8926 Flight Kilometres to our Goal

There are 8926 kilometres by plane between my brother, Father Gérard Tonque Lagleder, and me. During the night flight, there is turbulence and we have to fasten our seatbelts as we fly over the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have no fear.  Through the plane window, I can see the moon shining and the stars twinkling. The adventure has already begun.

First contact: The new arrival Mechthilde Lagleder starts her three-week long adventure in the South African village of Mandini where her brother, Father Gérard, leads the Relief Organisation of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerard.

Later, we land in Johannesburg, reaching the airport at 11am. We are met by Axel Pape, the business manager from Blessed Gérard’s Care Centre, who has come to bring us all safely to Mandini, 100km north of Durban.

While Everything is being readied for the World Cup.

The trip on the motorway leads us through the hilly landscape of South Africa. The first thing that we notice is how built-up everything has become. Everything that can be seen along the route between Durban and the airport in Johannesburg is being prepared for next year’s World Cup. Slums in plain sight of the motorway are being torn down and new developments are being built as social housing projects.

Enormous corn fields extend over the hill ranges and into the valleys. We see several small fires where the remains of the sugar cane harvest are being burned away so that the fields can be ploughed under and grow afresh. Palms and flowering trees line the way as the vista opens up into the Tugela River Valley.

There are still 9km on the main road until we reach Mandini. The vegetation looms larger as we move closer and begin to see other human beings travelling on foot toward our destination. There is a large paper mill around Sappi and it makes for heavy traffic and that surprises me. When I was in South Africa in 1991, there was just another green meadow where the Care Centre stands today.

Our arrival is met with great ceremony. Banners are hanging all over that say: "Siyakwamukela ukubuya kwakho Baba ekahaya, ikakhulukazi no Mrs. Mechthilde". It translates roughly to: A warm welcome home to Father Gérard and a particularly warm welcome to Mrs. Mechthilde.

My brother introduces me to his co-workers. Thank God I have not forgotten the greeting rituals of the Zulu people since my last visit. After a short break, my brother Gérard gives me a tour of the house.  Everyone is pleased about his return and as we go into the playground, where the smaller children are playing with their caregivers, shouts of " Father, Father, you're back" echo all over. All the children run for their turn to be embraced and for their chance to welcome us. Everyone has so much to tell us all at once!

Singing and Playing

In the evening the older children, who live in a group home, stand on the stairs and sing  for us. My brother joins in spontaneously with Sister Edith, their teacher. Later we tell each other stories and riddles to entertain ourselves.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 29 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:49:44