Day 14: Freedom

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island.
Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island.

Worship in an Anglican cathedral: incense, chanting, a choir, vestments, and a glorious setting. What a way to start the day! Of course, being in South Africa, worship was conducted mostly in English but also with a bit of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as well. Afrikaans is a reflection of the country’s Dutch heritage. isiXhosa, one of the indigenous languages, is spoken by nearly one-fifth of the population using rising and falling tones to give specific meaning. The language’s most curious feature is the different clicking sounds that accompany certain consonants. I suspect if you didn’t grow up speaking isiXhosa you’d find it all but impossible to duplicate this unique sound.

Today’s sermon concluded by noting the freedom we have in God, particularly the freedom from the kind of judgment we so freely pile on each other. 

The theme of freedom continued in the afternoon as I took a tour to see Robben Island, long used as a prison. The boat ride was unremarkable (well, at 45 minutes it was a bit long, but I had a book to read). Most of the tour was fairly standard stuff: a history of the island given while riding around packed too tightly in a bus. But then, at the end, we got off the bus, left our guide, and followed a new speaker. No mere guide, this gentleman was one of the political prisoners held here on Robben Island.

To hear him speak of his experience and of the conditions of the prison was powerful enough. But he ended by noting that even though the living was harsh (inadequate shelter, food, and hygiene plus severe punishment for minor infractions such as incorrectly folding one’s blanket), he and the other prisoners harbored no ill will towards their captors and punishers. To the contrary: they have forgiven them and even see their guards as friends.

Upon their release these prisoners found freedom not only in their physical release from captivity but also in refusing to be held captive to ideas of vengeance or hatred, seeking instead peace and reconciliation. They provide a powerful example of Christian love for one’s neighbor, and I am quite likely to remember this man’s story next time I find myself preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

And now — sticking with the theme of “freedom” — today’s LUGGAGE UPDATE. I am still free from all that annoying stuff I packed and checked as luggage 12 days ago. And I am free of any new information to report. And I am free of a bit more money as I purchased a few more items. I now almost have enough clothing to see me through the trip, though I’m delaying replacing my tripod as long as possible.

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Cape Town. I plan on taking a cable car to the top of Table Mountain. I also want to visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

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