Easter Blog

Last year Easter we had 17 members of the Nigerian Armed Forces stay with us. These brave soldiers were victims of landmines, bomb explosions, gunshot wounds, horrific PTSD… and one guy had haemorrhoids. They were exactly what I did not expect. Nigerians often get a bad rap in SA. We easily associate them with dirty drug deals, extortion, clandestine operations in Hillbrow and then the odd prostitution ring.

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However, these guys were dignified and honourable and highly educated. Some stayed with us for months, and by default, they became our friends. In a country where you know no one, have a different religion (they were all devout followers of Allah) and eat completely different food, it must be lonely and overwhelming to attempt your recovery without your loved ones.

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This group slowly crept into our hearts. Busi, our exec housekeeper saw how they battled to eat our western diet and she went, of her own accord, into the city and found a Nigerian market where she bought some interesting meats, yams and spices. With their full tummies and ability to sit out side by the pool most days, they healed and prospered.

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We had many chats about Islam, their unwavering commitment to their beliefs and sacrifices they made. Hours spent in the car driving them to many appointments also gave us the opportunity to hear their personal stories: the friends they lost in combat, the scary enemy in Boka Haram and their broken hearts about girls who just could not wait.

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On Easter weekend they came to me and asked if they could join me to see what it is like to go to church! I might have been less surprised if they asked me to donate my kidney to them. Of course I said yes, and off we went: the circus of me, my family and a jolly band of guys on crutches and in wheelchairs.

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They loved the outing, they loved the community and they loved how they were welcomed in all of our lives. (No, they did not get converted, there were no impromptu baptisms and no one was healed – sorry to the prosperity gospel-followers), butthis is the part of my work that feeds my soul: when barriers are crossed and we are all just human together.

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