Rev. Susan Valiquette: Farewell to Inanda Seminary

In 1999, Scott and I applied to be missionaries on the continent of Africa and we ended up here. What an amazing journey it has been. The first Principal, Mary Kelly Edwards, came from the same area of Ohio where I was born. I still have relatives living there today. The only female minister in Ohio that I knew as a child also served this school, Mrs Naida Sutch. For the last 18 years, this has been my season at Inanda Seminary.

Responding to what has been a tremendous gift for the past 18 years and capturing the memories is an impossible task. Changing jobs is easy, but this is not a job. This is my home and not just for me, but for my family too. For Scott, Micah, Madeline and I, this is all we have known.

I realise after a car ride with a staff member that some of you may do not know why I am leaving. Global Ministries, which is my sending body in the United States, has said it is time. 18 years is long enough. In fact, they told us 3 years ago that it is enough. We were able to stay 3 additional years in large part to an amazing letter written by Hixonia Nyasulu. You also may not know that when that occurred, Scott became unemployed. They only agreed to continue paying for one of us and Scott sacrificed for our family and for Inanda Seminary in order for us to stay.


So how do I respond in a brief amount of time to these 18 years? I have thought of numerous ways to express myself. One way is to tell you a lot of personal stories and anecdotes which would be cathartic for me but might feel like scrolling through someone else’s holiday photos to you. If I were to recall all those memories, I would probably become extremely emotional and would never make it through. I think I will leave those stories for the archives.
During the global leadership summit it occurred to me that a good leader would leave something for others to: practise and empower them forward. That is what I am going to do and then I will end with ‘thank you’.

What might I want you to practise? This may sound strange but what I want you to practise is what you have taught me? The word is common. You may not even think of its importance. You say it out of being polite. It is good manners and what you have always done. However, sometimes when you are inside your own culture, you don’t always realise the value and impact.

I remember when I learned this lesson 18 years ago and I tried never to make the mistake again. I pulled up to a hospital with an Inanda member, I was in a hurry, I got out of the car, I rushed up and the first person I found was a security guard, I said, “Where do I bring the patient? “
He looked directly in my eyes, “Hello, how are you?”

I didn’t know what was going on. I was new to this country. I needed help. I was worried about the member. I didn’t have time for this, but I quickly realised that there was no way I was going to get assistance until I responded to his greeting. He was so insistent that I was forced to stop. Sadly, I admit that my greeting was obligatory and insincere.

Do you know what I want you to practise?

Sawubona! Literally, I see you.

I want you to really see each other. To see other’s pain and heartache. To see other’s needs. To see another’s dreams. To see another’s uniqueness. I see you. We are not the same. I see your identity in God. You are enough. You are accepted. You are loved. I see you.
It is easy to see your friends and your family. It is easy to see people who are famous and that you aspire to be. It is easy to see people with money and in positions of power.

It is difficult to see people who work behind the scenes. It is difficult to see people who are different from you. It is difficult to see the person who you think is your competition. It is difficult to see someone in need, in despair, poor, sick, broken, dirty, mentally troubled.

Sawubona is for everyone, not just some. Sawubona is what we need more of. It will change this country.

Seek difference. Expose yourself to people who are not like you. Who don’t look like you, don’t talk like you, don’t eat what you eat, don’t have the same background, have different ideas and stories.

And see creation. It is difficult to see creation, but it is crying out in pain for us to care for it.

Nothing has changed me more as a person than greeting. I recognise your humanity. I see you. You matter. I am thinking about you before me. Your humanity is tied to mine: Ubuntu.

The opposite of Sawubona is selfishness, judgement, disregard, humiliation, disrespect, indifference, greed, egotism.

Sanibonani

So that is what I want you to practise—what you have taught me, and I will continue to practise it wherever I live in the world. Even in America, where I am going to have to be like the security guard at the hospital and refuse to answer questions until I get a greeting.

Practise seeing others. Sawubona. I see you.

I want to empower you. I want to empower you by reminding you of who you are. I can do this best by answering the question, “why did you stay for 18 years?”

Inanda Seminary: uMemba, Shine where you are? Good results. Christian school. Excellent education. Core values. Best teaching practise. Beautiful students. Tradition. History. Black women. Holistic education: Spiritual, Physical, Social and Intellectual.

Most of you know all of us. It sounds perfect and flawless, but it isn’t. It is really hard to be here. This long list is difficult to live up to.

I think I stayed so long because it has taught me two life lessons that I needed in my life.

Firstly, resilience…during my first year in 2000, my father died in the United States tragically and unexpectedly. I attended his funeral and upon my return to Inanda Seminary, I learned that one of the members lost her father too. I thought we had something in common and we did but we grieved very differently. I remember one day I was passing her and I spoke of our grief. She looked at me and said, ‘Mah, you need to move on.’

Resilience is our grit. Our ability to push through, move on, get through, go on. She was right.

So why would hardship and learning resilience make me want to stay? We need to learn it. We are not promised that life will be easy or fair or just. I needed to learn resilience.

Members many of you might be resisting the lesson of resilience which causes you to miss out on the best of Inanda Seminary.
Secondly, the capacity to grow, learn and develop. Judy, you are the one who creates this space. Inanda Seminary is a learning space, not for students, for everyone, including yourself.

Hixonia Nyasulu brought a gift to Inanda Seminary one day. Many of you will associate her with the Ayavuna Trust. This was long before that. She brought a data projector. Mrs Tate handed it to me and entrusted me to learn. Now look at this school’s digital capacity and learning.

Every year, Judy raises the bar and the more time you spend with Judy, you realise that there is no top rung to place the bar, it extends to the heavens. Thank you for believing in each and every person. Thank you for the numerous tasks that have nothing to do with being a chaplain that you have entrusted to me. It has been to my benefit and growth. I know you thought you were getting a task done by assigning me to do it. One of my greatest worries is not having Judy as my leader.

Members many of you maybe be missing out because you let opportunities to grow pass you by.

Wherever I go next, I know that: I need to place myself in difficult situations so that I can continue to build the muscle of resilience/grit and I need to be in an environment of continuous learning.

Thank you Inanda Seminary for entrusting me in this role as Chaplain. It has been all for my gain. Thank you for providing a home for my family. Thank you to the UCCSA (Reverend Robin Thompson was the first to welcome us), the Board of Governors (Florence Madlala and Bongi Dlomo who were the first to welcome us), alumnae, the staff and the members.

Thank you to my amazing circle of friends who have come today. Rob Elsworth and Lorraine Jewell, Belinda Bray, Alice Fabian Williams and Penny Fabian, Sandra and Mike Brown, Paul and Candice Sessions, Paul and Denise Venter, David Watson, Clint and Carina van de Venter and Bishop Michael Nuttall.
Thank you to my family Scott, Micah, Madeline, Lindinhlanhla Mngadi and Yoliswa Buthelezi.

To my family in the US who released us with their blessing.

It is good for me to go…my leaving makes room for another one to come. Some of you have been asking about who will be coming next as Chaplain. You will know soon enough I trust. Some of you have expressed resistance to this change, but I need to remind you what I believe.

I trust God. I trust, as Bill Hybels said it best, there are necessary endings but rest assured, God will write a new script, a new script for Inanda Seminary and for me and my family.

I don’t know yet where we will be living or where I will call home. I jokingly tell my friends, that when I buy a ‘toaster’, I will let you know.
We will begin in Florida reconnecting with our family that can’t wait to have us home and with the amazing churches that have supported us and Inanda Seminary.

I will conclude with words that I concur with from Mary Kelly Edwards.

My children if you are Christians, love God, do your duty, seek purity, work hard and are respectful and honest, then you bring me joy.
If you are the reverse, then alas, how much reproach you cast on my work.
All of the work of all these years, I count as pure joy if I have helped you to know and love Christ. His love to me his more than ought else and His work is my greatest joy. --Mary Kelly Edwards (Principal 1869- 1892)

--Reverend Susan M Valiquette

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