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New Year Update

January 12, 2009

Hello Everyone –

Happy New Year to all from Steve and all the Plodinecs – Karen, Stephen, Timothy, Kimberly Catherine, Michael and Luke – in South Africa.

We hope and pray all is well with you and that the Lord is gently conforming you to His image. We pray that the Lord will give you more and more grace. We hope you pray the same for us.

CULTURAL UPDATE – They dance in the black churches here. In fact, there is always loud music and enthusiastic and exciting dancing at every church event, including Sunday morning. It is their culture. But there is no dancing at funerals. I don’t dance, at any function. Recently Karen & I went to the wedding of one of our students. The wedding party of 12 people arrived by dancing their way down the middle of the dirt street for the last two blocks to where the ceremony was held. Dancing spontaneously broke out at various times during the day, sometimes it was just one person bopping along, other times it was a group and sometimes there wasn’t even any music playing.

We also went to a graduation party thrown by five of this years graduates, and you know there was dancing. It seems that no event has really begun until the key people have danced their way in. As the graduates were grooving up the aisle of the church Karen asked, with a big smile on her face, if I felt like stepping out and joining them. I said no, not at all. She asked what would happen if I did join them? I said it would have been pandemonium. The place would have erupted. They would have said I finally got the Spirit.

I have talked with the students about this in class. They love to dance at happy events, but they also know that my American church culture does not dance, which is fine with me. They understand that and accept it, though they think that is being wound a little too tight. A student even stood up in class once and had the whole class pray for me so that when I visited his church I would get out in the aisle and dance with the rest of them. I said they could pray all they wanted to, but don’t count on it unless God personally appears to me and tells me to get out there. And don’t count on that either. This will always be just a minor cultural difference for me in the churches here.

Culture is important, but people are people all over the world and we all struggle with the same faults, fears and sins, and have the same hopes and dreams, no matter what our culture. This is why the word of God is relevant and applicable to everyone in the world. I am here teaching the students biblical truths and principles that directly apply to them and their cultures, but I am not trying to change their culture. That is not my job. God will do that, if He needs to. This is another reason I am not personally planting a church in a village, but instead training the men who are already pastors in their villages and are already in the culture. But, there are cultural differences in the way we do things and all of us are learning about these differences more and more the longer we are here. You can read up on different cultures, but you never really know what they are like until you live among the people and interact with them. Cultural knowledge just takes time. We all are getting better at fitting into the way things are done here and we have made our share of cultural blunders, but God’s people are patient and He is graciously working in and through us here.

There are many things here in Africa that are very different from America. The other day I noticed there were a lot of cars parked in front of my neighbor’s home. My neighbor is a black gentleman who is married with three kids. He has a master’s degree and is the principal of the main highschool in the large black township at the edge of town. He is a good man and I have invited him to church and he has visited a few times. I noticed the cars and so I went over and talked with him and asked if he was having a party and said that if he was, could I come over! He laughed and said ‘yes’ to both questions and then told me it was an engagement party for his daughter. Now, there is a cultural practice here in Africa called “lebola”. It is the bride price, the practice of paying for the bride. Most of our students, which mainly come from rural areas, still have to pay lebola when they get engaged and I wondered if this was the case with my neighbor and his daughter. I tried to be tactful because I didn’t want it to sound like I was asking how much he was selling his daughter for, so I came at the subject in a roud-about way. I brought up my students and explained about their having to pay lebola when they get engaged and my neighbor got a big smile on his face and enthusiastically explained that they too practiced lebloa and that most Africans still do. No doubt every father with daughters wants to keep the tradition of lebola alive.

You know what I was thinking at this point – How much? I didn’t want to come right out and ask what price he was getting for his daughter, I didn’t think that would be real neighborly, so I mentioned that some of my students even paid lebola with cows and so I asked if I was going to be hearing some mooing coming from his yard this evening? He laughed and said oh no, that was what the Zulus did down in KwaZulu-Natal. He said the Zulu culture loves cows and they still pay lebola with cows, but in his Pedi culture they just pay with money. I really, in the worst way, wanted to ask ‘How much?’ but I just couldn’t do it. But, he went ahead and said it on his own – he was getting 50,000 rand for his daughter! I thought, Wow! 50,000 rand! Then, of course, I wondered how much I could get for my daughter Kimberly. This is one cultural practice I think can go for. I draw the line at dancing, but 50,000 rand for your daughter is hard to argue with. And besides, this is one way I can immerse myself in the culture and better relate to the students. But, I think I can get more for Kimberly. She is tall, very beautiful, is involved with serving at church, she knows how to cook, clean, and take care of babies. So, if any one out there is interested we can begin negotiations.

FAMILY UPDATE – My ministry at Christ Seminary and Christ Baptist Church is going well. I teach the following classes: 1st year students – Research & Computing. 2nd year students – Hermeneutics II and Theology II. 3rd year students – Theology III, Theology IV, Biblical Counseling. 4th year students – Expository Preaching IV, Exposition of Romans, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Check out the seminary on the web.

Karen is once again (still, always) the busiest of all, and even more so now that we have a toddler tearing around the house who never – never – sits still. She homeschools the kids and organizes and runs our home. A number of the young moms at church have asked her if she would disciple them, but since Luke arrived 16 months ago she does not have the time for a structured discipleship time. She does answer their questions all the time though, so she is discipling in an informal way. Karen also is on Facebook. I (Steve) am not on Facebook and I don’t have the slightest idea of how to find her on there, but look her up and become her friend.

Stephen (18) plays the guitar and is finishing up high school this year and, Lord willing, will be going to college in the U.S. next year. We miss him already. Timothy (17) has finished two years of Greek and two years of Hebrew at the seminary. He likes Hebrew better. He also started a weekly teenage bible study with 5-8 guys attending. Kimberly (16) helps out at church in the nursery and with the audio/visual on Sunday mornings. This is not much information on Stephen, Timothy and Kimberly, but they also are on Facebook so you can find out more about them there.

Catherine (9) is an artsy girl and loves drawing and painting. She is also fairly organized and likes working in the kitchen. She is enthusiastically learning how to cook and often cleans up the kitchen without being asked. Michael (7) is a genuinely good guy and has a great personality, though he has said that his only talent is being a fun guy. I said that is good, keep that, just add other talents to it as well. Luke (16 months) is busy, big, strong and has no fear of anything. I see many hospital visits in his future. He is also very cute.

COMING TO THE U.S. ON FURLOUGH – Lord willing, we are planning on being in the US from June 2009 until January 2010. We would love to see you. We will definitely be in the following areas, but we can also add more stops into our itinerary. We will be in New England, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, the Northwest, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Texas and Florida.

Please pray for our furlough time in the U.S. It is not easy living out of a suitcase for 7 months. It is certainly no vacation, but part of ministering as a missionary. And yes, we do need to raise more support, so please be praying about that as well and if God would be leading you to join us in ministry in this way.

2008 has gone the the way of all past years. Some of the challenges of 2008 still hang on and will be with us into 2009 and, no doubt, new challenges will come. But, we hope to always remember the joys of 2008 and build on them in 2009.

And, we hope to see you in the coming year, even for just a friendly visit.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2010 2:32 pm

    I just discovered this blog, and it’s fascinating! I too served a Christian mission to South Africa about ten years ago, and I miss it very much. I remember there being churches that danced. I even found one called the Christian Motorcyclists Association that played live band Beatles music every week. Not my style, but it sure made me laugh to hear it every week as we’d pass by on the way to our own meeting.

    Keep up the good work!

    God bless!

    Chas

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