2 very parallel Christmas reflections.
Reflections on Our Trip to South Africa
1976 – We had been in Zambia, Central Africa since September, teaching at a mission school. A fellow teacher, a Mennonite, invited us to join their family in Swaziland for the annual retreat for Mennonites working in Southern Africa. (South Africa completely surrounds the small country of Swaziland.) So, at the Christmas break, we flew to Francistown in Botswana and then took the train to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we would then get a train or bus to Swaziland.
We were in coach class on the train. As we reached the South African border, we were required to move into a first or second class carriage because we were white and it was during apartheid. The first railway station was some 60 kilometers inside the border. When we arrived about 6:00 am, we found out the next train to Joburg wouldn’t be until 6:00 pm. We decided to hitchhike. whites, blacks and coloureds gave us rides despite the apartheid. All good…and there are other stories about some of those rides.
Although stranded on a back road for two or three days, by Christmas eve we were within striking distance of Swaziland. As dusk approached, we were rescued by a pickup truck. I sat in the back, Crystal sat in the front with the driver. Both of us, independently, were reflecting on being in a foreign country on Christmas eve.
Mind you Crystal was not pregnant. In any case, the driver dropped us off in front of the only hotel in a small village and drove off. We confidently went in and asked for a room, only to be told “no room”! Back out to the street to stand under a street lamp, because by now it was dark, where we again stuck out our thumbs. Eventually another driver picked us up and after telling him our story, he waited in front of the inn in the next village to make sure we found a room, which we did. The name of that village – Bethal.
A Christmas Reflection
1989 – Crystal and I had separated in November. Devastated, I confided in a good friend of mine, a Jesuit priest who encouraged me to take time during the Advent season to reflect on Joseph (of Jesus, Mary and Joseph). As he pointed out, things were not going the way Joseph had planned. His wife was pregnant and they were forced to make the long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the winter. When they got there, there was no room at the inn. It helped me put what I was going through in some kind of perspective.
My prayer is that for all of you, this Christmas will be a blessed time and you will make 2022 a great year. See you next year!