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“Love-All That and More” Debuts in Cape Town!

Since my visit to South Africa is supported by the U.S. Department of State Speakers’ Program, the Consulate staff has arranged some of my meetings. They asked me to go to a YMCA afterschool program and meet with the youth workers and the youth. It has been many years since I worked specifically in youth ministry, but I pressed ahead—and I am so glad I did.

Since my visit to South Africa is supported by the U.S. Department of State Speakers’ Program, the Consulate staff has arranged some of my meetings. They asked me to go to a YMCA afterschool program and meet with the youth workers and the youth. It has been many years since I worked specifically in youth ministry, but I pressed ahead—and I am so glad I did.

The program is held in the library in the community. The kids come after school to do homework and then an activity. Unfortunately, each day they have to turn kids away for lack of room for them. The day I visited there were at least 60 ranging in age from 10–16. The workers know that many of the kids come from abusive homes. Some have been sexually abused at home. Some are sexually active with peers. Like teenagers everywhere, they are trying to sort out who they are as individuals and who they are in relationships. A daunting task!

Fortunately, they are getting good safe sex education in school and from NGOs. There is now strong support for condom use here. One graffiti I saw said, “Save Sex Is the Best Sex.” Close enough!

YMCA2So here I am, old enough to be their grandmother, a white American, standing in front of a group of black and colored* kids, trying to talk about healthy relationships. As you can see from the photos, it is an ironic sight! And because the kids are more comfortable with their first language, Afrikans, I was dependent on the youth workers to help me understand what was going on.

I began with the first part of “Love-All That and More,” the FaithTrust Institute DVD program for youth. In this segment, we raise the issues of expectations that males and females have of each other in the context of media images and social pressures. At first the kids were a bit restless, but when the dramatic scenario began that showed girls in school giving up parts of themselves in order to have a boyfriend, they really focused. We discussed why it is that girls feel this way sometimes.

Then I told them the story of Vashti from the Book of Esther in the Bible. This is the wonderful story of Queen Vashti who is summoned by the King to parade before his drunken friends. She says, “No.” I asked the kids what they thought the King did when she said “no.” They were very quick to respond: “He beat her,” “He put her in prison,” “He killed her.” These are the expected responses to a wife who disobeys her husband. So they were surprised when I told them that actually the King did none of those things; he just fired her and looked for a new queen who turned out to be Esther.

They totally understood why the Queen Vashti said “no.” Even though she gave up being queen, she was much happier.

YMCA1Three of the older teens were surprisingly vocal: two girls and a boy. They were obviously buddies. And they were totally clear that they did not intend to give up themselves to be in a relationship. The younger ones were listening intently.

I asked if the kids would like to see more of the DVDs. Their response was an enthusiastic “yes.” So I left the DVDs and leaders’ materials with them. Perhaps these will provoke even further discussion.

It was a good day. I was very encouraged that these post-apartheid teens have the chance to do this differently and to end the cycle of gender-based violence.

*In South Africa, people are categorized in racial groups as white, black, colored (mixed race) or Indian.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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your time in s. africa

Posted by sandi thopmson-royer at Dec 07, 2010 07:16 PM
Marie, It warms my heart to read your stories of time there. I imagine it is also a rejuvenating experience for you as well. At least when I am in Central America, I come home ready and inspired to work at home in the U.S. So good for you! I would love to accompany you some time!!!

Big hugs and blessings to all you encounter,

Sandi