Video created by Domestic Volunteer Anna about her experience in South Africa as part of a Short-Term Mission and Global Awareness Trip.

While winter weather raged back home in the states, a group from FMS led a gathering of young adults in the Electric Slide in the North-West region of South Africa. The group, piloted by Development Director Br. Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, was in the country for a Short-Term Mission and Global Awareness Trip, FMS’s latest program.

The dance party was part of a reception given by the local young-adult group from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in the Kanana township. Trip participants like Domestic Volunteer Anna Robinson were able to share a meal and connect with the youths in a warm and welcoming environment. “I didn’t expect to meet people that would become friends I kept in touch with after the trip,” said Anna. “But it just made the trip worth the long flights and made the issues they face in the country a little personal.”

The Sunday cookout was one of many opportunities for the travelers to practice the trip’s goals of listening and learning about the host culture and the local church’s efforts for social change. As the trip participants shared a meal with local youth, they shared stories, social references, and some dance moves as a way to build bridges and form relationships between the two cultures. Other opportunities included visits to an Catholic AIDS hospice, an academic and job training centre, and a living-historical museum where they could observe life as it was lived by the original tribes.

No matter where they went, to the old Robben Island Prison or the Mandela’s old home in Soweto, the impact and inspiration came from a common vessel. “There were many highlights,” said Br. Paul, “but for me the greatest one was having a chance to meet and get to know so many interesting people from all walks of life; mine workers, students, the poorest of the poor, as well as those working for change.”

It’s a common memory the group will share, including Board Vice President Rebecca Lynes who also attended the trip along with her family. And it would also be the common force driving their work when they returned home, commented Br. Paul. “Every time I go to Africa I experience a renewed commitment to service. Part of that service is to bring back and share the stories of the people I have met along the way. “

As they soaked in the hot African sun during that gathering, eating pap with their grilled meat, that was also the feeling that Anna had experienced. “The more I listened to those people talking about the different projects they’re doing for their neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel that I could do a lot more to help my own neighbors back in the states. Injustice has many faces and takes on many forms, but it’s still injustice.”

Others will have a chance to meet people like the young adults from St. Anthony’s on future trips to South Africa through Franciscan Mission Service’s new program. Committed to respecting the host culture, participants travel as listeners and learners, seeking a deeper understanding of the local churches initiatives for change through group talks and reflections. Other Short-Term trip destinations include Kenya and Washington, D.C.
Find out more information at franciscanmissionservice.org/shorttermtrips.