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NCC-Habitat for Humanity June 3-7, 2002, "Durban Build Team"
Poem by Kent Busman

Busman, of Schnectady, N.Y., was a member of the NCC's Habitat for Humanity "Durban Build Team."  He wrote this poem after the team's visit to Ivory Park, a township near Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Land of Canaan

I’ve been to the land of Kanana. It’s just across the river and over the Transvaal. The old predators that used to roam there are gone now; placed on a shelf with the other of the "Big 5". Taken down and shown to tourists for 500 Rand. The new predators stalk us though, hidden by grass fires, crowded hometowns, and the omni-present barbed wire. When the village ways don’t sustain us we trade the futility of holding on for the squatter’s sized lottery ticket, hoping somehow that we will find work, that we will get a real house, and that we can be like the Americans we see on our flickering TV screens powered by electric scammed from the "rich" side of the settlement.

I’ve been to the land of Kanana. It used to flow with milk and honey, only we had to kill the cow last year and there never really was any honey. There is barbed wire though; it grows everywhere here. It grows like an unwelcome weed whose roots are tightly wrapped around racism and classism. Despair perches around Kanana like hungry vultures waiting for their prey to finally drop in the hot sun.

I’ve been to the land of Kanana and let me tell you, it’s not all it’s been cracked up to be. I think God must have over promoted it: built it up in the brochure to be more than it really is. The streets are impassable in the rain for the VW buses that take the chosen to Joburg to work the mines. And the children get cold: the kind of cold that coal fires will never warm. And the mothers worry in Kanana. They worry for their children mostly. What predator will snatch them when they walk out into the streets? Will it be AIDS? Gangs? A theology of earthly injustice justified by heavenly rewards? Better a lion than to be eaten by these things.

I’ve been to the land of Kanana. It’s just north of Johanesburg. There are schools there that have volunteer women who teach the children with smiles and care. There are children in Kanana who sing loudly and laugh quickly and pose for cameras. There are women who bake bread and sell candles wrapped in the same barbed wire meant to keep them there to remind the world, and, perhaps, themselves, that Hope lives in the land of Kanana.

And the predators will not overcome it.

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