Sunday, September 2, 2007

More help from my friends.......

S'bangizwe Yekiso is a friend of mine. He is an infinitely interesting young man, filled with energy and enthusiasm and a genuine love of people and life. He works for a wine company called Thokozani. He took us to the Langa Methodist Church yesterday as his guest. Now lets get two things clear right now. One, nobody who reads this can pronounce his name, and two, between me and Jack we figure Jesus was alive the last time we both were in church. I can help you with number one, everyone calls my friend Gege (pronounced Geygey, like heyhey). With number two, you'll have to go directly to Jesus for help.

The service at the Langa Methodist church was an amazing experience. We drive to Langa, a mostly Xhosa black township, and we find the church by following Gege's directions. We drive around a bit looking at Langa. We'll spend Monday and Tuesday there, so we go back to the church and park. Jack and I are obviously not from Langa, but people are warm and friendly, saying hello as they pass. There are a lot of young men and women gathering, the men have on blue blazers and the women have on blue skirts and berets. They are apparently the choir, because they gather and begin to warm up, singing the beginning of various songs. Gege arrives and greets us. At first he doesn't recognize me, the last time we were together I had a ponytail, but we connect and I introduce Jack and he takes us inside and gets us seated in the back and tells us he will see us at the end of the service. From the moment we sat down, there was the most amazing singing happening. The church was a long room with a raised pulpit at the front and row after row of simple wooden pews. They slowly filled up while the young people at the front continued to sing so beautifully in Xhosa. By 10:20 or so the church was packed. The youngest members were seated up on the dais just behind the minister and to his right, looking out at all of us and filling the entire room with their pulsing highly rhythmic and physical energy and their rich soprano voices.

Then the minister began to announce the scripture to be read in a mix of Xhosa and English, as Langa is mostly Xhosa, and solo singers would begin to sing after the readings. This is when we were just blown away. The entire congregation, hundreds of people, young and old would come in right on cue singing in harmonies and full voices, filling the air with the most incredible sound I have ever heard. It brought back memories of church services I attended as a child in Georgia with my relatives (back during the time of Christ), but the singing there did not top this. It transported you on waves of melody and took you out of yourself to another place here in Langa with people you didn't know, but with whom you suddenly felt part of. We were introduced as the Africans from America, and felt the warmth of the congregation's welcoming greeting. Jack leaned over to me and said, "now I'm African."

With that achieved, we sat through the rest of the service with all its great singing and the lighting of the AIDS candle and the stirring sermon: "don't run with the chickens and ducks, you are not one of them, you are an eagle, learn to fly, realize your potential, soar like an eagle!" We sat through all three hours and forty some minutes of it.

Then, back to the hotel and we meet Gege at the cigar bar across the street, there wasn't much open, and he helps us with all this language and pronunciation stuff (invaluable), then he's off to the rest of his day, leaving us to the rest of ours. A little help from my friend.......

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