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Saturday, January 06, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life, Pat Abbott!!

Our longest-standing colleague in Bundibugyo now is Pat Abbott. She is due for a six-month Home Ministry Assignment (new mission-speak for furlough, or leave), and will travel with us next week. So Friday we planned a short tribute after team meeting, to thank her for her work and pray her on her way. All Christmas season we had been wanting to get in our annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but could not find the movie. So we had the great idea of filming a version for Pat. The great thing about being a team leader is one can have a great idea, and then dump it on someone else to sweat out the nitty gritty details, in this case Scott Ickes, who put in many hours of filming and editing! Julia starred as Pat, discouraged missionary ready to turn in her passport to our personnel director, played by Scott I. Jack co-starred as Clarence, the only “angel” in the missionary kid association who did not yet have his wings, earned by convincing a missionary to stay on the field. So Jack/Clarence takes Julia/Pat to see life as it would be in Bundibugyo if she had never come. There were scenes of hungry children (gamely acted by our neighbors, sucking in their stomachs and looking pitiful). There were scenes of irritable missionaries shutting their doors to requests (gamely played by irritable missionaries). There was a particularly great scene involving our neighbor playing a person that Pat has helped over the last year, in the scenario that there was not one around to help him. Another scene showed Luke and Acacia play Scott and me struggling with surly hearts through HIV clinic. In short Bundibugyo was depicted as a place just as bleak and desperate as the Pottersville of the original movie, a place where Pat’s merciful heart had not had its impact. The shocked Pat begs to go back, and the relieved angel prays, and suddenly the accountants at the sending center find her support account overflowing . . . And the movie ended with the whole team singing special Pat words to auld lang syne.

This skit was particularly apt because that very day we received a threatening letter accusing two of our missionaries of ruining the life of a student . . . Basically this kid was sponsored all the way through school, largely through the generosity of a young woman who worked here for a year many years ago now. As she tried to decide whether to fulfill his request for university sponsorship she asked for help from Pat, and some gave the opinion that the boy’s requests and plans were not reasonable. We thought she sent had sent the young man the money directly anyway, and since we had not heard from him in months, we assumed he was in school. Suddenly we received this complaint of “human rights abuses” and threats that if he commits suicide it will be our fault. . . . Not a typical interaction, but still very frustrating since he and his family have been closely tied to the mission and church over many years.

So a night to laugh together, to tell Pat that we would not be the same team without her, to remind her of the many many many people whose lives have been changed by her mercy, such a night was much needed.

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