Today I want to tell you about Pastor Peter Mabasa, a wonderful man whom we met in 2007 and whose death, far too young, we heard about yesterday.
In 2007, just as we retired, we went out to Mapoch, South Africa, as volunteers to help build a new classroom for the pre-school in the village. It was there we met Pastor Peter and we became good friends. Peter had had a very hard life, living under Apartheid suffering from all the mistreatment that that entailed and even when it was all over, still finding himself in a bad way and, ‘living under the bridges’ as he put it. Then he met another Pastor who helped him back to life and in time, Peter became the Pastor for the village where we found ourselves.
As soon as we met him, we shared laughter and over the days, as the work was done each day, we sat under the tree in the shade and had long, fascinating discussions about religion (Peter was an Apostolic Christian and we are Humanists) philosophy, corruption, crime and impoverishment. We shared ideas, quotations, and had lots of laughs. We discussed language, his and ours, each helping with vocabulary and pronunciation. He spoke five languages –IsiZulu, Ndebele, Tswana and Afrikaans as well as English! It was partly his knowledge of the local language and of English that led to him being appointed as ‘Site manager’, translator and liaison between us and the local builders with whom we were working.
We have some lovely memories of Peter:
- Mr S gave Peter his sun-hat; he was absolutely delighted and wore it every day we were there! At the end of our stay we also gave him one of the hard hats which we autographed for him.
- Peter’s astonishment that we should share a bottle of coke with him was something we will both remember. Living under Apartheid, he was not used to being treated as an equal, as one human with another and he found it very moving that we should be so open and free with him.
- We were invited to go to his Church to observe. This turned out to be a fascinating and very moving experience. Joining in the singing was wonderful with one of the older ladies showing me the words in the hymnbook. Because I had been trying to learn some of the language, I was able to read the Tswana and to join in the alto part, much to everyone’s surprise and pleasure, mine especially.
- His introduction of us by our first names to his whole Congregation when he spoke so powerfully of meeting white people who were not the Boss and Madam of Apartheid times, through which many of the congregation had also lived, and who were not Christians but who were nevertheless good people who were his friends.
- The children of the pre-school aged from 15 months to six years old adored him and he them.
- We supported Pastor Peter with his very demanding and new role of Site Manager, for which he was extremely grateful and he kept telling us how happy he was to have us there. He made us feel very special. He made everyone feel very special.
Without Peter there, the whole experience would have been very different. His ability to manage and negotiate with the builders was crucial to the success of the project. His open-mindedness and constant good humour were an example to all and the fact that we three got on so well made it a very rewarding time for each of us.
I once read that we do not ‘make’ new friends, rather, we recognise friends when we first meet them. Peter and we ‘recognised’ each other. We are so sorry about his untimely passing and send our love and condolences to his family, to his Congregation and to the whole village who will miss him, his laughter and his love so much.
I’m sorry about the poor quality of the photos. I have had to take photographs from the diary I wrote at the time as all our photos of the time were lost when our computer crashed some time ago.