This, indeed, was our Easter Sunrise Service. Huddled believers, the chill of a strong wind carrying our voices into the rocky horizon hung low with thick, grey clouds. Our clocks told us the earth had turned, the sun was shedding light in our direction. But we could not see even a hint of its color or warmth. As we listened to Belle read the Gospel, and tried to sound peppily positive about forcing all these people out of bed before 6 am, wishing for a spectacular break-through of the rising sun, it occurred to me that the Easter morning we got was more appropriate. Instead of irrefutable glory, we got the obscurity of clouds. The muted veil that calls for faith.
In the original story, hardly anyone recognized the risen Jesus. There was confusion about grave robbers, angels, soldiers, a gardener. Nothing that week seemed to go as expected, and the moment of triumph upon which history hinged was mostly experienced as grief and frustration by those who were present.
Which pretty much sums up 2017 in East and Central Africa. Here we are, barely audible in our small songs, with a view of only a few meters. We have countries where governments are imploding, corruption and suspicion permeate our work. There is war, and rumor of war, and abuse and hunger and broken families. There are babies born too early, too weak, too poor. There is tribalism and jealousy and longing. There is traffic and malaria and power outages and drought. There are petty unhappinesses with each other, or injuries, sicknesses, financial pressures, misunderstandings, that drive us apart. There is loneliness. Yes, we are in the cloud, and we can't see the sunrise.
But behind the clouds, we trust the Son does rise, with healing in his wings. Like 2000-ish years ago, Jesus still appears to small groups, friends walking, at meals. Still with gentle questions and reassuring presence. Still just quietly enough to be ignored at will, but found if sought. Still in relishing community, in soaking up nature, in sharing nourishment, in collaborative work, in circling for prayer.
Easter held all of that for us. We joined our old friends on the Kijabe team on retreat in the wilderness, to reflect on the season and pray for each other and worship God. Much of the weekend was flooded with light and peace, the fellowship of deep thinkers and ready laughers.
There were sunsets, and hikes, and strenuous bike rides, and a delicious menu planned by our talented chef and team leader Ginny. There were wide skies, and blue horizons.
And there were clouds, which in the Bible both symbolize the need for faith, and the tangible presence of God's glory. It's easier to long for sun, but the palpable presence of God has often been seen and felt in the cloud.
From the wilderness we returned to our Naivasha work, and hosting a visiting artist/former missionary kid guest, and touching base with our team leaders. It's been a cloudy week where one has to take it on faith that God is at work. We scrambled yesterday to do our first-ever exchange transfusion in Naivasha on a very very sick baby, who died at the end (it's a procedure to lower jaundice in its most severe form, which involves slowly removing and replacing the entire blood volume twice). We're in a battle, and we often seem to lose.
Lose, but not leave. I'll end this with some of the trees we saw hiking this weekend. These are scrappy trees, the kind that have to put roots into rock, that have to hang off cliffs, that have to reach to the sky with dry thin branches. Pray for our friends, for us, to hold on like this. To accept the cloud above and around us, because we are anchored into the Rock below us.
This last one must be pretty much how our Ranger Student son feels. Almost over the edge, but still grasping for a hold. Two more nights of patrols, then the long march back to camp, and on Sunday the decision: pass or repeat or be dropped. Pray for him please!