SOURCE: Brian, student at PTS, gave a portion of this speech at the dedication of a new dorm at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2003.
KEYWORDS: household, family, church
Anyone who has known me for very long--ten minutes or longer--knows that my conversations always turn to Africa.
I am only a Middler at PTS, no older than most other students, but my five years experience as a Presbyterian missionary in Cameroon, Africa, has given me (if not the wisdom) at least the lengthy stories of one well beyond my years.
Most institutions--like PTS and like the mission school I served in Cameroon--have two lives.
There is the life one sees when one visit’s the campus during office hours, the stately buildings, the professional courtesies, the tended lawns.
Then there is the life that goes on during the evenings and weekends, outside the classrooms, among the residents.
We can call the first one the “Administrative Life” of the school, and the second one I can only call the “nda bot.”
“Nda bot” is a term in the Bulu language of Southern Cameroon, and it literally means “housepeople.”
“Nda bot” was the heart of life at my mission school back in Cameroon: it was the teachers and students who lived at the school in their off hours.
Nda bot is the shared life--behind the scenes--of people whom for whatever reason share a common lot in life.
But whenever the community had an urgent need or joy, when a neighbor was ill or a child was born, when a relative died, the Nda Bot was always there: singing and praying and serving peanut stew.
Nda Bot meant neighborhood and community in a way that put aside all official rank and privilege