Friday, July 14, 2006

Loki to Nairobi: Part I (Thurs., 2 March 2006)

We landed at Loki around 3:45 p.m., and wheels-up to Nairobi at 4:15. We should arrive Nairobi about 6:30p, according to Matthew, the AIMAir pilot.

Before we made this trip, I asked Archdeacon Robert about what would be my role. Others had obvious roles: Bishop’s representative (Robert), priest & youth leader (Father Bob), carpenter (Rick), educator and Companion Diocese Committee rep (Sandy). In our pre-trip meeting, I inquired about my role – feeling very strongly that I had no obvious one. At that early stage, Robert glibly quipped, “At the end of the trip, you’ll know why you’ve come.”

I thought about his words many times all through the trip. I never did feel I had a clear use -- never did feel that I brought an obvious or meaningful asset to the mission.

But as Sandy & I were talking on this plane ride, one fact about my "purpose" hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s not just that I and the whole team saw the snare of materialism, consumerism, and spiritual poverty of our culture. It was more personal for me: I saw the selfishness that has pervaded my life. It’s all been about me, my , and mine. Early on in the time in Lui, Sandy started kidding me about being “Martha” because of my organization and homey touches in the tukel. But after a couple of days, I became aware I was unconsciously adopting the Biblical “Martha” role. Checking that people took their medications. Patiently "hanging-back" when I was so hungry that I wanted to run to the head of the line to eat our meals in the compound. Consciously trying to talk less and listen more. Telling team members things I value about them. And mostly this role was not hard. It was deeply, profoundly satisfying.

At this moment -- suspended between the struggling, suffering life of Lui behind me and the return to the U.S. looming ahead of me -- I feel more humble than I can recall ever feeling in my life – because for once, it’s not about me. It’s been about my team and the Moru people.

I feel a sense of gratitude – genuine and profound – that I cannot remember ever feeling before. Grateful for tiny things – like Robert buying us Diet Pepsi’s in Loki. Grateful for the cool air blowing in the plane. Immensely grateful for these people’s friendship.

And I feel now even more strongly – though I have felt it often during the trip – that I know I am being held up in prayer by my friends, my parish, my family. Only the Holy Spirit could have done this. This is not me!

Please God, please, strengthen me to sustain this attitude, this perspective when I get home. The Moru have taught me: It’s all about servanthood. Jesus taught that too. But it seems I only “got it” by going halfway around the world and meeting desperately poor people who would wash my hands with water when they are dying of thirst, would give me food when they’re dying of hunger, who would attend to our needs as if we were Christ himself.

I'm reminded of the Bible passage -- in Paul's letter to the Romans, I think -- about the fact that Jesus, though being in the form of God, did not presume to be the equal of God, but put on the form of a servant. That is the model we need to emulate.

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