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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

evening encouragement

Yesterday was a long pummeling bounce from one crisis to the next. Everything seemed broken, from a team vehicle to the entire water system to the propane fridge at the health center used to store blood. And these are not mere annoyances. Passive-aggressive staff behavior and nation-wide bureaucracy and corruption will cost lives, the lives of innocent kids. The first case of potential cholera in many years was admitted to the isolation ward, which had no water. Hundreds of students are about to arrive on campus and need to eat, and the kitchen is not yet functional. At one point as I watched Scott figuring out which valves to turn at the town's water tanks .. . I felt more alone than we have been in many many years. We're not alone, I know. God has called us to this moment, and He's asking us to hold on.
In that context, the evening was very encouraging. We had invited the CSB staff to share pizza with our team (well, what's left of it, our pared-down family of four with Heidi, Anna, Scott Will for two more days, and Ashley just arrived). Last year we were never able to manage this kind of gathering. And with all the change of the last few months, without the PIerces, and with the uncertainty of starting a new year, it was with some trepidation that we invited them. But God was gracious. His primary symbol of presence-on-earth is a meal, communion and community go hand in hand. Last night, we experienced that incarnational reality. About 20 staff joined us, outside, as we created pizzas and encouraged them to try the unfamiliar (I also had massive pots of rice, meat, sombe and beans so that no one would leave hungry . . . and though people ate the familiar, they left most of it in favor of adventure). Soon there was loud laughter in the dimming evening, candles, joking. Jack and Julia and I kept walking around with fresh pizzas, and staff members would joke and insist they were full and then be cajoled into a bit more. Scott Will brought a wealth of toppings, and when we got to the dessert pizza (condensed milk, jam, and chocolate!), people were amazed and delighted. Two young guys actually had to lay down on the grass they were so stuffed. Later we sat in the front room and played a game, and then ended the evening with recounting some blessings of 2009, worship, singing together and praying for the year, that we would all reflect God's glory in a dark place. It was a moment of tasting goodness, in the food and in our team's super-helpful hospitality and in the staff's joy and fellowship. Many more problems will come, starting today no doubt, but we are encouraged as we plunge into the year.

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