Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Land of the Uninvited Guest

Years ago, I was introduced to the idea of the uninvited guest by my friend Rita who always set an extra place at any holiday table. An old Polish custom,, it was held open for one of the prophets (which one I don't remember) in case he should appear unexpectedly. I have always thought it was a lovely custom and that perhaps, we might also be waiting for Jesus, or an angel unaware.

Moru Land is the land of the uninvited guest. People drop by; chairs migrate from the payot to the shade of the nearest big tree, usually a giant mango and then back. The chairs are the same plastic chairs we can buy from Home Depot/China. They have supplanted the local folding chairs crafted from local mahogany.

I have stepped into the payot to get water as I did the other day to find David, one half of the CMS couple who live just down the Juba road, sitting there with Alyssa and Akeisha, two girls from the World Harvest group in Mundri. (CMS is the Church Missionary Society out of the UK). Alyssa is a young missionary who will be in Mundri for two years and is currently living in a safari tent while Akeisha is the middle school age daughter of the senior missionary couple. She has apparently lived her whole life in one part of Africa or another. The discussion centered around being able to get goat cheese from Khartoum. There's very little dairy in this part of the world. The rest of the talk was also about food and made Mundri sound like Whole Foods south Sudan.

In the evening after supper, we sit around outside the payot and people drop by. We chat about local people, world politics and finally we all say compline together.

Stephen was telling us that if he wants to visit one of his brothers, he simply arrives and stays as long as he wants. The same thing occurs with funerals. Family and friends come from many places and long distances for the three days of the funeral. The family provides at least one tukul and the guests take turns sleeping. Food is provided for everyone.

There is a grace and fluidity to hospitality here. I will miss the ease with which people move about. It is hard to be lonely if you are near the payot. Some one will be along in a minjute.



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Nearing the End

Ouch...I just looked the Cathedral Times and realized I ought to proof my blog better. I apologize for all the errors.

Debbie and I finished the Adult Education Teachers' Conference today, the last one of the three. There were eight teachers, three from Wandi which is on the famous road to Kediba. They work without pay to provide education for adults who missed their chance during the war. Almost everything in Sudan is a Gordian knot of scarcity. The teachers from Luinje School had very good books in Math, English and Science from the Secretariat of Education of New Sudan but only for the teachers...the teachers from the other schools were using curriculum from Uganda. And probably only books for teachers. Keep in mind there are no copiers...all supplies come from Juba or Uganda. To get more books from the govenment will mean an organized effort or a word in the ear of the appropriate official from the Bishop, maybe. Transportation and communication are a challenge all the time. Scarce and expensive.

Except for conferences, it appears they work in isolation much of the time. When I think of how much I have muttered about small glitches in my daily professional life over the years, I'm embarassed. I still believe my students are the future of our country but I'm not sure they do and it's clear they don't see themselves as helping to build it. The teachers and the youth here know they are helping to heal and build their country. Here in Sudan, everything is beginning again after the war. They are recreating their institutions pretty much from the ground up with very little money and few resources. The terrifying thing is that no one knows what will happen with the upcoming elections or the referendum. There is also the potential for more internal tribal violence. So the fragile peace and the hard-earned gains of the past five or six years could go up in smoke again.

At the end of the conference today we sang Jesus Loves Me in Moru and English with lively hand gestures, almost patty cake interspersed with clapping. Imagine Episcopalians doing something so lively...Debbie and I really enjoyed it. Then one of the teachers closed with prayer. The Moru pray almost as much as they wash their hands ...which is often. It is very clear that they know that Jesus loves them. As Pentecost approaches, are we as clear about the great rushing wind that could fill our lives with such certainty?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Incarnation/Bathing

One of the reasons I wanted to come to Lui was to retrieve the nitty gritty of my body from the obsessive cleanliness of American culture. Every culture has different definitions but I've felt for years that we have carried this washing, sanitizing, this coverup of natural odors to a paranoid and unnatural extreme. Something is wrong when doctors tell us we're too clean, that we're preventing children from developing immunities to garden variety germs.

I grew up as a grubby little tomboy whose mother would laugh and say,"We all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die, anyway." Not that I'm dirty but there some things I just can't get that excited about.Cooking odors, for example. I discovered as a side benefit of being close to a complete vegetarian that my house smelled much better. Without meat grease, it's much easier to clean.

Don't get me wrong. I like hot showers and tub baths as well as the next one. I'd prefer a tile floor to a dirt one, a rug to a dirt floor but I can quite happily deal with dirty feet for a while. Do I enjoy sweating and smelling? Not particularly but it's been a while since that happened. (Consumer tip: nice organic deordorants don't make the grade here.) I'm glad to know that my body will still produce odors.

I've gone back to bathing twice a day the way I did in Venezuela. I feel better if I do. It's much easier to be a guest. John Noel, the compound manager, makes sure that the big iron cauldron is full of hot water twice a day. He makes a fire of sticks or bundles of grass. Steam rises off the water. I go get the blue plastic basin from the washing room and dip the hot water into it. There's also a jerry can of cool water nearby to add to the hot water. I learned not fill it too full because there's a high step into the washing room. Jim suggested filling the basin in the room. Debbie suggested as an alternative setting the full basin on the step first.

Once inside with my clothes hanging on the one hook (I don't take a change of clothing because there's really no place to hang it.) first I use the tin cup to pour water over my entire body to get it wet. Then I use Dr.Bronner's Lavender Castile Liquid soap as a shampoo, the extra suds under my arms etc. I use cake soap on my face. Then I scrub everything with my wash cloth. Then I rinse everything a couple of times with the tin cup. Then I dry myself off with my extra special technical towel which dries rapidly when I hang it on my mosquito net with clothespins.

A number of times I've done this in the dark resting my head lamp and my small flashlight on the high window ledge. It's kind of like Ray Charles shaving in the dark. I know where my body parts are and I can tell which soap by touch.

This time period has helped me reconnect with the simple minimum of how do things. I have a more intimate sense of my own body again. It's helped remind me how little I really need to be comfortable. Would I want to do this for a really long time? Probably not. It reminds me how much I don't need. Do I love my servomechanisms? My washer? My dryer? My dishwasher? My shower? Yes, but Lui has reminded I don't have to have them.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Ironies

It's alway seemed ironic to me that doing good works in the developing world produce opportunities worthy of an Evelyn Waugh of Paul Theroux novel.

I find it odd that I can preach twice in two weeks in Lui and schmooze with the bishop when in the States, I certainly wouldn't be allowed the pulpit at the Cathedral. I've only passed pleasantries with the last two bishops of Missouri but was invited to be part of a discussion about finding a replacement for a pastor who had recently died here. I'm aware of the novelty factor of being an American in an impoverished community although Europeans of various NGO sorts appear to be thick on the ground in this part of Africa. No backpackers carryingthe Lonely Planet at all.

I preached at Buwagyi yesterday to a full church. Oneil, one of the pastors, who had come back from Juba for the funeral of the pastor who died, translated for me. He kindly lent me hisMoru hymnal so I could follow the hymns which I could usually work outby the antepenultimate verse thanks toMorris' Moru lessons. No clue what they meantbut I could utter the words. Working with a translator creates a kind of split page. I had time to look at the congregation and wished I could take photographs of some of the congregation. I think it went well but the Moru are very polite so I probably won't know with any certainty what they actually thought.

This coming Sunday I preach at Fraser Cathedral which given the season of Pentecost, will give mean opportunity to talk about unity in Jesus.

Remind me next time you see me about the time the governor of the state of Aragua,Venezuela, invited himself to lunch at my house in the barrio. He came without his bodyguards but plunked a pearl handled revolver down on the table next to his plate. That's one chapter in the novel.

Next, how to bath in a large blue plastic basin from China whhich I'm going to go do now.



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today in Lui

Be sure to check Debbie Smith’s account of the missioners’ activities today (May 24) at LuLuLui. Debbie reports that Mary Seager preached at Buwagyi, and they had a very full day.

Debbie writes of Mary: “I don't think she's going to blog today; she mostly wants to lie down from the heat ….” Apparently, it is awfully hot and humid now.

In the meantime, here’s a photo I took of the Buwagyi church -- where Mary preached today -- back in 2006:

And of the interior, with Manyigugu/Darius holding the bishop’s crozier:

I remember this church well, because it had artwork all around the walls. Drawings like this went all the way around the chancel walls and down the walls of the nave.

I wonder whether it still looks that way.

I hope you all don't mind my "chipping in" with updates and old photos.

I’m sure that, like me, you are eager to hear first-hand from Mary and Jim, but they’re sleeping now. Remember Lui is 8 hours later than CDT.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Finding my rhythm

I'm procrastinating. I should be starting to work on my sermon but I wanted to do this first. I just reread the last blog and I apologize for the omitted words. I was using the laptop on which the space bar sticks, typing using my head lamp for light (indispensable for reading in bed and finding my way to the lat...greatest attribute besides light is that it's hands free.)

It's taken me a week but I'm finding my rhythm within the rhythm of life here. We are saying compline about 9 pm and then to bed. I'm taking one bath in the evening to wash off the day's dust (think Georgia on my mind) and sweat...there is hot water from a giant cauldron) and then another in the morning to wake up. We have breakfast, usually breads of some kind with Ugandan tea or tinned coffee I brought from Uganda. Then some activity. The last two days it was the youth conference. We walked from the cathedral compound to Luinje School in the early evening on the Juba road...the only two lane graded road in the dust...with Stephen and Gordon pulling us out the way of enormous speeding trucks, motorcycles. The flock of sheep with one trailing lamb managed to get across on its own. Then dinner. Some sitting around telling stories with Ramsey, Stephen and Darius. Ramsey told us about witnessing the birth of his son and how it changed his life. Stephen described hunting dikdik and antelope in the forest with bows and arrows.
Moru lesson with Morris who translated the Bible into Moru. Lunch with the team with Gordon whom we had check an article about the Moru from Wikipedia. It apparently was accurate because it turned out that Debbie and Gordon knew most of the people whose work had been referenced. More Moru shortly. Then to the sermon.



Friday, May 22, 2009

Lui Down

I received a phone message today from Debbie Smith from Lui. Apparently, the generator in Lui is down, so our team cannot blog or respond to e-mails. She wants us all to know this is why there are no blogposts from Lui today.

Debbie hopes the generator will be repaired soon. I’m sure you join me in hoping that is true.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Medical Supplies En Route

News from the “Home Team”

I like Susan Naylor’s concept that we have a “Home Team” and an “Away Team” at this time in our relationship between the Dioceses of Lui and Missouri. Debbie, Jim, and Mary are the “Away Team” for now. They are doing marvelous work and relationship-building in Lui, and my prayers are with them almost without ceasing. Like many of you, I hit the LuiNotes and LuLuLui blogs each day – in fact, multiple times each day – hoping for more news from the “Away Team” in Lui. God bless and inspire them and keep them safe.

Meanwhile work goes on here for the “Home Team,” and I’ve been asked to keep folks informed of significant news.

Today was a big one!

Many of you know that the Companion Diocese Committee has had a task force coordinating the collection of medical supplies for Lui Hospital. Marc Smith has coordinated that effort, receiving marvelous support from many Missouri hospitals and Washington University. The many donations were consolidated, packed, and palletized in April, primarily by members of Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City.

The shipment is four pallets, weighing about 3,260 pounds. That’s over 1½ tons of support for the Lui Hospital

Charlie Walch of First Choice Courier & Distribution is handling the shipment from the U.S. to Africa. We have had many conversations among the folks working on this. Today I received the delightful news that the shipment has left St. Louis, headed overland to Chicago, then New York, then by ocean transport to Mombasa, Kenya. Today Charlie sent me details. The medical supplies should leave New York on June 6, aboard the President Truman, expected to arrive in Mombasa on July 15. Thanks be to God!

Then it will be up to our friends in Lui to coordinate the overland transport from Mombasa to Lui. Debbie and our mission team are working with the Lui staff to make sure this goes smoothly.

Pilgrim's Progress: Dancing to Wandi and Kediba

When Bishop Bullen said that we would be dancing to Wandi and Kediba, I should have been forewarned about our excursion to visit Wandi and to see the sorghum grinding mill in Kediba. It was like riding a mechanical bull ride in a Texas country and western bar for two hours. It was hot too. Jim, Debbie and I were accompanied by Stephen, Margaret, and Gordon, three of the pastors.

In Wandi we were greeted by a large group of children and women singing and dancing with branches. Then all of them shook our was very moving but by the end I had an inkling of politicians and celebrities greeting their fans. We moved into the payot where we had lunch with pastor and elders. Of course, we shook hands with every. The assistant chief was there also because the chief had gone to a chief's' meeting. It was fascinating because the roof of the payot had been recently replaced and it felt like being inside a beautiful basket. After the lunch of rice and chicken, we got back in the truck and went on to Kediba where we sat under a tree with the pastor and ate fresh mangos which Margaret peeled for us. It was a great treat because we had just missed the mango season in Lui. We walked over to see the grinding mill the Mothers' Union purchased through a UTO grant. (Now you know what happens to your "mite boxes.")

More later....we're(Debbie and Jim) off to Lui Market with Vasco. Somehow I couldn't organize the movies and dinner or even an iced tea. This is our treat instead. Tomorrow we continue with the second day of the youth conference. Debbie and I will preaching this Sunday; Jim on Pentecost at Lui Parish, the companion parish to his. Keep us in special preaching prayers.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Susan's Story

Several of you have asked how/why Susan Naylor was blocked from her flight to Africa. Here is her own story. I am posting this to the blog on her behalf. Please respond to her.

It was a good plan. It could have worked. It should have worked. I should have been able to make the trip from my husband Earl's recital at St. Thomas Church in Manhattan to the Newark Airport with time to spare. Earl's recital was wonderful, and all too soon afterward it was time for me to go.

We hailed a cab, piled in my (carefully packed and weighed) bag and off I went to Penn Station.

I asked at the information and ticket booth which train would take me to Newark / Liberty Airport. The attendant sold me my ticket and told me "There's a train loading now on track 9 - if you run, you can make it. Next one will be in 20 minutes."

So I ran, and I made it, rejoicing that this lucky connection would get me there a little early.

Unfortunately for me and a half dozen others, we found out too late that we were actually on an express train to Trenton, and it did not stop at the airport. By the time I could get off and get back to Newark, I was too late to check in for my flight.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Heartbroken was more like it.

After checking every available option, and in consultation with Lisa and Debbie, we decided that it was best to leave this trip in the very capable hands of Debbie, Mary and Jim.

I am trusting that things worked out this way for a reason, and even though I can't see what it is right now, I know in whom I trust. So, I am now part of the "Home Team," holding the "Away Team" in prayer, and eagerly awaiting each new posting.

For all of you who have been praying for me, thank you, and keep those prayers coming - I obviously need them. I'll be joining our prayer partners at 7:00 a.m. to pray for the travelers, who are now safely in Lui.


[Posted by Lisa Fox on behalf of Susan Naylor]

Pilgrim's Progress: Africa/Kamapala/Lui

We've arrived. We're in Lui after much time in flying machines. All the air time was blessedly uneventful. All the luggage arrived with us. It's always a relief to see your bag approaching you on the carousel.

The Missionary Aviation Fellowship guesthouse was simpole and very pleasant. The veranda looked out to the hills surrounding Kampala. Debbie and I went into Kampala in a car with a driver. We got Ugandan shillings and shopped at a government craft village and then at a mini-Walmart in a shopping center.

The MAF flight left from their airfield in Kaajansi. The pilot who appeared to be an Aussie offered a prayer forus and our mission before we took off. It felt comforting and made me feel like a member of the fellowship. We stopped in Arua for fuel and Yei to drop off a German couple and then to Mundri airfield, a wide place in the bush. On the ride to Lui we mostly saw women walking with bundles on their heads, young men on bicycles or motor bikes, and two enormous trucks.

The people in Lui welcomed us in the paiyat in the Cathedral compound. That's a tukul used for gatherings and meals. It's really really hot so I feel stupefied. No deathless prose today.

We sat around as men, mostly priests, came in to welcome us and chat. It was so good to see Stephen Dokolo again. We ate lunch with everybody and then went toour rooms and laid down a napped. It's that hit on the head pass out kind of nap I remember from Venezuela. You wake up sweating and feeling stupid. It's the alternative to the only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.

Gordon, one of the priests, gave us the schedule for the visit. Two weeks will go by very quickly.
We'll visit four other communities and offer three two day conferences for different groups.

The new internet connection via a large satellite dish and generator is quite fast so you'll be hearing from me again.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Safe Arrival in Kampala

Debbie Smith e-mailed me at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) that she, Jim Hinrichs, and Mary Seager have arrived safely in Kampala. They left St. Louis yesterday, shortly after noontime. This is a vivid reminder of just how far a journey this is; it takes about 24 hours of plane rides and transfers to reach Kampala. Tomorrow, Susan Naylor will arrive in Kampala, then they’ll be heading on a MAF plane into Lui.

Debbie reports: “We're beat, going to say compline and go to bed. Keep the prayers going - we had the most uneventful trip ever.”

It’s now almost 11 p.m. in Kampala – 8 hours later than Missouri.

Now that we have restored telecommunications in Lui, look for our missioners to report here and at Debbie Smith’s LuLuLui.

Also remember that we are asking everyone to pray with/for our missioners at 7 a.m. (CDT) each day through the duration of the trip.

For those wanting a “refresher” on the purposes of this trip, see the story at the diocesan website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Way Stations

The last post from the States. I don't really see myself using the public computers in Detroit Metro or Amsterdam or... I've tried that and they're mostly junk and by the time you've figured out their quirks, the money's run out. So God willing the next time I post it will be from Kampala and/or Lui.

I passed the weight test, I hope. I'm going to repack and see what I can eliminate to get it down a little further. And drink only water and eat only dry bread until I've been weighed on the cargo scale. I feel like a prizefighter trying to make weight for a big fight.

I watched "Farrah's Story" last night relearning old lessons. Nothing is promised. In the end, money, beauty and fame can't protect you. It's not a problem if you have the money to fix it. There are some things all the money in the world can't fix. Her friends kept saying she was being so brave. People used to say that to me. I had a difficult time with that because I knew fear was driving me. She has had a much harder time than I had. (I'll let you in on a secret. Most cancer survivors keep a hierarchy of direness tucked away in their minds and almost unconsciously rank other people's disease. Usually we only talk about it amongst ourselves) Why would I watch something like that the night before I leave for Sudan? Periodically I need to be reminded how truly and deeply blessed I have been, to celebrate the fact that I'm alive, to know that for whatever mysterious reasons of God's own, God has kept me here.

Voy con Dios.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Minutiae of Setting Off

"Pilgrimage is always about movement from head to heart."
a Bishop of Massachusetts

It turns out that the journey between the head and the heart is very long and filled with the minutiae of travel, particularly foreign and to a truly far place. Each piece reveals yet another complexity and yet another mini journey branching off into a place only glimpsed.
Much has to be taken on faith.

An example was my immunization list. Some I had already had; some I needed to renew. The meningitis turned into a small quest. I had had Guillain-Barre in college which knocked one form of vaccine out completely and raised the spectre of G-B returning. After many phone calls which resulted in little definite information, I finally settled on pneumovax instead. I still think science is definite although I know better than that. If you travel far enough afield, you encounter elegant metaphors, great works of the imagination and finally at the end of science, miracle. So I pray that I made the right choice.

Then the list of diseases on offer in south Sudan. Read quickly any list becomes poetry but this list included some old friends: filariasis (elephantiasis), dengue and schistosomiasis (liver flukes, a particularly nasty parasite that infests fresh water in the tropics.) So no swimming in the river and plenty of DEET.

I make lists and check things off and make new lists with piles of things. To repeat Joseph Smith's curse, I feel as if "I'm being bitten to death by ducks."

Saturday still seems very far away and I don't feel ready whatever that means. I'm looking forward to sitting on the plane with my plane toys. Thick trashy novels which I leave behind on the seat. An electronic NYT crossword gizmo. I can even watch the little video tracking the flight quite happily. It's almost meditative. I'm not taking my iPod, one less charger, one less thing to lose.

I am excited by the fact I found a travel Bible on the Christian Dollar website. New King James with Jesus' words in red, a blue leatherette cover (emphasis on the 'ette) with a little gilt clasp which is already peeling. But it's all there so if I preach, I can actually use the Hebrew Bible too.

I'm lost somewhere in the capillaries of the esophagus...nowhere near the heart yet.

I am looking forward to the stripping away of all the conveniences of the West to an enforced simplicity. I need to get away from stuff for a while. After Venezuela, it took me a long time to buy a vacuum cleaner and I didn't have a television until I got married. Part of a pilgrimage for me is setting things down by the roadside because they have become a burden.

"The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked."
Basil the Great

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Prayers for Lui

Please Join Us

The next team of missioners from the Diocese of Missouri will depart on May 16, returning on June 4.

We invite you to the St. Louis airport chapel at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, to pray over and with the missioners: Mary Seager, Jim Hinrichs and Debbie Smith as they leave for Lui. (Susan Naylor will be departing on a different itinerary.)

The prayer service will be in the airport chapel, which is outside the security gates. The chapel is on the eastern end of the airport’s lower level. If you go to the airport site and click on the map for the lower level (where baggage claim is), you'll see the chapel at the extreme right side, near the eastern-most entrance/exit doors.

Daily Prayer
We invite and encourage all members of the diocese to support the mission team by praying each day at 7:00 a.m. during the mission trip (May 16-June 4). Lui is 8 hours later than St. Louis. Many mission teams have told us that they are aware of and encouraged by our prayers. We invite you to comment below if you are willing to be prayer partners with our mission team.

Image courtesy of ExtremeSelf .

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Lui Mission in May/June

The next team of missioners from the Diocese of Missouri will travel to the Diocese of Lui (Episcopal Church of Sudan) from May 16 to June 4.

The missioners are: Dr. Jim Heinrichs (St. Timothy’s), the Rev. Susan Naylor (Emmanuel/Webster Grove), Mary Seger (Christ Church Cathedral), and Debbie Smith (St. Timothy’s).

Mary Seger has special expertise in teaching reading and ESL. Jim Heinrichs has special expertise in infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS. Susan Naylor is a deacon in the diocese and a parish nurse. Debbie Smith will serve again as mission trip coordinator for the diocese.

At the request of Lui’s Bishop Bullen, and understanding some adjustments will be made on the ground, the mission team is prepared to lead conferences on: (1) HIV/AIDS ; (2) pastors and contemporary society; and (3) adult education and English language for adults, addressing the literacy gap because of war.

It is expected that Susan Naylor and Jim Heinrichs will work in the Fraser Hospital in Lui and/or with those responsible for it as well as with HIV/AIDS education. Mary Seger and Debbie Smith will probably work with literacy programs.

You can read more about this trip at the Diocese of Missouri's website.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Thin places of the heart

The Thin Places of the Heart
Scroll Article for May 2009
Deb Goldfeder

Celts believe that there are places in the world where the veil between heaven and earth is thinner and we can get closer to the Divine in those thin places. I don’t think the people of Lui have ever heard of thin places nor do I think they would think much of the idea. If you asked me if I thought Lui was a thin place, I would probably say that it wasn’t, at least not in the Celtic sense. But Lui is a place that will break your heart so why do I love it so?

Lately we have been talking about doing mission at Advent. What is mission anyway? It certainly isn’t just something we do in Lui. I’ve heard you say, “Don’t take me there! I have issues!” But we are talking about mission in a broader sense—not just in the “foreign service” branch of the church (as someone said). Maybe mission is anything we do that breaks our hearts. And if that is the case, why on earth would we do it?

Whenever something happens in Sudan now, I get e-mails with the stories attached. Those e-mails aren’t from Lui but they are from people who now know and care about the people living in mud huts in Southern Sudan. Going to Lui changed me and, as he frequently says, changed Dan but, most importantly, it changed you, too. We made you care and that makes you vulnerable to having your hearts broken, too.

In December, the Rev. Vasco Tadu Daniel shared with us that his wife Charity was expecting a child and she wasn’t feeling well. I knew that he must have been quite worried about her because people don’t talk about pregnancy in Lui. I’m not a maternity nurse but I visited her in the hospital. Her symptoms were vague but very uncomfortable. We tried a few things like putting bricks under the old iron bed to raise her head a bit and talked about her diet but nothing really helped. She was discharged before we left but she was not well. We urged Vasco to take her to the hospital in Juba but he waited until we left before taking her.

We really hadn’t heard anything about Charity and the baby until April 6th when we heard that the baby had been born. Charity was okay but the baby, a girl, was quite sick and in the hospital. We all held our breath and said our prayers until a week or so ago we heard that the baby was, “…a bit fine.” Thank you, God! Thank you for not breaking our hearts this time. We know Vasco at Advent. He has been here with us. He has shared our table. What happens to Vasco happens to all of us now. It is as if we are all connected by our heartstrings and they are stretched to the breaking point sometimes.

I’ve heard people who had a second child say that after the first child they wondered if they could ever love another child as much. When the second child was born they suddenly they found their hearts enlarged and their love multiplied. Mission does that, too. When that little airplane left Lui, I suddenly felt like my heart was ripping out of my chest and I cried. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be coming home but what if I never see them again? A friend said that we never know when we have seen someone for the last time and that was the last time I saw her. Who would be gone if I should be so blessed to return to Lui? All that love expands your heart until it gets thinner and thinner.
Marcus Borg was at Eden last week. He talks about “thin places”, too, but he says they are any place our hearts are opened. Maybe he would think Lui was a “thin place”. I think that it isn’t the place that gets thin but our hearts as they expand and expand.

One of the benefits of being an Episcopalian is that we absorb so much of Scripture through the Book of Common Prayer. There are also those phrases we absorb but sometimes we can’t quite remember where we heard them. One I have absorbed says, “…write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.” [It comes at the end of the Decalogue in Rite I.] Somebody else has said that we should write Scripture on our hearts so when our hearts break open the words will fall inside. What a balm those words are for our broken hearts!

The Christian Mission Mutual Ministry Coordinators have invited you to mission and to get involved in small groups because it is in the community of a small group that we look at how the life of Christ is present in our work, what we pray for, what we confess and what we are thankful for. It heals our broken hearts but it makes us vulnerable to each other, too. I really pray you join us in this.

This prayer is the Prayer of an African Christian and it is mine for us all:

O God:
Enlarge my heart
that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.
Stretch my heart
that it may take into it all those who with me around the world
believe in Jesus Christ.
Stretch it
that it may take into it all those who do not know him,
but who are my responsibility because I know him.
And stretch it
that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes,
and whose hands I do not want to touch;
through Jesus Christ, my saviour, Amen.

(With All God’s People, World Council of Churches, 1989, in, Bread of Tomorrow: Praying With the World’s Poor, Janet Morley, Ed. SPCK, 2004, p. 27).

The Rev. Vasco Tadu Daniel on a visit to Confluence Park near St. Louis.