Monday, June 05, 2006

Lui Leaders’ Meeting (Wed., 1 March 2006)

I didn't realize we would have a significant “diplomatic event” on our last day in Lui, but we had one. Late in the day – a couple of hours before sunset – we were all summoned into one of the large meeting houses (“payuts”) and found that the leaders of the Lui community had gathered there – priests, deacons, tribal leaders, Mothers’ Union. The Bishop was there, along with the Dean of the Cathedral, as was the local leader of the SPLA.

It’s really not fair to say we had “no” warning. We knew there was going to be some sort of wrap-up. I just did not realize how many of the local leaders were going to be present. And that's why I have no photographs of this event: It felt too important to take pictures.

And I was so absorbed in this meeting that I did not make many journal-notes about it. Everyone in Lui made a statement about what they worried about, what hopes they had experienced in our visit with them, and what they hoped for the future of the relationship between the Diocese of Lui and the Diocese of Missouri.

Archdeacon Robert, the village mayor, Bishop Bullen, and the Moru tribal chief were among the people who participated in the meeting.

I was overwhelmed by the strength of their statements. Clearly, they hoped and/or believed that our presence there was a promise for ongoing commitment. I found myself -- then as now -- hoping and praying that our Diocese will come through.

Several of the people stood up to challenge us -- saying that they have heard promises like ours before, and are waiting to see if we will really follow through.

This was a very ceremonial gathering. Rick presented to them the crosses he had made from Missouri oak. This was most welcome – as many of the clergy in Lui did not have crosses. That was a blessed gift to observe.

A couple from my parish had written a book, Gospels in Glass, detailing stained-glass windows in the mid-Missouri area, and they had sent me to Lui with that book, in hopes of presenting it to the Lui diocese. In that final meeting with the Lui folks, I finally got a chance to present that book to Morris, who is the archivist and historian of Lui.

At the end of the meeting, three of the women presented Lui gifts to us. To Sandy and Deborah they gave small baskets. When they presented my gift, they said something about my being “strong woman” and placed the basket on my head like a hat, instead of handing me a basket.

I was very grateful for this gift from these women, since Simon had told me earlier that I was “a dead family” because of being a single woman. Gender roles are very complex in Lui. I did not begin to explore them during my time there.

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