It’s been almost a week since our third and final visit to the Khwe community in Chetto, Namibia. To say we’ve needed, and still need, time to process our experience is a significant understatement.
Our encounters with Pastors Nelson and Wilson, with several Khwe families, with the Khwe church, and finally with fifteen students who had at least some English, were both troubling and encouraging at the same time.
What was troubling? The level of poverty which is worse than we’ve ever encountered was troubling. The government ban on hunting and farming was troubling. The limited vocabulary of the Khwe language was troubling. And, the mixed reaction to our white, Western presence was troubling, although not unexpected.
One story gives a glimpse into what we experienced. During our training, we used the word sin, which isn’t surprising. After all, it’s not really possible to talk about the Gospel without discussing the meaning and nature of sin. What was startling was when Pastor Nelson, who speaks pretty good English, told us that the Khwe language does not have a word for sin. It does have a word for problem, he told us, so he asked: “Do sin and problem mean the same thing? Or is there a difference?”
Twenty minutes later, after using stories, role playing, and discussion, we think we were able to communicate the difference between the two words, and help the students understand the relational nature of sin. I wonder…
Yet, we were also very encouraged by our visits. We were warmly welcomed by everyone we met. We shared a joyful and heartfelt worship experience with their beautiful voices joined in harmony. We established relationships with several Khwe who spoke passable English. We discovered to our delight that Khwe does have an alphabet and, in fact, that a translation of Genesis is in the works. And, our students were enthusiastic and full of laughter, and expressed a strong desire to continue training, despite our struggles with language issues.
It strikes all of us, Percy, Abby and I, that if we're going to be effective, we're going to have to rewrite the curriculum which has worked beautifully in Zambia and Namibia up until now. We'll have to begin with the basics, and slow down the process. And, we'll have to allow their questions to direct our curriculum and training, at least in the beginning.
So what’s next? Well, Percy will return and meet with them without us present sometime in the next few months, in order to talk “African” with them, so to speak. After that, we’ll decide if Percy should begin training them without us to lay the groundwork and let us join in later, or if we’ll begin together when Abby and I return next year. In short, Percy needs more time with them to get a good feel for their culture, build relationships, and help them understand that we bring training only, and offer no other relief or aid of any kind.
Please pray for the Khwe community, and for our discernment process. And pray as we finish Phase 3 training with our Katima friends, and continue Phase 1 with some new Katima Bible school students.
And remember…Where we go, you go!