Another unexpected delight was to reconnect with our friends Mark and Marnie M. They were missionaries in Uganda back in the day, and we ended up at Kijabe having babies at the same time. In fact Scott delivered their second son. We visited them in Uganda, and we've occasionally kept in touch even since they moved back to America. Mark finished a graduate degree and worked in politics, but recently decided the way he could serve Africa was to begin a company to produce RUTF, ready-to-use therapeutic food. Right now the primary product used in aid situations around the world is produced by a French company. Being peanut-based, Mark saw the potential to make this in Georgia. So he invested all he had, and all he could convince others to give, in a plant that is just starting up. If he can get UNICEF approval and contracts, this could be a product that saves many lives. And though it is a business, it is also a mission, one that exists to address real causes of malnutrition, to pour back into communities, to enable local production of nourishing food (the American plant will only be for emergency situations). Who would have guessed that his company's small headquarter office would be set up in Matthews, the same quaint suburb town where my sister lives? So we dropped in. The feel is of a political campaign or an entrepreneurial adventure, walls plastered with papers and markers, ideas, photos. Used furniture, young enthusiasts, the edge of potential failure or potential greatness. The zeal of a man who has invested everything because he believes in it. Check their web site at : http://mananutrition.org/.
A third delight came that evening, when my sister hosted several relatives to see our video and chat with us over desert. I have cousins and second cousins and cousins of in-laws, a complicated and extensive family. And some have had hard years, surviving breast cancer and destructive addictions and mental illness. So it is a privilege to just have an evening to be together, and to know that in spite of infrequent meetings and many other life issues, they still care about us.
But the last delight of the evening, Mark and Marnie showed up too. And I was reminded of that bond. There is something a bit haunted, or out-of-place, a bit changed, about those who have lived in Africa for long seasons, something that never goes away, and is recognizable to fellow-pilgrims. And something that does my heart good when we encounter one another again.