When MaDube and I drove to the market on Monday morning, she brought the bible and book she had promised me. I thanked her politely and pretended I knew what to do with them. I tucked them into my bag and have kept them there ever since. For two days I have pondered on how to handle the predicament I find myself in.
Bhut’Manga travelled to Cape Town yesterday, and now MaDube has arrived, during my 10 O’clock tea break again, and we are standing outside as I prefer.
‘Ngithemba ulele kahle my baby?’
This woman, she has the nicest ways of making me feel comfortable and relaxed.
‘Ewe ma, ng’yabonga.’
I was taught never to ask an adult questions about their health and wellbeing, for if they are not well, then what do I do to solve their issue? So I know not to ask, but to just be polite enough for MaDube to sense my interest in her. As we allow polite conversation to flow, she begins to question me on how my bible reading has been going. I respond amicably telling her that I her I haven’t had time.
‘Its been busy ma, since u-Bhut’Manga was preparing for travel.’
‘Ng’yazwisisa mntanami, uzolithola ithoba lokuzilibazisa ngezwi. UJehova unawe! Bengithi nje ngikukhumbuze, how important it is to hear God’s voice everyday.’
She continues on and tells me what she read about this morning, highlighting strongly that nomatter what, she does not leave her bed without attending to God’s Word.
MaDube recaps from the book of Matthew chapter 6 verse 33. She highlights on how it told her to seek first the kingdom of God so that all the things that she desires and wants will be given to her. She speaks of how seeking the kingdom means reading the bible everyday and taking some time out to pray.
There is a glow about her countenance as she speaks and watching her being so happy, reminds me want of my strong desire to be happy. It actually ignites in me the joy that I had momentarily experienced on Sunday at church. I didn’t realize that it was still in there, tucked away. It’s like, as she speaks, it is slowly peaking out of its corner and revealing itself to me, letting me know that it is there and asking if it can let it out.
‘How do I pray ma?’ I ask this spontaneously, interrupting her speech.
MaDube pauses, smiles and holds our her chubby hands to me in the gesture of hug. I freeze momentarily, not really understanding how she wants me to respond.
‘Oh my dear, it’s so easy. You know what? I can teach you now.’
She takes my hands gently, one in each of her hands and tells me to bow my head. I do so, but peek up discretely to watch what she is doing. She has closed her eyes and she asks me to listen to her very carefully as she prays. She looks like a woman on assignment, ready to take on the world, and I can tell that she takes what we are doing seriously.
MaDube then goes on to say a very simple prayer and I listen intently.
‘Heavenly Father, I worship You, there is no one like You in all the earth. Thank you for a new day and that I am alive. Thank you for new energy to help me do the things I need to. Thank you for my job. May I do it well and may I please my employers. May I be a blessing to them, beyond the call of duty. Thank you for my family, help them to be strong. Bless them and protect them. I love them and miss them so much. But most of all, Lord, thank You for loving me. It is Your love that keeps me strong. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen’
We lift our heads simultaneously and I can see her smiling, even in her eyes. Her joy runs so deep – very deep, like the deep waters of the ocean that carries large ships and humungous whales. It clearly runs right down to her very soul.
‘Ok ke Prim, you try now. Follow the words I said and add your own. You can do it my girl.’
I take a slow deep breath and bow my head, assuming that she does the same. I search my mind trying to recall the words that she just spoke. They come very slowly, almost in a struggle.
‘Umm, He-heavenly Fa-Father. I-I come to You and worship Y-y-you.’
I stammer in uncertainty. I am nervous, and want to get this right. I want to look and sound the way she does, so confident.
‘Thank you for this new-new day. Tha-Tha-thank you for loving me.’
Suddenly, at this point, it’s as though something gushes out of me. Thanking Him for loving me, releases a strong feeling of confidence in me that releases every chain that I have ever known to bind me. It is as though those words have come to set me at liberty and I find that I am not nervous anymore.
It’s as though a realization dawns, that, I am not forcing this thing, this joy, this happiness and this new life; but that He already loved me and still does. I am not talking to someone who is judging me, but rather someone who wants me near them, who wants me close.
A confidence so strong arises, and I am no-longer afraid. I no-longer feel any barriers holding me back as I continue my new journey in this world of prayer. I am suddenly confident and ready to speak to MaDube’s God, who suddenly feels like mine too.
‘Thank You that You care for me and for what happens to me. Thank You for my job, for Bhut’Manga and Nandi. They are good people. Bless them, please. Thank You for my mother and my brothers. Thank You for helping them and for loving them too. Thank You for MaDube, please bless her because she is helping me. Thank you for everything you have done for me. Amen.’
‘In Jesus’ name, Amen.’
MaDube emphasizes His name and I note that it means that it is important to say that phrase. As though reading my mind, she goes on to explain.
‘My child, when we pray, we pray to God the father, through His son Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, the Father cannot hear us. He is our medium. He is our way. John 14 verse 6 says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.’ Jesus said that statement and that is why it is so important that we do not forget to pray in His name, so that we are heard. And when the Father hears us, He answers.’
I reason in my head that this makes sense; I mean, I realize it is the same thing that my grandmother would do when she goes to the sangoma to address the ancestors who address ‘uNkulunkulu’. It was said that the ancestors were our medium towards Him and the sangoma, the medium to the ancestors. I only saw my grandmother go there once though; when Gumede nearly killed her. She said her family was breaking and she needed to fix it, and only the ancestors could help her. Other than that, I don’t remember seeing anything in our village about the worship of a higher power. It was as though we just lived, once in a while referring to ‘Abaphansi’ and another to ‘uNkulunkulu.’ But never really focusing on a need for them/Him in our lives. However, I see the difference in having something to believe in right now. MaDube looks more at peace about life than my grandmother or my mother ever did. She looks happy, and I want that.
After a good one hour of explaining to me some of the basics of prayer, MaDube invites me to her house the next time I am free, as she would like to sit with me comfortably she says. I am embarrassed, as I take it to insinuate that I never made her comfortable. This saddens me slightly because she is such a good woman and I cannot get over the way she always seems so content with life. I want to be like her, because I hardly smile, or laugh. It takes a lot of effort for me to find happy places inside me. As a result, my face always looks serious or sad – hardly ever happy and content. Lizzie, my friend, tells me that her joy comes from within. She tells me how knowing God makes her know everything is going to be okay, and, it usually does turn out okay.
Perhaps the way I feel right now should never leave me, perhaps there is a way to keep it going on. If praying for a few minutes brought back this satisfaction in me, perhaps praying for longer might just grow the experience. What if I pray for 30 minutes? No, an hour, even more? What is stopping me? Mmm! I think I like what I am experiencing now. I think I want to keep it.
For the rest of my day as I go along doing my duties, I drop a few statements to the Lord. As I wash the dishes, I say,
‘Thank you Lord that we have a good home, with running water, in Jesus’ name’.
I smile as I say this because for the first time I don’t feel alone in the house. Even when Nandi is sleeping I feel like someone else that I can relate to is there. There is a comfort around me that I cannot describe, and going to bed on a night when Bhut’Manga is not at home, seems easier than before. There is something real and tangible about this new way of life that I am exploring – it really brings a sense of feeling whole.
The next night, Nandi has fallen asleep at the neighbours’ house. She likes it there, even though everyone is older than her. I think she likes Sis’ Lucille the most. Perhaps she makes her feel like she has a mother, because I am sure she wants a mother figure in her life. I know I do not represent that for her, because I don’t really allow myself to get too close to her. I do play with her, but I know I don’t play like others do. I normally just sit around her and watch her play, and engage were she needs me.
I have watched her with Sis’ Lucille these past two days. Sis’ Lucille allows Nandi to jump on her, and pull her hair as she pretends to fix it. She carries Nandi around the house and talks in a funny voice when responding to Nandi who will be telling her stories. She really forgets how old she is when she plays with Nandi and it’s actually very nice to watch.
Sis’ Lucille has insisted that Nandi sleep over and that she will come early in the morning to collect her things and get her ready for school. So what am I to do? I walk out and head home and sit for a few minutes, feeling lonely because I suddenly have no one to bath and put to bed and organise things for. Come to think of it, Nandi really keeps my life going. Doing things for her keeps me involved with life. Suddenly her not being here feels different, especially because Bhut’Manga is away too. It’s not that she has never gone away; normally when she does, Mam’Thandiswa would have come and collected her, and Bhut’Manga would still be around. I have never been alone overnight in this home and it feels very strange; so I choose to lock up and go to MaDube’s place when I see her light has been on for a while.
After a few knocks MaDube comes to the door, smiling as usual.
‘Awu Prim, it’s good to see you. Ngena!’
As I enter her place I realize how quaint it is. It has a comfortable living area with a two seater couch and a small kitchenette. There is a medium sized TV on the wall and some gadgets that look like a decoder and DVD player. Her centre table has her bible, notebook, pen and another book lying there. They are closed but ready to be used. There are two more doors and I assume that they lead to the bedroom and the bathroom.
‘Ooh, I am so happy to see you shuwa. I am so glad you came’
She offers me a seat and walks towards her small fridge returning with 2 bottles of soft drinks. I am impressed with the way she lives and I realize that the Mathes really treat their helpers well. It is easy to be loyal living like this. The TV is on and she is watching a popular local soap opera. I usually see it too, but I don’t watch it, because I think my mind cannot concentrate on what they are saying and doing. I find it a waste of time and distracting to my duties. Perhaps it’s because in the village, whilst we had a TV, my grandmother preferred that we play outside or go and watch over the herds and so, the habit to sit and watch was never cultivated in me. I always had a duty to fulfill. My younger brothers are different though. They would sulk if they were not allowed to watch. They enjoyed particularly the men who would fight in a square. I never could understand why two grown men would wear their underwear and go and fight in public for no reason. It seemed absurd to me and I didn’t think it was worth my attention.
We sit for a while, as MaDube is engrossed in the story that is being acted out. She holds her chest, and exclaims at some statements. She even talks to the TV when a woman does what she doesn’t seem to want her to do. At the end, when one boy is holding a knife against another man’s neck, she screams, ‘Mayyeeeee bambulala uZakes.’ I cannot help but giggle at that point because her passion is strange.
When MaDube’s adrenaline has finally died down, she turns to me as though now a different woman, and asks about my Bible reading. You know deep down I knew she would ask, and I knew I would have to lie, and so I start to say that I got busy, but my heart will not allow me to. I hold my breath for a moment and then I say,
‘MaDube, I cannot read. I mean, I can read a few small words but not the big-big ones. I never learnt.’
I say this feeling embarrassed and in my softest voice because my throat seems to refuse to open up.
‘Ooh Prim, I am so sorry my girl. Thank you for telling me. It must have been hard. But you know what, I will help you. I may not know how to teach, but I will find a way so that you learn to read for yourself.’
‘Ng’yabonga ma. Ngingakujabulela lokhu!’
She then picks up her Bible and book and opens to a page. She reads the top,
Wednesday 18 January 2017.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’
MaDube goes on to read the explanation that is written at the bottom and I am amazed at the simplicity of this message and how easy it seems to ask God. It says that God will only give you good things because of His love and that I must trust Him. It says that anything bad comes from the devil, not God. It likens God to a good father who will not harm their child but will only offer them the best. Of course I do not know anything about a good father towards me, but I imagine God to be like my mother who would always give us the best portion of any meal and save the scraps for herself. She always made herself suffer for our sake and the feeling of gratitude that overtakes me is indescribable as I realize how good God is to me. I decide that I will ask Him for what I desire from now on and I mean it. If God is as good, and even better than my mother, then I can trust Him. I can depend on Him, and I choose to, right in that very moment, seated on MaDube’s couch.
When we are done, we take turns to pray and I head home. When I get into my room, I switch on Gumede’s phone and I dial mama’s number. I suddenly miss her but I am not sure if she will answer since it’s after nine o’clock in the night, but I pray to God that she will. After ringing for a long time, she answers and when I greet her, she exclaims,
‘Awu Khethiwe mntanami, ng’yakukhumbula kakhulu mntanami. Unjani zibulo lami?’
‘Ngiphilile ma, ngiyakukhumbula nam’.’
My heart is full of joy as I speak to mama, telling her about my new acquaintance MaDube. She is happy to hear that I have found a woman who can mother me and that she is a woman of faith. We speak about the family and work for a few more minutes, before my phone beeps to tell me my airtime is almost done, and so I hurry to say goodbye and cut the phone.
Calling mama when it is not month end is rare now, and I feel good for doing it, but I am also disheartened at my lack of finances for something as simple as airtime. As I go to sleep I say a prayer thanking God for the day and that I was able to talk to mama, and then I ask, simply,
‘Lord, please remove Gumede as a threat in my life. I want to live freely.’
The prayer takes me aback, and I find myself in deep thought for a few minutes. It was so unplanned and so unexpected, that I am unsure what to make of it. Clearly I am troubled by this man and what he has made my life out to be. Ultimately though, I am so glad I said it and I believe that God hears me.
©2017|Sithembile Lornah Ndlovu|All Rights Reserved.