professor Dr. Walter Pilgrim and his wife, Jeanette, left South
Africa in June after a semester of teaching at a seminary, their
students bestowed gifts on them. One is a replica of the humble
straw huts lived in by many villagers in the area.
thank God for what I have," it reads.
The Pilgrims' five months of living, teaching and worshiping
with Lutheran Zulus in rural South Africa made them grateful
for what they have -and what they gained-from their time serving
this poor part of the world.
are people who literally have no money," Jeanette said
as she traced the carved outlines on a wooden box offered to
her by a student. "And they wanted to give us gifts."
"It's the human relationships that make things worthwhile,"
Walter Pilgrim said.
who also taught in Namibia while on sabbatical from PLU several
years ago, wanted to continue reaching out in his retirement.
South Africa also has a large Lutheran population-a result of
years of missionary work in the country. Pilgrim was put in
touch with Umphumulo Lutheran Seminary in Mapumulo, South Africa-located
about two hours from Durban.
found warm, open students hungry for knowledge and strong in
faith. They are becoming African Christians, rather than missionary
Christians, Walter said.
have their own pastors, their own bishops. They're trying to
put Jesus in an African context. They're working hard to translate
it into their own culture."
their ministry focuses on the question: What kind of Jesus speaks
"It is a Jesus who is a liberator of the poor, who takes
the side of the oppressed," Walter said.
taught courses in the New Testament and the Gospel of John,
and Jeanette, who has a master's degree in music and is a longtime
church musician, gave church music lessons. When she arrived,
she found two pianos in such disrepair they could not be played.
"But the chapel was an acoustical dream and the singing
was unbelievable," she said.
sang Lutheran hymns a capella with harmonies like she has never
heard, reading hymnals that contained only lyrics and no notes
be amazed," Jeanette said. "The greatest gift the
villagers have to offer is their singing."
HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS: Dr. Walter
Pilgrim (FRONT ROW, THIRD FROM RIGHT) says he learned
a lot from the faculty at Umphumulo Lutheran Seminary
in South Africa, where he taught for a semester.
the Pilgrims lived in a modest home on the seminary campus where
they often went without water, and still knew they were living
in luxury compared to villagers, who deal daily with poverty,
violence and illness.
decided we were going to live with them and not put any barriers
between us," Jeanette said. "We fell in love with
the people. It was so hard to leave."
Pilgrims saw up close the dangers and obstacles much of South
Africa faces. The cholera
and AIDS epidemics rage, the stinging results of years of Apartheid
remain, and with the whites still controlling the land and the
marketplace, blacks struggle to find work.
While they see a brighter future ahead for the country as whole,
they know the pastors who will come out of the seminary face
a difficult journey.
will be spending their lives burying people and taking care
of people and worrying about these orphans," Jeanette said.
see these students as pastors who will be caregivers because
of the problems," Walter said. "But they're well trained
and they will be the hope of this country."