November 28, 2008

Where do you see yourself in…?

I am sure most people in my age bracket have at some point been asked some variation of the question, “where do you see yourself in 1/5/10 years?” I’ve never had a good answer for this question because the future always looks pretty hazy to me. But I have always been clear that my time horizon is at least that long. In 10 years, I’ll be doing something even if I don’t know what it is now. And - hard as it may be to conceive right now - at some point, I might even be a retired old guy. In short, I’ve still got a lot of life left to live, with lots of things still to do. Based on life expectancy in the rich world, I can reasonably assume that right now my life is only about a third over.

What about my good friend Noxolo, who was born and raised in Itipini?
She is three months and six days younger than me, has two children, and is HIV-positive. If I asked her where she saw herself in 1/5/10 years, what would be her answer? Chances are, given the pretty constant trajectory of her life so far, that she would answer something about living in Itipini, trying to make ends meet however she can. I would like to think I could help her change that answer but given my general ineffectuality here, it’s hard to see how that would happen.

Her HIV is obviously a complicating factor. Yes, there are drugs now that prolong the life of HIV-positive people and, with a little luck, she might even be able to live indefinitely with HIV. Anti-retroviral treatment hasn’t been around long enough in South Africa to gauge its long-term effectiveness but there’s enough reason to hope based on the experience of people (e.g. Magic Johnson) in the rich world. And that’s assuming there are no further advancements in HIV treatment, an assumption I dearly hope is incorrect.

Still, when I’m honest with myself, I have to wonder if she’ll even be alive in five or ten years. There are just too many factors working against her prospects. And I’ve known too many other people my age or younger who have already died. There were some new life expectancy statistics for South Africa published recently and I think the average for a woman was 51. At the very least, that means Noxolo can reasonably assume her life is more than half over.

What a startling difference that is! Here I am at 26 and I feel my life has barely begun. Noxolo is 26 and is in the second half of her life. I have a full third as many more years to live my life as she has.

When we talk about the accident of birth - as I have - the discussion is often in terms of the opportunities we are afforded or denied by virtue of the position in society - location, social class, race, etc. - we are born into. But what about the opportunities afforded simply by having more years to fill? It seems to me the most basic of inequities.

Realizing a Goal

For the last few months, I have been working to turn a patch of overgrown grass in my back yard into a functioning garden. (There’s a food price crisis on, don’t you know. Got to produce as much as possible myself.)

I started clearing in June…
...collected fertilizer from the nearby cow fields in July…
...and planted when I returned in October. I also had to build a credible fence to keep the marauding cows out. My goal throughout was to produce something - it could be as simply as one single leaf of spinach - to give to the women who work in the kitchen in Itipini.
My garden

I’ve had some setbacks along the way - I inadvertently weeded out most of my tomato plants and had to re-plant them - but on Thursday I realized my goal when I harvested a good bunch of spinach and brought it in to the women. I supplemented my dinner that night with some lettuce from the garden. This is much earlier than I expected and given the length of the growing season here, I think there are more vegetables coming.
My spinach

In a ironic bit of timing, Mkuseli had decided Thursday morning was a good time to harvest spinach from the after-school garden. So when I swaggered into the kitchen carrying my bag of spinach, the first thing I saw was about four times as much spinach on the table. After its recent expansion, the after-school garden is approaching small-scale commercial agriculture and he had taken that much from spinach from about a third of his plants.
The after-school garden

My moment evapourated but I still managed to achieve a goal. Given how difficult doing anything around here can be, I still took some pride in my accomplishment.

November 26, 2008

Vuka zenzele!

I took a very sick patient to the hospital the other day. After being seen by the doctor, he was admitted for further examination. But before he could be admitted, he needed to have some x-rays done. I wheeled him up to x-ray department, explained the situation to the women there, and left, because I needed to be back in Itipini but hopeful that they would be able to do the x-rays and make sure he ended up in the right ward.

But I have learned enough by now not to expect that to happen. So I went back an hour later and there was the patient, lying on his stretcher in the hallway, his x-rays at his side. His destination was on the same floor so I wheeled him down the hall and made sure he ended up in the right place and was admitted, as planned. It was a long hallway, about 100-meters, but the whole thing only took about five minutes.

As I was leaving, all I could think was why I had to be the one to wheel this particular patient down the hallway. Of all the hundreds of employees at the hospital, wasn’t there one who could have pushed him where he needed to be, when the admit instructions were clearly written on a card on the patient’s stretcher and the x-ray department knew the story? Why did I have to drive out of my way, back to the hospital, to ensure it was done?

I am reading a terrific book right now, Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux, about his overland travels from Cairo to Cape Town. On a train ride across the Tanzanian bush he comments:

No showers made this hot train reek with the smell of unwashed humanity. The toilets were vile. The dining car was filthy, not that there was any food after such delays. I liked riding this train because it crossed a part of Tanzania where roads were impassable. A little activity with a broom, a mop, a scrubbing brush, and the trip would have been agreeable. But the dirt, the litter, and the drunks made this side of travel in Africa hard to bear. The train was a necessity. The pressure of numbers and very poor maintenance made smooth running impossibly, but there was no excuse for the filth.
This is a theme - along with the general solipsism and worthlessness of most aid workers - that he returns to frequently: yes, there are many tasks that are outside the realm of possibility of some African governments and people. Maintaining a colonial-era train might be among them. But there are simple things, like cleaning that train, that are definitely possible and yet are not done.

It reminded me of my experience in the hospital this week. Curing this patient might be beyond the realm of possibility but isn’t there one person to push him down the hallway?
It frequently seems to me that some people seem incapable of doing tasks that strike me as basic. Some shacks in Itipini are just disgusting. Yes, I want to tell these people, it is true that you live in a dump but that doesn’t mean the inside of your home has to be filthy. There are many shacks here that are quite clean and well-cared for inside and out. It seems to me that if I was living in poverty, I’d be doing everything I can to put into practice St. Francis’s words, “First, do what is necessary, then what is possible, and soon you are doing the impossible.” But that doesn’t seem to happen here.

I think there are a lot of reasons why this might be the case. In part, I believe it is a learned behaviour. After years of trying and not succeeding in changing anything, might not some people just decide nothing they can do will ever change the situation? (More on that in another post because I’ve been thinking about it a lot.) If people get used to a place like the Itipini Community Project doing major things for them, like taking them to the hospital when they are really sick, might they not start to believe that we can do everything for them, like drive them into town when they want to go grocery shopping? (A semi-frequent request I always turn down.)

To be clear, I want to underscore - as I have in the past - that I am not calling anyone lazy around here. You can’t possibly see how hard some women (and men) around here work just to survive and think anyone is shirking anything. And yet at some point the impetus for improving the situation here has to come from the people themselves. Sometimes I see that impetus. Sometimes I don’t. And if people don’t do the basic things to improve their situation - or, if our efforts are encouraging them not to do those basic things - how (and why) should we help them?

There’s a great Xhosa expression that I see frequently in Mthatha - vuka zenzele, which means, “Get up and do it for yourself!” It is perfect for situations like these.

Itipini children

Shrieks of Terror

I was at Jenny’s house the other day when I heard a scream from outside. I recognized the voice of Mary, African Medical Mission’s business manager. I hadn’t thought Mary was the type of person to be shocked by much so I ran out to see what was the matter. And we saw this: A GIANT LIZARD CRAWLING THROUGH THE FLOWER BED!
I thought it was pretty neat and started snapping away. Mary less so.

We opened the gate and the thing made a dash for it, or at least as much of a dash as a meter-long lizard can make across pavement.

With each passing day, Mthatha feels more and more familiar and less and less foreign. Then I see something like this and remember I’m “not in Kansas anymore.”

November 20, 2008

Everybody Dance Now

We had quite the party in Itipini on Wednesday - two dancing troupes, food for hundreds, speeches, and much more - and we had nothing to do with planning it. It was an event designed to celebrate the conclusion of an art workshop put on by the provincial department of arts and culture for some women in Itipini, designed to “heal” them through “art therapy.” (Their words, not mine.) We have had a sporadic and frustrating relationship with this department because they are spasmodically eager to help us and then pay us no mind for months on end.

The preparation was a cultural lesson for me, mainly in how little and disorganized the preparation for an event can be and still lead to success. The planning and run-up to this event deserves a post of its own, with confusion about the dates, who the workshop was for, and so on. Suffice it to say, however, people began showing up in Itipini this morning and they said they were having a party so we just let them go to work.

In fact, I felt a bit like the fish in “Cat in the Hat,” who is continually flummoxed as the Cat brings in unexpected toy after unexpected toy. It seemed that every time I turned around, there was something new coming past me - first one dance troupe, then another, then all the benches for people to sit on, then the pre-schoolers wandering past with their own chairs, and one car after another that blocked up the road more thoroughly than I have ever seen it blocked.
What was particularly entertaining for me is that one dance troupe brought a substantial amount of sound equipment with them. Apparently, no one had told them THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY IN ITIPINI!
We do, however, have a creaky old generator. The last time it was used was when Mkuseli used a power drill on the new swing set and it took three days (I’m not making that up) to get the generator work and even then it could barely handle the drill. I tried to explain it wouldn’t handle the load of all the amplifiers but no one listened. Instead, it became a game of how many people does it take to start a generator. Miraculously, it started but couldn’t even make one microphone work.

One dancing troupe was a group of Thembu women.
The other was a group of Pondo children, with one very dynamic and showy leader. Instead of their sound equipment, they played a CD off a car radio.
It was fun to watch how people from Itipini just joined right in when they felt like it.
Like any good party, it degenerated into an informal dance circle, which was a lot of fun for all involved.Eventually, we got into the act too and I learned a few Xhosa dance steps and showed off what I could remember of Inupiaq dancing from Western Alaska. It became a mixing of cultures that has likely never been seen before… and never will be again!The food was at least two hours late but no one seemed to mind. When it came, the dancing troupes (who were being paid to be there) got fed first while all the hungry people of Itipini waited around to see if there would be any left for them. There was. And there was even some left for the children, the last to be served.

To say that I am a plan-ahead person is like saying the pope is a good Catholic. It’s in my genes. So I always get a little frustrated when people do so little planning and still pull off a successful event. But I suppose I should be happy that everyone in Itipini had such a memorable experience. It certainly was for me.
I've got some video and when I get enough time on a fast-enough Internet connection, I'll try to post some of those too.

Time, Talent, and Treasure

I see one of my core roles as a missionary to be a conduit for my experiences to supporters in the rich world. That’s what reconciliation is about - bringing people together around the world. This is why I invest so much energy in this blog.

I’m also motivated to keep telling the stories of Itipini because many people have “put their money where their mouth is” and made a financial contribution to my efforts here. There have also been many people who have read something on this blog and offered to make a contribution. We always need more money and I never cease to be grateful for people who have supported us in this way.

But it is not just about money! I’ve written before on this blog how we need so much more than money to address some of the issues in this community. I am reminded frequently of a phrase we often hear at pledging time - time, talent, and treasure. I want to know how these three Ts apply to global stewardship.

It is easy to answer the treasure question. Lots of people contribute lots of treasure to make Itipini run each year.

I think a lot about time and talent when I am working with borrowers in our micro-credit program. The actual dollar amount to help them is quite small. Often what I find they need is frequent check-ins, constant encouragement, help working through temporary difficulties that seem insurmountable, and lessons in how to keep books and how to calculate profit margins and whatnot. When I am helping these people, I can’t help but think of all the friends and acquaintances I have who would be so much better at this sort of thing than me. And even if I am the right person for the job, there is too much work for me to do. It is this feeling of being overwhelmed that has forced me to put the brakes on expanding this idea. I would love several motivated and capable co-conspirators in this endeavour. What we need are more human resources, the time and talent of individuals who want to work on this issue.

The most important is time, I think. Even someone who knows little to nothing about business and finance (yours truly) can still be somewhat effective simply by investing time in people. The only thing necessary to build a good relationship (and relationships are a crucial first step in reconciliation I believe) is a lot of time. And the time commitment has to be substantial to be worthwhile. To the extent that I am effective here, it is only because I have made a significant (though still to my mind too short) commitment of time that has allowed me to learn a bit of Xhosa and build some relationships. Without either of those things, I’d be even more ineffective than I am now. The logical conclusion to this line of reasoning is that we need more missionaries all around the world.

There’s a lot of talent in Itipini just waiting to be tapped. The challenge is drawing that talent out and helping people here acknowledge their giftedness. (More on this particular challenge in a future post.) But if more people devote their time to it, it can happen and we’ll have more talent to go around.

Clearly, however, we operate in the real world and not everyone can devote their time and talent to global mission. (Nor should everyone - we are all called to different roles but I think lot of us could use a bit more help discerning our true calling.) Lots of people are donating their treasure so that I can use my time and talent here.

But I’m not satisfied by this answer, though. All of us should be making donations of all three Ts. I should be donating more treasure. There must be a way for people who support me (and others) to make use of their time and talent in a constructive way that also takes into account the practicalities of real-world living.

I don’t know what the answer is but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

More faces from Itipini

November 17, 2008

Going to church

I've been dragging my fellow volunteer Claire to church with me and she has a great post about it on her blog. Check it out!


One thing I’ve learned a bit about while living in Africa is visas. Like many other topics, this was something I was hopelessly unaware of before moving to Mthatha. I have a one-year volunteer visa to live in South Africa. When I went to Uganda or Lesotho, I needed to get visas. In both cases, it was fairly simple. I paid some money, they stamped the passport, and that was that. It’s a pretty smooth path when you are a white male with an American passport.

But I’ve been learning about how difficult it can be for non-white non-Americans to get visas. At our Bible study one night, someone’s prayer request for was another (non-white) person applying for a visa to the U.S. to further a sister church relationship. At a conference I attended in September, one of the organizers was unable to attend because she was from Central America and couldn’t get a visa.

Anyway, I hope this has been obvious to everyone but me. The U.S. likes to make things difficult for people to get in, even people who have very good reasons for visiting and whose visits would make the country stronger. I take for granted my freedom of movement but not everyone can.

November 16, 2008

Our fair city

It's always worth remembering how different Mthatha and the Transkei can be from some other parts of South Africa. That's what this travel writer discovered when he came to visit:

Places such as Idutywa, Butterworth and Mthatha are in desperate need of beautification and there is rarely any architectural marvelling to be done: anonymity and ugliness are characteristic in the rundown older buildings and the newer consumerist monoliths.

Testaments to Bantustan spatial planning, these pseudo-urban sprawls retain the inchoate feel of being laid out by a blind taxi driver in a bad mood.

The distinction between road and pavement -- tenuous at the best of times in the Eastern Cape -- becomes even less discernable as the region's entire population (dogs and livestock included) appears to converge on a single pot-holed road. It creates something of a witch's brew of obstacles.

Really, it's a nice place. He just doesn't know where to look.

November 13, 2008

After-school chores

If you looked at the child in this picture, would you say it’s a girl or a boy?
She’s a girl, four years old, named Sibahle. (For about six months I was convinced she was a he until she got sick and came into the clinic and I saw her medical records.) In this picture she is engaged in a daily ritual at Itipini, hauling water home for all the usual needs: washing, cooking, drinking, bathing, etc.

Girls begin to learn to carry water at age four and Sibahle’s jug is much smaller than what other children carry. These girls, for instance, are in about sixth grade and get the full-sized buckets, which weigh about 40 pounds.
I took the picture of Sibahle the other week because I was struck by what I saw. Here was a young child, small and underweight for her age, struggling under the weight of her jug. She made it about ten feet, stopped for a rest, and then carried on another ten feet. She had a long way to go. And she has this to look forward to, several times a day, every day, for the rest of her life.

It is cliche to talk about the challenge of carrying water in Africa (and parts of Alaska and the Canadian north, lest we forget the unequal access to resources in our own home countries). I see people doing it all the time and only occasionally, like with this picture of Sibahle, do I stop to seriously consider it. Have you ever carried water on your head? I have. What strikes me every time I try it is how much of a strain it is on my neck and shoulders and back. I can feel the pressure and it starts hurting right away. No wonder so many women come into the clinic looking for pain pills.

But what I found myself thinking of when I saw Sibahle on this particular day was all things children in the rich world get to do because they don’t have to carry water every day. They read books, play sports, do their homework, and just generally enrich their lives (though a fair amount of them fill that time with a lot of TV-watching and internet-surfing). I’m all for “character”-building chores (in the abstract only, of course, when it involves me) but when chores take over one’s entire existence some sort of line has been crossed, I think. And that’s just one of the many tragedies of daily life here.

It’s not only girls who have to get water. Sometimes boys do as well, though the ones in this picture got a cart to help out. It’s not clear how much it helped them on this hill, though.

November 12, 2008

Staying home

Last weekend was voter registration weekend in South Africa. Apparently, the idea is that there is one weekend in which everyone can register and then if you miss that, you can’t vote in next April’s national and provincial elections. There was a lot of publicity about the registration - all you needed to do was show up with your I.D.

I asked my friend Noxolo if she was going to register and she said she wasn’t. This wasn’t a good enough answer for me so I asked why and she kept saying she didn’t want to. I kept pressing her - how could someone not want to vote? - until she stopped, looked at me, and said, “I have lived in Itipini my entire life. I have voted before and nothing has changed. I still live here. Why should I vote now? It won’t change anything.”

The post-1994 dream depends on mass participation. If people begin to lose hope does that erode the entire democratic project?

Do you think any of the Israelites wandering in the Sinai ever felt like this?

Bible Study

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that I am a part of a weekly Bible study in Mthatha. The members span at least five nationalities, both African and European, can speak several languages among them, and represent several denominations. It’s a central feature of my weekly routine and I’ve come to enjoy the time spent studying the following week’s lectionary readings.

I mention this because we were reading from the end of the book of Ruth not too long ago and thinking about the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. I commented that it was one of the stories in the Bible that we could append a “and they all lived happily ever after” to and began to muse about how the story would look in a contemporary context, given that no one would be marrying their dead husband’s brother.

Actually… not so much. It turns out that in the cultural backgrounds represented by the other group members, it was not uncommon in the very recent past for a woman to marry her brother-in-law. In fact, at least three group members could cite instances where they personally knew someone who had done that.

As I’ve written before, one of the gifts of living here is that you don’t have to see the Bible as metaphor all the time. The lifestyle characteristics in the Bible are sometimes not that far distant to life here.

November 10, 2008

This is getting embarrassing

This time I've shown up in Episcopal Life - check out the whole article.

Bafo’s Funeral

On Saturday, we took some of the Itipini staff to the funeral of Bafo, the husband of one of the Itipini staff members, who died suddenly about three weeks ago. Unlike the other funerals I’ve been to, this one was way out in the “rural areas,” the tiny and sometimes hard-to-reach villages that surround Mthatha. I was a bit leery of how we were supposed to find our way there but we took along a family member for direction and didn’t get lost once! And the long drive was well worth the view.
It was a huge funeral - there must have been 250 people there. It was notable for me in that I stood up and said a few words on behalf of Itipini and it was all in Xhosa. I think I acquitted myself admirably. Later, when it was Bafo’s brother’s turn to speak, he could only seem to talk about how important Bafo must have been to have white people come to his funeral and white people who could speak Xhosa! It was the first time he had seen white people in this village. When I get around to leaving here, part of me is going to miss the sensation I can cause simply by virtue of my skin colour.Bafo's brother

Bafo was buried on a beautiful hillside. It was also a very steep hillside and covered with dead, slippery grass. So we all slide down to the graveside (it was particularly tragicomic to watch the pallbearers) and paid our final respects.Since we had come the furthest, we got to eat first. (Good thing because with so many people and only about 50 plates we would have been waiting a while.) And for some reason, we got to eat in a windowless hut with the family. Before we ate, they closed the door and prayed. Sitting there in the absolute pitch-black dark I realized this was about as close as I could come to complete cultural immersion - surrounded by a bunch of non-English speakers, deep in the rural areas, far off the beaten path, and about to eat and drink food from who knows where. It was electrifying, in a way.
Eating and waiting to eat, both human and dog.

I didn’t have much chance to interact with Bafo’s wife, Makiwa, as she was surrounded by a phalanx of family members and looked the part of the grieving widow. But I paid my respects briefly and it was clear our presence was appreciated. Their children seemed mostly unaware of the magnitude of the event.

Mazel Tov!

Mkuseli, our after-school youth director, and his wife, Nosibabalo had a baby at 11 on Monday night. When he showed up to work (only an hour late) and mentioned the news, we were floored. There had been no announcement of the pregnancy and no indication this was imminent. In fact, he had traveled to Grahamstown with us only two days earlier! They have one other daughter but she is seven.
I went up to see the baby, a healthy 3.5kg girl named Ungawu, and offer my congratulations.

We did some asking around and it turns out that not announcing a pregnancy in advance is more customary around here than making the big deal of it we do in the U.S. and Canada. I think it has something to do with fear of losing the baby and perhaps not jinxing the pregnancy.

Anyway, things are different around here.

One Last Word

How did it happen? How did a governor I had interviewed and met and known to be a fairly non-partisan governor, who talked not at all about her social conservatism and only achieved her major initiatives in the state with the help of Democrats turn into an fire-breathing, venom-spewing, partisan “whack job” of a vice-presidential candidate? As we lower the curtain (for now) on Sarah Palin’s turn on the national political stage, this is for me the remaining unanswered question.

I think the answer is in three parts.

First, there is no doubt Palin took on the new role with gusto. It was her job to be the attack dog and she lived into it well. From the moment I heard her convention speech, it was clear the old Palin, the Palin who governed in a way I found somewhat reasonable, was gone.

Second, the rosy picture many Alaskans had of Palin was no doubt misinformed in part. As the national media began combing through her past, there were several interesting revelations about her career I had not known and that had not come out in her year-long run for governor. This, I believe, is the result of a dwindling and overstretched press corps in Alaska. The due diligence we expect from the press before an election is simply not possible in Alaska because budget cuts have reduced the number of reporters so drastically. (After all, how sophisticated can the Alaska press corps be? They let me in!)

The third part has something to do with people on the left who were, to my mind, shockingly quick to denounce her. I received an e-mail not too long after her nomination to the effect that, “I hope she loses so she can go back to Alaska and only ruin one state and not the entire country.” The vitriol of the e-mail was striking to me. Here was a person who knew very little about Palin or Alaska, automatically assuming that because Palin was a conservative politician she had “ruined” Alaska. In fact, many would argue just the opposite. Throughout the campaign, I was surprised at how quickly people on the left were able to quickly and easily dismiss a caricature of Palin they had created in their minds, without actually taking the time to engage the person she is. It made me wonder how if we bear any responsibility for the creation of our political nemeses.

I didn’t like the Palin who ran for vice-president. But that Palin was different from the Palin who governed Alaska. It told me a lot about the political process that we voted not for real people but for caricatures of candidates, caricatures made both by them and by us.

She has lost about 20-points in her approval rating and is now back to being simply Governor Palin - I think we should all get nine-week vacations to pursue extra-curricular interests! It will be interesting to see how easily she can shed the baggage she acquired on the campaign trail and get back to governing. I hope Alaskan Democrats don’t let it happen too easily.

And I PROMISE that is the last I have to say about that!

November 6, 2008

More press

This article is from my September visit to Hendersonville, NC.

Jesse Zink is a Young Adult Service Corps' missionary of the Episcopal Church who serves at the Itipini Medical Clinic, a primary health care clinic in a poverty stricken area, just outside Mthatha, South Africa. The clinic is a project of African Medical Mission (AMM), founded in 1981 by the late Dr. Chris McConnachie, a member of Hendersonville Orthopedics & Associates, and his wife, Jenny, a registered nurse, and their five children.

November 5, 2008

Asanga and Esinakho have two mommies

I don’t need to tell any of the Episcopal/Anglican readers of this blog that issues surrounding sexual orientation are often at the forefront of debate in the Anglican Communion these days. The issue also continues to be a political football in the U.S., particularly in the debate over same-sex marriage.

One (of many) arguments that opponents of same-sex marriage use is some variation of the idea that it is not “natural” for children to be raised by two parents of the same gender. I think about this when I think about the case of two of the children in the pre-school, Asanga (left) and Esinakho (right).
The two are cousins, children of two sisters, Kholeka and Xoliswa. Kholeka and Xoliswa’s mother died in an accidental burning about a year ago and their father left them for another woman soon after. The fathers of their children are not, predictably, in the picture. The mothers are about 21 and 22 and live together and fend for themselves. By the standards in Itipini, they are not doing too poorly. Asanga and Esinakho are generally clean, well-dressed, and pretty healthy, which is particularly impressive in Asanga’s case as she was born 10 weeks premature. (Though she doesn’t look it, she is actually two years older than Esinakho.)

Though Asanga and Esinakho are nominally cousins, they are more like siblings - they live together, go to pre-school together, play and fight together, and see each other all day long. And Kholeka and Xoliswa make no differentiation between the two when it comes to parenting. Each is equally the mother of both children and they split responsibilities evenly. Biologically, of course, each child only has one mother but socially they have two.

How come we spend a lot of time talking about the “two mommies” “problem” when the two mommies are lesbian but not when it is a situation like this? And Asanga and Esinakho are not the only children like this I know. This situation is to my mind more tragic, more serious, and worthy of much more conversation than any “two mommies” scenario I’ve known of in the U.S.

If we’re going to make sex and sexuality the focal point of the Anglican Communion and raise it to the level that it “impairs” the Communion, could we at least broaden the conversation a bit so that we reflect the full reality of family life as it is lived around the world? Teenage pregnancy, absent fathers, and struggling mothers may not mentioned in the Bible in the same way as same-sex relationships but surely we can agree these topics demand a thoughtful religious response.