Greetings from Ann.
I am writing on the bus as we head to the North. The ride is a bit bumpy. But on this first part of the drive we’ve had a few hours to stare off into the bush and the seemingly endless sky, and for me this time is an opportunity to collect my thoughts about what we’ve seen and witnessed so far.
Yesterday was an emotionally power-packed day at the School for Visually Impaired Children. Our contact there is Mrs. Marilise Fransman. She is a South African colored woman who is married to a Namibian man and she has been the principal of the School for 21 years. (Here in Africa, by the way, “colored” is a perfectly acceptable term for being mixed race.)
Marilise Fransman is a force to be reckoned with. She has built the School incredibly over the years and it is clear she is proud of her achievements – as she should be -- but the needs are great as she is quick to point out to us.
As our group delivered our gift of Braille books and moved along on the tour of the school, I had a chance to visit with her about her efforts. The school serves learners who are blind, partially sighted, and fully sighted but who have other disabilities. She explained to me that she turns no child away. She has children who come to the school because they can attend no where else, or because they do not feel comfortable learning any where else – they may be emotionally challenged, disfigured by disease, or have been disowned by their families due to customs; customs which we cannot understand and which I surely cannot write about here. It took everything I had to keep my composure.
I asked about her strength. She said “when I was a very little girl, I complained to my mother about my shoes. My mother taught me the error of my ways by taking me to meet a child who had no feet.”
Our conversation continued and I learned more about Marilise’s remarkable mother, and her family, and her dedication, which is unswerving, to these learners and this School.
A bit later we slipped into a classroom where Amanda was teaching the learners (blind and partially sighted together) Afrikaans, the primary language, along with English, of Namibia. Marilise was by my side. She quickly saw Simon, a 16-year old learner who was distracted and wiggling in his chair. She called him out and teased him for being naughty. Simon blushed and put his head down into his book and dared not look up. She then gave him some verbal loving and said “you, my dear Simon Peter, you are always this way but I love you so!” Not missing my opportunity I said to him “your name is Simon Peter, you know . . . it is upon you that Christ built his church.” He beamed and Marilise exclaimed “see Simon Peter what I have been saying all along? This guest today also knows this!”
I knew in that moment that Marilise and I had clicked and I do hope we will be friends moving forward. We walked and talked a bit more about faith, and life, and hope. We will look forward to being in partnership with Marilise Fransman and this special school in any way we can.
Thank you all for your comments, your e-mails, and your prayers for our journey. We know you travel with us.