Monday, April 03, 2006

Singing Us Home to Lui (Monday, 27 Feb.)

The drive to Kedibah was miserably long, and – after a very long hot day – the ride home from Wandi was even more miserably long. When we piled into the truck to leave Wandi, my tired body (and tired and bruised butt) was dreading the long 2-plus hour drive more than I can describe.

You know how it is when you’re on a miserably long trip. You just set your jaw and steel yourself to the long misery. I think that’s what we were doing. It certainly was what I was doing. We were too hot, tired, miserable, and overcrowded in the miserable back of that truck. On the trip out to Kedibah, there had been much conversation. But on the trip home that day from Wandi, the conversation got less and less.

But then something weird happened. I don’t know who started it. But somebody started singing. And some people joined in. Mind you, half of us were Americans and half were Lui. Though all Anglicans, we don’t really have a prayer book in common, and we certainly don’t have a hymnal in common. But we found common music. I don’t know how, but we did. Partly, we found hymns that are in both our hymnals. The folks in Lui just love ”Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” and ”What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” -- and just enough of us Missourians knew those songs that we could sing along. And we all knew ”Amazing Grace” -- heck! we even knew most of the verses! – along with ”Jesus Loves the Little Children”. Then we resorted to campfire/Girl/BoyScout songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” -- which included several extemporaneously-fabricated verses like “If you’re happy and you know it, say ‘Hey, Bish!” in honor of Bishop Bullen sitting in the front seat and enjoying our singing. Then we remembered that we had seen “Kumbaya” in the Moro hymnal. Yes, Kumbaya! And sang many verses of it. Then we moved on to civil-rights-era songs like ”We Shall Overcome”, to which we added wonderful verses like “We’ll rebuild Lui.”

This was like the most fun memory you ever had of a family sing-along! The minutes and miles passed without a thought. One person would think of a song, then another would come up with the next song. And the Moru are very fond of their percussion. Rebecca had a “gara” [gourd] and was using it. After a while, Deborah remembered she had a pill-bottle, and she started shaking it – and, by crackies! it made a very fine percussion instrument too. [By the light of the next day’s sun, Deborah learned that she had pulverized those pills to a fine powder!]

This miserably exhausting day had gone on very, very much longer than any of the other day’s outings. We knew that we had left Rick and Father Bob back in Lui, and the closer we got to Lui, the louder and more happily we sang! When we saw the Lui gates, the dozen of us were singing at the top of our lungs! I don’t know about the others, but I certainly was aware of the hope that Rick and Bob would hear our singing and know we had had a wonderful day and were coming home happy.

So our driver pulled into the compound and stopped, and we started piling out of the truck. Our faces were just jubilant with joy. But I could see that Bob and Rick and Gordon’s faces were not – not at all! In fact, they looked distraught.

It was later that Rick and Bob explained what had been happening there in the compound. They had been very, very worried about us. It was after 9 p.m. when we got home – two hours after dark. There are no phones that we could have used. Waiting with them was Gordon, one of the Lui priests. After minute passed minute, and finally hour passed hour, they apparently became more and more concerned that something bad had happened. Then they heard the sound of our singing. And Rick and Bob got excited. But Gordon was crestfallen. And Gordon explained to Rick and Bob that that’s how the Moru bring home their dead. They "sing them home."

Yes, that’s right! The joyous sounds we were making -- which we meant to signal our friends that all was well -- told Gordon that we were carrying home a corpse!!

So now I can understand why, when we came piling out of the truck all happy, Rick and Bob and Gordon were looking so distraught! We had found resurrection in the midst of misery. But they were waiting to see what corpse we were going to haul out of the truck. WOW!

Culture. Cultural differences. You folks who are going to Lui, get ready to have all your cultural assumptions challenged. Ours certainly were, when we ended that day.

No comments: