A South African preacher at an American Baptist church

map of south africa

Here’s another one of those moments I often experience while sitting in church. We had a great preacher today from South Africa, the reverend Mpendulo Christopher Machi, pastor of Saint Peters Baptist Church in Maigate Township, South Africa. Pastor Machi is also President of the National Baptist Convention in South Africa. This was interesting to find out they have a national organization like what we have in the Unites States.

Though I was interested to see and hear Pastor Machi, I must admit I was a bit curious about how his presentation would go over with us westernized folk of African ancestry. After all, the old saying about “if it looks like duck and walks like a duck” doesn’t always apply. I wondered how thick his accent would be; how effective his metaphors used in preaching would translate; how comfortable he would be standing before members of the African diaspora descended from captives kidnapped from the continent of Africa. I also thought how both he and we have suffered from the effects of European colonization and brutality.

map of the american south

Brother Machi entered the seating area of the pulpit, while the congregation was praising God with our normal hymns and other activities that are preambles to the apex of the service, preaching. I found his stature to be attention focusing. He’s a small man, light brown in complexion, well dressed in a three-piece gray suit, appearing quite western in over all image. No surprise here. After all, the Dutch, and the English have applied a heavy hand on the indigenous people of South Africa to have them appear western from the outside.

As Pastor Machi approached the rostrum to speak, he did so with what appeared to be the same confidence as any of our “preachers in residence.” When he first spoke, the accent was there. I had no problem understanding anything he said. Of course, I found myself paying closer attention to every word he uttered. I couldn’t afford to take one minute of mental vacation. I found this to be more of a benefit than a hindrance. Being in a more focused mode of listening resulted in even greater absorption of what was being shared from the pulpit. During his first few minutes of speaking, he mentioned that he normally preached in Zulu, with an interpreter. He said that presenting his sermon strictly in English might be somewhat of a challenge for him. If it was, I couldn’t tell.

south african worshipper

The sermon, brother Machi delivered was textually based on Luke 5:17-26, titled “When Faith is at Work.” (This is the account of a group of men, anxious to have their friend healed, lifted him to the rooftop and let him down to where Jesus was speaking, because they couldn’t get through the crowd that was surrounding the house.) As he revved up his exegetical talents, I and the rest of the congregation were quite comfortable responding with the amen, glory to God and other culturally customary animations you would find in any African American Baptist church in the American South. All felt, at the end of the sermon, that an ocean and a continent apart had in no way diluted our Sunday morning ritual. What great preaching, what commonality, accent and other cross-cultural norms notwithstanding.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Beauty Redefined

This is worth reblogging. Thanks to my/our young blogger, Joseyphenia for sharing such insight.

Joseyphina's World

We live in an era where beauty equates cosmetic perfection.

Flawless exterior, glowing skin and great posture;

No longer about what is real but what it is made to look
like;

Because there’s an application for nearly every
imperfection;

We no longer strive to work on our inner persons;

Forgetting that beauty is from the inside out;

When you have a kind, generous and gentle spirit;

A beautiful countenance will always radiate from you;

According to the Bible, those called with beautiful feet
aren’t those

Without calluses or scars or blemishes

But those who bring the Good News

Hence I believe beautiful hands are not necessarily for
those

Which look perfect through a camera lens

But those who lend a helping hand to those who need it;

Beautiful eyes go beyond the color of your pupils

It’s for those who allow themselves to see past their own
needs

Into the…

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We’re going to Africa

Accra 5

I posted a blog recently; titled Africa is calling. https://oldblessed.com/2019/07/02/africa-is-calling/ Chris and I are answering the call come May 2020. We’ve booked a trip to Ghana, West Africa. I was also able to interest my oldest child, Felicia and one of my cousins, Hansel Jeffrey and his wife to make the trip with us. I’m looking forward to a great mini family reunion. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about making this journey. I feel like it will be a journey back in time to a place of which I have no familiar connection. I’m hoping that this will be one of, if not the most powerful emotional experience I’ve ever had. I’m confident that, though I may not have a familiar connection, I have a spiritual one, rooted in the DNA of people who harken back for millennia.

Accra 2

 

accra 3

I’m not writing much with this post. I simply want to start the process here of chronicling the experience. Yes, the experience did begin when I made the decision to make the trip. I’ve learned more about the continent from which my ancestors were stolen, since I made the decision to visit there, than at any point in my life. Thus, I do feel as though the trip has already begun. I will be sharing information, steps in planning for the trip and my emotions about going to my ancestral homeland up to the date of departure. I hope you can vicariously get a true flavor for what I’m experiencing.

Accra 4

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

911 still runs deep for all of us

Nine Eleven 1

Today is September 11. I sat at my keyboard early this morning, wanting to write something about September 11, 2001. Of course, that was the date of the tragedy involving the destruction of the twin towers in New York. There were many ideas circulating through my mind, but I couldn’t settle on just one. As I watched the national evening news, there were some images that cinched it for me.

Images often tell a story in a much more powerful way than words can ever do. It’s at that time when we see a certain image, the adage about “a picture is worth 1000 words” is arrestingly real. All the television news programs, local and national, devoted time to commemorating 911. The national news program I watched showed images of people standing at a podium, at the sight of 911, making comments about the loved ones they lost in the tragic event. There was also the customary naming of the nearly 3,000 souls who lost their lives that day. My television screen seemed to speak to me about the diversity of individuals participating in the memorial event. There were faces of all hues, making comments as they shed tears that were as fresh today as they were eighteen years ago. One lady even spoke in Spanish, which presented a degree of poignancy that I prayed gripped that hearts and minds of all Americans who saw and heard her.

Nine Eleven 2

Many have said that America is more divided now than it has been in quite some time. I take issue with that characterization, preferring to believe that we’ve always been divided. There are times when civility places a thin lid over how we truly feel about each other and are willing to demonstrate those thoughts in actions. Why can’t we remember all the numerous times in our history when people from every stripe imaginable have paid the price in suffering unto death to preserve freedom, voluntarily and involuntarily, for all of us? Why can’t those of us, who think we are somehow superior to others, look at what I saw on the evening news and realize that the highest of prices have been paid by a diversity of individuals for these amber ways of grain?

I remember 911 and how it caused large numbers of people to visit houses of worship. People tend to think about the value of their relationship with their maker after such tragedies. Unfortunately, that need to connect with powers greater than themselves wears off soon. I also remember the hate many showed toward people who looked a certain way, as if the evil minds that steered the planes into the twin towers were somehow a contagious condition that affected others who had brown skin, or wore a turban, or spoke with a certain accent. The angel of death chose liberally on 911, taking the lives of people who represented a bouquet of colors and ethnicities. All the blood shed that day was red! All the lives sacrificed were God-given.

Nine Eleven 3

It takes many, over generations to make a nation great. A nation’s greatness is not to be enjoyed by one group at the cost and sacrifices made by many other groups. God bless America and all who reside within her.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The new norm: Not always born from light

Security 1

I just finished reading an article in my local newspaper about the soon-to-be completed construction of a new school building in one of our state’s communities. The superintendent was interviewed about the school, which will be an answer to a lot of needs in the community. The old school is no longer equipped to meet the needs of students and teachers. The superintendent extolled a list of features the new school building will provide: 128,000 square feet of space, an art classroom, fully equipped chemistry lab, a library, an indoor sports facility and more. All of this sounded worthy of lauding, but the one thing that caused me to take pause was the security measures that will be in the new building to ensure student safety.

Security 2

The writer of the article referred to a recent tour of the new school building, when the superintendent pointed out all the new security measures. These features include a bullet-resistant glass door, separating the main entrance area from the main building. This door can only be unlocked from the reception area, which is behind bullet-resistant glass windows. Are you seeing what I’m seeing here? Along with the new features this new school will provide, for improvement of the educational experience of the children who will occupy it, there will also be additional features suitable for any correctional facility. This is the new normal. This wouldn’t have ever been thought of when I attended public school way back in the separate-but-equal days of the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s South, African American kids often went to school in old buildings, with worn classroom furniture and hand-me-down books, but security from wackos with guns was never given a thought.

There are many things to which we can point that have become parts of our new norm. Technology has had an enormous impact on our society, quickly ushering in new norms in every aspect of our lives. I have been dragged into contributing to the growth of e-commerce, purchasing clothing and other kinds of merchandise online, while I witness the slow death of some of my old commercial favorites like Sears and J.C. Penny’s. Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have ordered clothing online under any circumstance. Shifts in how we buy and sell, communicate, connect with others around the world, receive our news are new norms that make life better for most of us; however, the need for extreme security measures in our schools, places of worship, and other areas in the public square are new norms which I wish we didn’t need.

Security 3

I’ve written before about the normalcy which has developed around the frequency of mass shootings in the United States. This stands out as one of the primary reasons for the heightened security measures we now see in many of our buildings that have been constructed to house workers, who are there to serve us all. Don’t you get a feeling that these people are, out of necessity, being separated from us, not being allowed to have close relationships with their fellow citizens? No matter how impressive the security measures in a newly constructed school building, a new post office, a new customer service center might be, I will try my best to not accept the high-tech security features they possess as the new norm. Unfortunately, my efforts will fail just as they did in my finally succumbing to the convenience of e-commerce.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Don’t like the narrative? Change it

 

Changing the Narrative 1

A recent sermon presented by our pastor was titled, “Telling a Different Story.” As normal, I found myself triggered to write something when I heard this. In recent years, I’ve been hearing more people talking about writing a new narrative or changing the narrative. Through social action, many today are not taking it anymore, and taking the initiative to change the narrative. The #Metoo, #BlackLivesMatter are two well-known examples. On a much grander scale, we see entire nations and continents that have been stirred to change their narratives. The large continent of Africa has been awakened. Some sectors, after decades of colonization, are raising voices in many of its fifty-four different countries to write new stories. There are those on this vast continent of 1.3 billion people, who would like very much for the vestiges of colonization to be permanently eradicated from the hearts and minds of the people. Many of these are within the ranks of the millions of young people, who had no personal experience with colonization.

One thing I’ve noticed is that movements to change the narrative usually occur when a few members of a group find themselves burden beyond the ability to suffer some indignity anymore. This point of consciousness, if powerful enough, can birth movements that cause tectonic-like shifts in society. A perfect example of that is the recent falls we’ve witnessed of men of power falling hard from their pedestals. They can no longer hide from the sins of sexual exploitation committed years ago. Women are coming forward, strengthened by the bravery of one or two, who have been willing to put themselves out front for public scrutiny, as they tell their stories of mistreatment received from unscrupulous men. For a long time, I’ve jokingly referred to the term history as “his story”, which cuts to the route of much of what is wrong with stories from the past. If it’s his story and not her story, their story or better yet our story, how can we have confidence in any version rendered that the narrative is as it should be.

Changing the Narrative 2

I realize stories are always told from someone’s perspective; however, if there is no effort to include diverse perspectives, especially from those who lack power in society, there accuracy is up for debate. As difficult as it may be for some to accept, each of us has a story to tell, a narrative to be chronicled. All of us may not be able to voice it well or write it for public consumption, but it can be packaged and presented by those of us who do possess the ability to tell the stories of others. I find myself, at this stage in life, regretful that I didn’t chronicle conversations I had with the oral historians of my family, my grandparents and their siblings, who carried invaluable stories of suffering, sacrifice, survival and victory that could provide inspiration to generations after them.

Don’t think that we all can’t change the narrative. We can. This past mid-term congressional elections showed us that women had the power to begin the process of changing the narrative of the story being written by the United States House of Representatives. Those elections resulted in the largest number of women to ever hold seats in the House. Most of us aren’t politicians, lawyers or some highly educated individual, who has the public’s ear. But, that’s okay. We can begin the process of changing the narrative in our community by volunteering to do something that maybe someone else hasn’t stepped forward to do. We can be a better citizen, a better parent, a better member of the community. We can start small, think big and write big, changing the narrative in ways that will not be ignored.

Woman in Congress

 

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

I’m tired

 

Tired 1

 

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I tend mostly to write about observations external to me. This piece is a little different. If you take the time to read this, I hope you don’t think it’s too self-focused.

I’ve written before about my illness. I’ve been battling Multiple Myeloma for over nineteen years. Just to review, Multiple Myeloma is a form of blood cancer. There is no cure; however, medical science has had much success at prolonging the lives of people with this horrible disease. I’m considered one of the “poster-worthy” stories. My long-term survival hasn’t been without its challenges. I won’t spend too much time going into details about the many challenges I’ve suffered. I’ll just say that there have been hospital stays, various infections and one brush with death. The latter involved an infection that entered my blood stream, which resulted in a long hospital stay. Five days of that stay was spent in a coma.

As I’m writing this, I’m asking myself why I’m penning these words. I would have to say my answer is because writing has come to be an avenue for me to think things out. I usually sit down at my keyboard with a rough idea, and a conversation starts. It’s a conversation with three individuals, my brain, my fingers and the keyboard. The conversation I want to invite you into now is the fatigue I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks.

As you might imagine, I’ve put a countless amount of chemicals into my body to battle the cancer that has invaded my biological space. The most toxic would have to be the chemotherapy-type drugs. For the last two and one-half years I’ve been taking a drug called Revlimid. This chemical is mailed to my home from a pharmacy outside of my state of residence. Someone must be home to sign for delivery when it arrives. It cannot be left on the stoop. To give you some idea of how toxic this drug is, consider some of the warnings that come with taking it: don’t break the capsules; it can cause birth defects; don’t share with anyone; it can cause other forms of cancer; fatigue can be a side effect. Somehow, I feel that if I were to remove the drug from the capsule and take it without the outer casing that allows for slow release into my system, I probably wouldn’t survive ingestion.

Tired 2

 

The things I just mentioned are but a few of the elements that have peppered my life with cancer. There’s little wonder on my part that I go through these periods of severe fatigue occasionally. I don’t mean to sound like an attendant at a pity party, but I’m tired. Whenever I get like this, I don’t even feel like going outside of the house very much. Chris is here with me, and I have her to assist me with whatever I need. Chris, I know you’ll read this, so let me publicly say your love and support are two things for which I’m most grateful. This fatigue from rising in the morning to retiring at night wears on body, mind and soul. The only thing that keeps me centered is my faith in God. I must draw on His promises, greatest among them for me is that He’s with me always. Yes, I’m tired but I’m not alone.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.