Thursday, October 18, 2012

"We Are Not Islands Unto Ourselves"

Bishop’s Malaria Log – 5

October 17 No new mosquito bites today!
9 pm Luanda Pill #9

Traveling Mercies

Wednesday morning we said good-bye to our friends from United Methodist Communications:  Rev. Gary Henderson, Shari Altland and Mike Dubose.  Gary lives in Nashville, where he heads up the Imagine No Malaria campaign at UMCOM.  Shari lives in in Golden, Colorado, and is working with leaders in Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and other Annual Conferences as they plan to help The United Methodist Church raise $75 million to continue to fight Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.  Mike was the group photographer.  We all snapped pictures, but he is the artist that captured the spirit and the flavor of our mission. 

We pray safe travel for them as they head home to their families.  We can all say that it was pure joy to get to know them and that we count them as friends.  Our whole church, and each of our churches is blessed by their faithfulness and their professionalism. 

Slave Museum

South of Luanda on the peaceful coast of Angola a white stucco building with red tile roof perches on a rock bluff above the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a Catholic church once; a gathering place for people who were snatched from their homes and villages, to be exported as slaves to the new world.  In the chapel of the building priests forcibly baptized these captives before sending them into slavery, or worse, death on the dangerous passage. 

Baptismal Font
On the walls of the museum were copies of period lithographs depicting the physical abuse of these captives. 

Our group includes people who represent White Americans, African Americans and Africans.  Our very relationships with one another are rooted in this tragic history. 

After soberly viewing the images and the artifacts in the museum, we shared precious moments of prayer and song.

Kyrie Eleison.  Lord have mercy.

Christ the Lord is risen today.

Burl and the President
Former basketball coach and player

The bishop’s assistant picked up Burl Kreps this morning at 6:30 am before picking up Bishop Domingos for their meeting with Angolan President Santos.  When Burl returned at the end of the day he led us moment by moment through the drama of their day. 
·     Security check points at the former Governor’s Palace. 
·     Guards at attention. 
·     Waiting in a reception room. 
·     Finally, led through an inner room, up a set of stairs, where a TV crew is waiting.
·     A door opens. 
·     The president comes out and greets them.

And then he described his conversation with the President. 

Burl to President Santos:  One more time.
President to Burl:  Yes, it’s good to see you again.
Burl to President:  One reason I hoped to see you is I have some pictures.  I’m pretty sure this is you.
President:  I think so, too.
Burl to us:  Somebody said it would be nice if I signed it.  So I wrote, “To my favorite student of basketball.” And I signed it “Coach.” Then we recalled that when the black boys played against the white boys, we – the black team – were winning.  We had some pretty good players.
President to Burl:  Yah, we had a pretty good coach, too.

Burl and Bishop Domingos were able to tell President Santos about Imagine No Malaria and the net distribution and about the new United Methodist Radio Station. 

At dinner in the hotel restaurant this evening, Bishop Brown blurted, “There’s Burl on TV.”   There, on government TV was Burl and Bishop Domingos with the President and then in an interview afterward.  The broadcast was in Portuguese, so we don’t know what they said, but we were so very glad this door between the church and the government was opened today.  So grateful that Burl got his visa and was able to come on the trip.  So grateful that God led Burl to Angola 57 years ago.  No-one could have seen then what would come of those relationships.

Got on my traveling shoes. . .

In the morning we’ll pack up, eat breakfast, take a quick walk on the beach and get dropped at the airport for the long journey home.  Luanda –> Brussels –> Washington Dulles –> Denver.  And on to Durango and Great Falls for Robin and Margaret.   A journey from Thursday to Friday.  We’ll fall into the embrace of our loved ones.  And they will wonder what has happened to us.  Like youth coming home from camp.

We left American.  But we’ll return at least a little Angolan.

That’s the wonder of life in the household of God.  We are not islands unto ourselves.  We are not rugged individualists.  We are relational.  We are touched and changed by every relationship.  At our best, we soak up the best of what we encounter and carry it with us into the rest of our lives.  In Jesus Christ we have learned that we don’t have to be just one thing.  We can be many things.  We can be American and Angolan and Russian and Tongan and Nigerian and Brazilian and old and young and serious and playful and poetic and precise.  We can bridge distances through love and grace.  When we do, it is God at work in us and through us, transforming the world by making disciples of us.  A wonder to behold.

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