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Martin finds 'melting pot' on other side of the world
With a semester in Johannesburg, South Africa
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Katy Martin holds a child in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Contributed Photo)
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

In Johannesburg, Katy Martin isn’t just getting to know South Africa.

She is experiencing the world during her mission trip.

Take a recent Saturday. “We went to a Turkish cooking class, made friends with two older white South African ladies, visited the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere, talked with some Muslim girls from Vietnam studying Islam, enjoyed a swim at the pool near our flat, then had sushi for dinner,” she wrote by email from Johannesburg.

The recent Radford grad is there for the semester through a program called Hands-On, a missions program through the International Mission Board. Her role in evangelism is one you don’t hear about every day — media projects.

She is part of a team of three women who are creating posters and social media designs for the Fuge Camp that will take place this summer. Fuge Camp is working with IMB Africa “to advocate for an unreached people group in Uganda,” Martin wrote. Long-term missionaries in Uganda take pictures and videos in that country and send them to Martin and her team for design work.

The team also works on postings for Pinterest and Instagram under the username Africa Stories.

Sometimes, Martin helps a missionary in the township of Alex. The missionary presents a Bible story through an audio program in the Zulu language with corresponding pictures. She also leads crafts and games and gives snacks. On Thursdays they visit a children’s recuperation center. Most of the children are toddlers, with a few older girls. As the children get well, they leave and are replaced by new patients.

Martin has noticed a dichotomy of experience. “Much like America,” she wrote, “a portion of Johannesburg has all the material possessions you could ever want. ... On the complete opposite spectrum there are towns here ... that really illustrate the poverty still in ‘Joburg.’”

She has worked in communities with “stories of rape, alcohol, abuse, AIDS, and unfortunately the list goes on,” she said.

“We’re still trying to wrap our minds around the area,” she wrote: “Marrying the idea of a huge, urban melting pot and extreme(ly) impoverished neighborhoods.”

Since Johannesburg is “home to many Africans from other countries who flee from war, economic downfalls and other social issues,” she has learned about different areas of Africa through many of the people she has met.

She also has “seen the Islamic influence,” she wrote, including having been to a mosque and talked with Muslims.

Martin lives in a rented flat near the office where she works. “It’s small, but (it has) everything you could need,” she wrote. It has two bedrooms (she shares one with a roommate), two bathrooms and a living room. Since their apartment is on the first floor, they have easy access to a courtyard.

To get places, she rides with missionaries or walks.

So far, the only “adventurous food” she has eaten was during her 8-day orientation period in Botswana. “I had beef liver (which was actually really good), fat cakes (deep fried, balls of dough with powdered sugar) and mopane worms (baked worms —salty and gross),” she wrote.

Since Johannesburg is cosmopolitan, Martin has been able to get foods familiar to her, including KFC and McDonald’s.

Cooking in the flat is “an interesting process,” she wrote. Convenience foods are not easily available, so everything must be cooked from scratch. Since the oven is set to Celsius, recipes from home must be converted.

This isn’t Martin’s first time in Africa. In 2009, she spent three weeks in Kenya. Her group worked with street children, orphans, widows and medical missionaries in three communities.

What she saw of Kenya doesn’t hold a candle to Johannesburg’s size and melting pot of cultures, she wrote. Size-wise, Johannesburg is like New York City.

Part of Kenya “is considered ‘The Horn,’” she wrote, “which is infamous for droughts, war and starving people,” the typical image of Africa that pops into Americans’ minds. Its capital, Nairobi, “has enough development in areas to be recognized as a pretty big city, but still has areas of slums,” including one of the largest slums on the continent.

Martin’s return to Martinsville is set for June 1. Recently, she decided to extend her stay in Africa. She plans to return for another trip from August through December.

Her parents are David and Teri Martin. She is a 2008 graduate of Bassett High School.


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