Friday, July 28, 2006

Lui Debriefings

After coming home from Lui, I have had several opportunities to talk about that trip.

My first formal presentation to my parish was on the evening of April 6. The folks in my parish generously understood that I would need some time to “come back to earth” after that trip, so they didn't press me to a program too soon after my return. Instead, they gave me almost a month, to do an evening program as part of our Lenten series. I think this was a good program. By then, I had time to gather and sort my photographs. And I pulled together a PowerPoint presentation for them, which I would happily provide to others. We had a big potluck dinner, and something like 60 folks came – which is pretty wonderful, in a parish with an average Sunday attendance of 140. This was an important event for me, as it gave me a chance to talk with my parish about what was accomplished for all the gifts and money and sacrifices they had donated to make my trip possible.

On April 23, I got to do another parish presentation. My April 6 program was more “travelogue” – explaining to folks the nuts and bolts of my trip: how and where we traveled, where we slept, how we bathed, what we ate, who we met, what we did. This Sunday morning program involved all the adults and our middle/high school students, where I focused more on the spiritual insights of my trip. It made me think fleetingly that maybe I could be a preacher -- for a certainly did preach in that 45-minute session. One of the impressive things about the program was the attendance; some people came who are not even parishioners, but had read about my trip in the local newspaper.

I made a very different presentation on May 13. A priest friend of mine is active in Boy Scouts, and they were having Merit Badge University on May 13. He asked me to come into that weekend-long event to give them a program about my trip and Sudanese life. It was very different to talk with these boys about my time in Lui, but I did, and they seemed to be engaged with the story I told them. Of course, in that setting, I did not focus on the church events, but on the spiders and rats and lizards ... but the boys seemed to enjoy it. But I also was able to talk with them about the suffering and grim realities that the people of Lui are enduring, and what that means to us in the U.S. Drawing from that program, a group in Arkansas is now talking with me about doing a similar program for them.

The very next day, on May 14, I had the opportunity join with Rick (who was part of my mission) and Ida (who went on our diocese's next trip) to lead a session at the adult forum at Emmanuel/Webster Groves. We had a very good turn-out, and I was honored to talk to them, in company with Rick & Ida.

Here’s my only disappointment: We and the diocese have done our best to let all the parishes in our diocese know that we are available to make presentations and lead programs about our time in Lui. But sadly, very few parishes in our diocese have asked for us to come. We would come anywhere within our diocese – which means over 100 miles in many cases. But most of our parishes have not expressed interest in having a presentation about our diocese’s work in Lui. That is disappointing. And I don't know what it means for our companion relationship.

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