights sparkle overhead. All walk the streets, eating calamari, boerwors, chips or some other purely delicious street food, the Cape Town equivalent of our version of fast food, served from stalls. There is music at the band shell and it flows out into the night. You can even hear it at our flat.

There are few Christmas trees, but many lights and beautiful flowers. The outdoor flower market is on the street which intersects under the flower lights in the middle of this picture. The city is very festive. It is a happy time. Floyd took this picture from the outside balcony of the local KFC. (Yes, there is a McDonald’s too.)

We live two blocks away from Adderley Street, two doors from the edge of Green Market Square, a cobblestone area filled each day with an African market. It is a very famous spot in Cape Town and filled with tourists who come to purchase gifts to carry home. It is also the place where vendors from all over Africa exhibit and sell their wares. There you can meet people from Ethopia, the Congo, and KwaZulu Natal. It is a melting pot of African cultures.

Each day the vendors start setting up around 6am, and each night their goods are put away, and the square once again is nothing but a cobblestone street. These people bring with them all the problems involved in making a living in a large city when you yourself are living on the fringes and you have minimal income, and sometimes no place to call home.

Across the square there is a church, the Central Methodist Mission Church. And since it is so close to the flat and the life we need to build in this city, we started to attend there two weeks ago. (Rebecca Hecker told us about this church. Her father attended many years ago when he lived in Cape Town for a year.) This church is very involved in the community.

And last Sunday we were in church when the minister said, “Anyone that can, please help with our efforts to feed the homeless a Christmas dinner today.” And so, Floyd and I found ourselves helping church members do so; moving tables, distributing food, helping with cleanup and talking with guests.

The room was way smaller than Southminster’s church parlor. 76 people lined two long tables, two shorter tables and sat in chairs along the wall: the middle aged, young, old and small children. The space between the two long tables was only 2½ feet wide, so you had to be very skinny to sit there, but there was no more room in the inn. The rest of the hundred people invited by tickets to dinner ate outside on the sidewalk with the Minister. The ladies of the church cooked in their homes and brought in the food. Christmas dinner, the same food that would be fed to the families of church members on Christmas Day according to the meal organizer, consisted of a chicken wing, two slices of corn beef (the thin size we might put on a sandwich), two small potatoes, some saffron rice, and a small helping of beetroot; a feast. Dessert was a small, 1” piece of malva pudding and ice cream. They drank “cool drinks”; several very sugary versions of soda pop.

One of the homeless ladies said the prayer. Just like in Glen Ellyn,home one of the men said, “Oh, no! Hope this prayer doesn’t take too long.” It brought back memories of other times. Another woman sang and she had a fabulous voice. The children wiggled in the small spaces. I was especially moved when the minister said, “I have been asked about presents. This year there aren’t any presents because we do not have enough to go around. Therefore, we are giving the few we have to others who are needy and not here.” Everyone clapped. Anyway, sometimes the special things in life only leave pictures to revisit in your mind, and this was one of those times.

To all of you, songs of great joy from the carolers below, and blessings at Christmas.


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