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NARRATIVES, ORAL CULTURE AND COVID-19

by Gerhard Strobos, Mwanza, Tanzania

Looking back at the Covid-19 pandemic to this point, it is true the world passed through difficulty, heartache, and loss, but the last 6 months was good for my family and me.

At the end of February 2020, I was looking at a crazy travelling schedule coming up. For about three weeks in March this year, I would be busy visiting mines in West Africa. In addition, I had training obligations in various towns in East Africa. There is a season in your life where going up and down through Africa is exciting, and I guess I will always love travelling.

Even now, I’m already watching to see when international airports are opening again. If you have twins of two-and-a-half-years at home, this changes everything. In the middle of March, I was busy presenting a course on behalf of Petra Institute on Walking with Wounded Children. As part of the presentation, I needed to take part in an exercise where I had to explain my heart to others using a drawing. To show the concern for being away from my family, I had these dark patches in my heart.

Gerhard Strobos

Gerhard Strobos

As a father of twins, both mom and dad are engaged hands-on, changing diapers, etc. I am sure other dads of multiples can relate. We have a boy, Caleb, and a girl, Emmeri. Somehow, the boy gravitates more to dad and the girl to mom. Just two days ago, I left the house for my office, and Caleb sat staring at his oats. “I cannot eat this if Dad does not help me.” Mom said it is OK, “but you will sit in your high-chair until you have eaten it”. He waited for half an hour for dad to come back and then said. “Oh well, dad is not coming, I will now please watch a story.” So ,he left the oats. Needless to say, we are close (I am also close to my little princess, she is just more attached to Carmari).

Then Covid-19 started arriving in Africa. The mining companies notified us they are not receiving guests, and my trip to West Africa was cancelled. Mom had a lady who helped on some days with the twins, who was asked to rather stay home. So, the twins ended up being really happy. For a couple of months, they had mom and dad all to themselves. But what does a family do with all this time together?

Before the industrial revolution, I understand families used to spend more time together. Mass education of the young and people working away from home changed all of this. For young boys to do an internship with their dads was not uncommon. Girls learned about household chores from their moms. So, we were doing an internship with two-and-a-half-year olds. Interesting.

I must commend Carmari. As an enthusiastic baker, she involved them in everything. From adding flour, cracking eggs open (what a mess), to licking out the bowl in the end. For myself, as most of my stuff I do is on the computer, I had a more challenging time. They did try to help me fix my bicycle a few times. But my studies are about narrative (stories) and oral cultures. So, I told quite a few stories. Real-life stories, made-up stories, fairy tales, faith stories. Although lately they stop me and tell me: “No Dad, that is not the sound of a chicken. Mom knows, let’s call Mom.”

Reflecting on the last couple of months, we had to come to terms with our orality again as children are oral learners. Maybe this new revolution is in part an opportunity to reverse the damage done by the previous industrial revolutions. It is a time to spend with our families, enjoying what people always enjoyed: Telling stories, singing songs, preparing a meal, playing games, doing hands-on stuff together and building meaningful memories.

Petra Institute: Building communities where children are welcome

At Petra Institute, we are not only concerned with the children in the church but especially those outside the church who grow up without hope and love, and who are emotionally wounded, alienated, and lost.

We do not see children separate from their environment and therefore focus on building relationships within organisations, families, and the community because the importance of spiritual development as a foundation can simply not be underestimated.

We share God’s desire for the lost and broken children to be found and restored to healing Christian families and communities, to join Him in transforming society.

Active partnerships, both with churches and organisations that are working in the context of poverty, emergency, and persecution, are therefore central to our model. We focus on building capacity for children’s ministry within partnerships with denominations or organisations.

To learn more about our services, please visit: https://www.petra.co.za/our-services/

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