28 Jan 2008
In the early 1800’s, the people in the eastern part of South Africa named their land KwaZulu, … “the place of heaven”. They called themselves AmaZulu, … “the people of heaven”. Much earlier, the Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, first saw this land on Christmas Day in the year 1497. He called it “Natal” which refers to Christ’s birthday. Today, this South African province is called … KwaZulu Natal.
Those from across the ocean saw the land as a place to settle. They saw the Zulu as ones they could conquer or kill. During the 1800’s, many battles were fought for control of the land and the people. Famous battles like that at Blood River were the personification of the clash between cultures … a struggle between guns and spears…a war between the Dutch settlers and the Zulu warriors. At Isandlawana, it was a fight between the British and Zulu. On a hillside overlooking the scene of the battle, piles of rock, carefully painted white, mark each spot where a British soldier was killed. There are no markers for the Zulu warriors who fought and died in the same battle. Generations have come and gone since these battles… but the hope for “a place of heaven” seems forever distant to the proud Zulu.
Near the coal-mining city of Dundee, in the northwest part of the province, many of the Zulu continue to live in round, thatched-roofed homes. Cattle and goats feed on the tall grass growing in the surrounding fields. The dullness of life seems endless; few of the men, young or old, have a regular job. Often, men sit in the shade sharing a batch of home brew.
Life quickly changes on pension day … the day that they have money to spend. For the Zulu, this monthly event is a time for buying, for selling, and for socializing. This event has changed over the years, yet much remains the same. The clothes the women wear … once made of leather … are brighter and more colorful. A newspaper is used for shade. Many of the goods are packaged in plastic wrappers but the products have changed little. One can purchase the inner parts of a recently butchered cow, freshly bottled milk or herbal medicines. Transportation too has changed. For the most part, the ride to the market is by a bus, a van-taxi, a car, or a truck. Regardless of the method of travel, they will spend the entire day; … women with their products and men under a shade with their friends and a jug of beer.
At family compounds and other gathering places, modern influences are all around. For some, it is the cell phone. Farm machinery used in the past has met a different fate; seemingly, … upon failure, … it remains a corpse gradually decaying. Skill and parts required to maintain the equipment are often out of reach to the Zulu. Water pumped from a well and stored in a tank high above is available at a common faucet. In other places, the residents must pump the water. Plastic jugs full of water are hauled in a wheelbarrow or carried on their heads.
The coastal plain is a green place. Additional rainfall as well as better soil and climate allow for an abundance of crops. As one nears the city of Empangeni, small family compounds are scattered along the hillsides and can be viewed from the modern highway. In the upscale part of the city, people seem to have nice homes, good jobs, and their children attend the best schools.
A few miles from the city and out in the rural areas it is much different. The roads to the fields of tall grass and sugarcane, to the occasional tavern, and to the homes of the residents are a challenge for travel by car. However, poor roads are of little concern to those living here since few have a car.
Walking great distances is part of the life style and is easily accepted by the children but their home life is a major concern. Many of the children have only one parent at home, … if any. Their father often lives away in another town where he has found work. Many very young women have children. The child’s father is neither identified nor available for support. As a result of AIDS, a large number of children are orphans and must live with their grandparents or another caregiver. Consequently, for countless children in KwaZulu Natal, school is the highlight of their day. They enjoy the walk to school and look forward to a government-provided hot lunch. It may be their only meal of the day.
Learning is a challenge for most of the children, … a challenge to find a seat, … a challenge to find a desk, … a challenge to find a teacher who has time to listen. 50 to 100 students cram into a small room. Teachers work with limited resources and an overwhelming task of meeting the needs of individual students. Adding to the challenge is that teaching is often done in Zulu but graduation testing is in English resulting in low graduation rates. It is difficult to have hope for the future in this environment.
Still … some excel despite the problems. A few of the brightest young scholars are given the opportunity to work with computers. With these tools, they have an unprecedented view of the outside world. These could be the leaders of tomorrow.
Perhaps the most joyous moment for many is singing songs together with their voices harmonizing as the sounds echo between the tin roof and the concrete floor. They sing of the hope for the future. They sing because they are proud to be Zulu.
It is the children as they near high school who are facing the challenge that far exceeds the conflict between the white settlers and the Zulu through four decades of Apartheid. It is a challenge brought about by the lifestyle of their parents, … a lifestyle that has few moral bounds. Over 40% of the Zulu are affected by HIV/AIDS. Most will die prematurely. These children are the ones who can stop this pandemic. It is difficult as there is little for them in the townships, so the lifestyle passed down through the generations continues.
“True Love Waits”, a program that teaches Biblical moral values, can make a difference. Missionaries take every opportunity to share the importance of following these truths, … the only true hope for the Zulu.
Biblical values are not well understood by the Zulu. Still, … about 80% claim to be Christians. They have adapted their pagan worship system to include some Christian beliefs.
The group of people known as Zionists dance, fall down and get very excited at their worship service. The beliefs of the various Zionist prophets vary widely resulting in hundreds of different churches. The Zionists believe in Jesus, in their ancestors, and in their prophet.
The Shembites, … on the other hand, … worship outdoors in a circle of white painted rocks. They do not believe in Jesus but rather believe that their founder, Shembe, is the messiah for the blacks. Their worship service is very structured and reverent. The Shembites are one church with one prophet, Shembe. They believe in the Old Testament and whatever Shembe says.
The Shembites and the Zionists put their hope in a confused mixture of paganism and Christianity. They, … like many others, … consider themselves Christians.
It is imperative to reach the Zulu with the true Word of God to correct all the false teaching that abounds. They must understand that the Bible and Jesus are for all, not only for the white man.. This is accomplished in a variety of ways including: Theological Education by Extension, films, Bible studies, religious education in schools, and leadership training.
Overlays: Theological Education by Extension – Films – Bible studies – religious education in schools – leadership training
There are a few who know Jesus in a personal way. Their joy as they celebrate the hope they have in Jesus overflows. Will you thank God for these believers … these AmaZulu, … “the people of heaven”?
(on camera celebration at a church)
With the end of Apartheid in 1994, the Zulu have begun to experience many new freedoms. They have a new hope. Will you pray with us that their eyes might now be opened to seek and find the “real” freedom they need, … the freedom that they can find in Christ; … their only true hope
CLOSING: Church group singing outside church Higher Ground in Zulu
On screen toward end of song:
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Tho’ some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
AmaZulu AH’ ma ZOO lu
Dundee done DEE’
Empangeni eM pAhn GEN’ nee (GE as in get)
Isandlawana ee san DLWAH’ nah
KwaZulu KWA’ Zoo lu
KwaZulu Natal KWA’ Zoo lu nah TALL’
Shembe SHEM’ be
Shembites SHEM bites
Vasco de Gama
Zulu ZOO lu
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