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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Road Grace

Grace = undeserved favor.  WHM talks a lot about grace.  But instead of preaching it, we're living it.  Two days in Cincinnati and one in Indianapolis, and another wave of grace washing over us in the form of hospitable friends new and old.  An extensive carpeted private basement with a king-sized bed, a quiet suburban home with a pool out back, gourmet healthy meals for which we do no work whatsoever, free childcare during the day while we went to meetings, and to top it off, dozens of people old and new who are willing to take an hour to listen to our story and ask questions and ponder the parallel universe of Bundibugyo from the American midwest.  Scott's home church from childhood, the Presbyterian Church of Wyoming, offered us a space Tuesday evening.  Both pastors came to listen and pray for us, and almost thirty of our supporters.  As Scott introduced our short video I looked over the group and remembered sitting in many of their homes with our little support-raising scrap book 18 years ago, telling them our hopes and dreams.  So it was poignant to be back on the other side, describing what really happened.  Many things we would never have dreamed of living through, war and displacement and ebola and painful partings and hard decisions.  But more that we actually HAD asked prayerfully for, community health efforts and deep relationships and changed lives.  

Two brilliant and successful physicians from pediatric emergency medicine at U of C are our friends here, both with strong ties to global health, influential positions, and pages of resume detailing much more good for the world accomplished in their lives than we will ever manage.  One arranged for us to speak to a group of medical students at the University, so we prepared a more medical talk about the common diseases we encounter in Bundibugyo and what it is like to work as a doctor in such a setting.  Frankly it is humbly intimidating to presume to speak with any authority in the presence of people who are recognized as experts in global health, but we did it anyway.  That evening we also met with a Bible study group that was largely medical, including the husband of one of our former interns from a summer at least five years ago!  

Today a quick intersection with the VR's--Dr. Dave took me into my first African hospital when I was a 19 year old college student and they were living in Liberia in 1982, and over the years we've held onto our brief connections.  Ruth is one of the wisest women I have had the privilege of just sitting in the presence of and absorbing the fruit of hard experience she offers, as she moves all over the world lecturing and ministering around the issues of third-culture-kids.  Stopping off at their home was like a quick gulp of cold water in a thirsty land.

And lastly this evening (after an afternoon off, at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, an incredible place) we had yet another small group to interact with, an unlikely mixture of young professionals associated with Redeemer church, a couple we knew 20 years ago when we all worked in Lawndale and who still supports us, and even Jessica our soon-to-be colleague raising support to come to Bundibugyo.  This was orchestrated by a young pediatric resident Emily we had corresponded with through a Duke-Blacknell-Bart connection, who came to visit in Bundibugyo last year, and graciously threw a dinner and open house evening for us with her friends.  (and whose room mate happened to be Ashley's friend, manager of the college soccer team when Ashley was captain!  I can't begin to unravel the multiple threads that connect us to people we meet)

Sometimes I'm not sure what we're supposed to be doing, the sheer audacity of inviting people to listen to us talk about ourselves seems distasteful.  And to bounce from home to home receiving respite, feels uncomfortably presumptuous too.  But I take a deep breath and remember that we are here to be thankful, to offer that sacrifice of thanks to God and to the many people who have played an essential role in our lives.  And to testify that as we pour out God fills, over and above, that a peculiar off-the-track life is also a desirable one, and a possible one.  And to mingle those life-long friends with new acquaintances, sowing widely, hoping that some will invest in the Africa we love as they pray, and give, and even go.  So we try not to fall silent in the face of so many other fascinating and useful and unique lives, try not to second guess what might have been if we had been more academic, or if we had stayed on a different path.  Instead we offer thanks for all that we have lived and thanks to all that have helped us, and ask God to bless our words and enable them to point others to Him, even if we only manage an evening a decade with these people.

This is grace.

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