Friday, August 10, 2012

What Time Is It and Where Am I? A Final Reflection

Well, I think it is Friday morning in Enumclaw - at least the sun arose in the east about 2 hours after I woke up in my own bed. But after leaving Johannesburg on Wednesday evening (South Africa time) and spending the next 25+ hours traveling home, the itinerary that I found as I unpacked my backpack said that we arrived in SeaTac Airport on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 1:20. So, I guess that has to be correct. But after traveling in 5 countries, and trying to keep track of all the time zones, it is all a little foggy in my mind. This, my final blog reflection on our group's mission trip to Zambia and South Africa, is the most difficult one to write. Being as tired as we are, I find myself being very emotional as I reflect back on some of the people we met, the miracles we witnessed, the blessings we received, and the marvelous mystery and beauty of Africa and its people. Where do I begin to convey not just words but underlying visceral and spiritual impressions of it all. One of the reflections we spoke about as we debriefed our trip at the home of John and Heather Witherow before leaving Johannesburg was that no matter how deeply affecting our trip was in our own lives, it would be impossible to make it come alive in the retelling. Already this morning, I saw people at the bank and at Starbucks who asked me about the trip. However, I knew they didn't have the time - or for that matter - the interest in hearing all about it. It would simply take too long and words would not do it justice. In spite of that disclaimer, the life of the Christian is always one of bearing witness in word and in deed. So I will do my best to provide a siumple summary of the sights, sounds, events, and feelings of the trip from my own experience. (Other members of the team likely would provide a different outlook; a unique perspective but I will let them tell that part of the story). The city of Dubai, with its opressive heat, glistening, extravagant hotels and skyscrapers and bustling nightlife during Ramadan. The large "Welcome to Zambia" signs that greeted us as we disembarked the plane, down the steps onto the tarmac of the Lusaka Airport. The strange, cringing sensation of watching cars coming at our bus/van on the wrong side of the road as we twisted and turned through the winding bumpy streets of Lusaka and Kabanana The joyful reunions with people with whom we have forged deep and lasting bonds of love - Goerge, Joy, Pastor John and his wife Thenny (and their children) Abel, Paul Bwalya, Naomi, Falidah, Rachel and Cappio and so many others The spontaneous, joyful, rythmic singing that erupts everywhere around - whether in church, or on a dusty field in front of the school The steady stream of people queued up to recieve water from the pump we had helped install; and the stream of people coming with sick children knwoing that we had with us a medical expert and medicines to treat various kinds of sickness and injury. The divine appointments we had prayed for becoming realities: Mwanhsa - the owner of the hotel where we stayed and an employee of the US Embassy being the answer to our prayers of providing benches for the school and scholarships for the students. Leymans and Angela - the sister and brother in law of Albert Mhlanga who came to the school to see what we were doing and promising to provide help in completing the classroom and toilet facilities we had begun; Naomi returning to the home and deaf school from where she had unexxplainedly disappeared; Falidah, the young woman who some of our team have been sponsoring in her school work; and so many others, too numerous to mention. Worshiping in Redemption Ministries Church in Zambia and preaching there to an amazingly gracious, welcoming and spirit-filled congregation pastored by John Mpanga; who along with his wife Thenny have given so much on behalf of orphans in their community - not only directing Healing Place School but also caring for 9 orphans in their own home. Working alongside church and community members to begin construction on a new sanitary toilet facility for the school as well as a new two room classroom building for the school. The smiles, hugs, receptiveness of the 323 some children; caring physically for them,teaching them about sanitation, and health education, physically caring for them and simply reminding them they are not alone in the world - there are those who truly care for them. The beauty, majesty, and amazing display of life at Victoria Falls and Chobe Game Reserve. The beautiful handcrafted art found at every market; The first of its kind in the area Pastors Leadership Training Conference that I was privileged to co-teach with Karl Teichert from OC Africa. Over 50 pastors from as far as 360 kilometers to attend. The press of people and the frantic concern of making our flight from Livingstone to Johannesburg; Not only preaching in United Reforming Church of Ennerdale (an amazing congregation serving missionally in the community near the Finetown Settelement) but being privileged to baptize 7 children alongside of Pastor "Wessie" Wessels. After church being hosted in the homes of church members. Feeding soup to children in Finetown at Mama Florina's house in Finetown, South Africa and knowing that this might be the only meal these children will have had for over two to three days. Watching it snow and feeling the biting wind course through my light jacket as I walked alongside Jabulile and Sylvia - two dedicated home care providers - and Pastor Vessie as to visit the homes of the sick and dying in Finetown. We visited a woman with HIV/Aids, a man with TB, a woman with diabetes, another young mother of two who is bedridden with the HIV/AIDS disease that is so prevalent throughout Africa but particularly there in South Africa; Sharing time with our friends and Mission Partners - Karl and Jenny Teichert and John and Heater Witherow(and their families of course. The sense of deep sadness as we toured the Apartheid Museum and read the accounts of how unjust and oppressive human beings can truly be to each other. The 25 hour trip home - ugh! The amazing team God assembled for this trip. Though incredibly different in so many ways, united by a sense of common faith, purpose and love; though most were sick at one time or another, the sacrificial efforts they put in to dig foundation trehches, mix concrete, meet new people, cram on a bus, endure the dusty bumpy roads; though tired extremely patient and forbearing with each other; though each having their own desires, being flexible enough to go with the flow and trust the Lord each step of the way The memories of how God worked throughout. My messages in both churches where I preached were based on the idea that believers are all living stones who the Lord is using to build up his church. Christ is the cornerstone as well as the mortar that holds each stone together. But in His grace and wisdom, he uses each different, unique, living stone to touch the world with love and mercy. We felt blessed to be a part of that reality in profound ways that transformed us and we hope blessed others. The amazing sense of support in prayer we felt from all our family, friends, church members back home who emailed us, Facebooked us, Skyped us, read our posts, viewed our pictures and most all prayed for us. You were all part of the team. Thank You, thank you, thank you. THere will be team reports at Calvary and at Rotary, and if you think you can endure, pictures galore. Just ask. Now for a short nap.........

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