Thursday, October 29, 2009
Today Scott took off for Kenya via Kampala, to see the boys play in a soccer tournament this weekend, a joint early birthday present from all our parents. Which meant that someone had to fill his place as the Chief Guest at a day-long Parents' Day and Graduation Party for the Parental Care Primary school, which is directly across the road from the mission. Strangely enough, no one wanted to . . . so it fell to me. Here the kids are processing into the Community Center (their school is down the hill in the background). This primary school had the best PLE scores in the district last year, and is hopeful to repeat their performance this year. It's a brand new school, 340 students crammed into a small mud-crumbly compound. But they seem to be doing some things right. We're prayed for years about primary schools in Bundibugyo. This might be one of the answers. It isn't every day that we have a "marching band". The first couple of hours of this event consisted of a church service, complete with songs, robes, readings, communion. At that early point in the day I felt that community glow: this is precisely Paul's vision for this community center, and Sam Gray would have been happy to see the building full of kids and parents, the Gospel being preached, a major event in which we as missionaries were cheerleading from the sidelines only. Many of the parents are people we know well. I was blessed to participate, except for my initial seating inches in front of massive blaring speakers tortured by too-close microphone holding. But then the hours went on. And on. I had originally attempted to cut a deal with Ashley: she didn't want to speak, and I said I had no problem speaking, but I didn't want to sit there all day. So she would sit and I would waltz in at the right moment to speak . . . But the event started hours before she was out of school, and by the time she showed up I had been ushered to the front-and-center stage and referred to umpteen times as "Madame Chief Guest" so I was stuck. And as I looked out at the sea of faces above (500?) I was getting more and more nervous about speaking. Notice the chalk board: my speech is #12 of 13 agenda items, and little half-hour extras like the traditional Bakonjo "kikubba" (chest) dance pictured here were not even considered worth writing up. Choirs, a soap-opera like drama, political representatives, multiple levels of school administration all spoke. And there was almost no English used all day, which meant I had to really work to stay alert and figure out what was going on since at many random moments people would refer to me or ask me something . . . Let us say that by 5 pm, the event which started at 10 am was still going full blast. When I finally got the microphone, I realized it was so late and so long that no one was particularly going to catch my "sermon" points: that parental care involves provision, sacrifice, and unending commitment, which led into the parallel that God's parental care for us is the same. So instead of just talking, I told a story of a parent who was the youngest of 15, who worked hard to provide for his children and pay school fees . . who of course turned out to be my dad. I would not be here as a doctor speaking in front of 500 Africans unless he had provided and sacrificed and stayed faithful. I hope it was an encouragement to the parents, and pointed people to God. In the end I realized that my words were minor, compared to just sitting through the day. I wanted to avoid the day-long commitment and just preach. However, what was heard was my presence. No avoiding the sacrifice needed to just listen, clap, smile, encourage, and be present.