Today Good Friday, Passover, and Ramadan all intersect, holidays that have shaped cultures around the world to remember that the path to redemption passes painfully through deserts of deprivation, rocky wildernesses where we are called away from what makes sense, what looks sure, what our natural inclination towards self-preservation and self-promotion would cling to. We've been at this a few decades now, but the truth still startles. The pivotal moments of our Christian story remain: not a battle or a coronation, but an obscure displaced birth of a baby forced to flee across borders, and then a public execution of that child grown into an itinerant teacher with no official title or position, chased down by manipulating crowds and fears and courts.
In that spirit, we had our (we hope) final meeting yesterday with the wealthy, highly placed, political police fire brigade commissioner, plus his parents, and his three sets of lawyers, who have drug us through court for 9 years to reclaim land that his father sold the mission over twenty years ago when money was needed for this man's school tuition. The property was a small piece of farmland which we used for the first decade or so for food production for CSB students as well as agriculture practical education, until the seller changed his mind. We lost the land, lost the appeal, and to add insult to injury were presented with an exorbitant bill for the court costs for those who orchestrated the injustice. Months of negotiation later, they agreed to a quarter of what they initially asked for in legal costs, which is still more than the actual value of the land (but thankfully we had quickly sold another piece of mission farm land as soon as we lost this one to cover the expenses.) Nothing like sitting in a room for hours with people who have stolen from the poor of Bundibugyo, using the court system, to really enter into the spirit of Good Friday. Sigh. We think of ourselves as nobly being on God's side of the dispute . . . but that does not translate into being on the winning side, as Jesus showed us that day. We've shed tears and hours and sweat and sorrow over this court wrangle, but not blood. Jesus did both.
Sitting here on Friday now, we take it by faith that the weekend will progress to Sunday, to resurrection and transformation. All of history drew to a point on a hill that Friday, to darkness and agony. And all of the future began at that chiasm, spreading out to a new way of the universe operating, as Mike preached this morning. Those hours of cross and grave were the mysterious unseen unimagined way that evil was defeated forever.
And so we are called to keep walking on those wilderness ways, away from insta-glory, into areas that are risky and uncomfortable. And as we do so, we trust for the moments where all-things-new joy presages the peace and wholeness of "today you will be with me in paradise", the home Jesus prepares.
A few of those moments have been ours this month, visiting teams in Rwanda and Burundi (as well as Fort Portal and our usual Bundibugyo both in Uganda) where we walk into the hard stories each person carries of burdens for kids struggling close by or aging parents far away, of cross-cultural faux pas or danger from insecurity or lethal disease, of new regulations or old prejudices that just make this sojourner life hard . . but even as we walk into those realities and grasp them we also catch views of the beauty God is working.
Kigali, Rwanda, Cropsey family and RIIO eye clinic and teaching (our new partners even gave us a certificate!)
That's a lot of life in a few weeks, many miles, many faces, many conversations and questions. Luke and Abby came to us in an excruciating (cross-filled) time, and their perspective and loyalty and love reminded us that this path is truly worth it. Thanks for reading and prayers . . . and may all of us hear Jesus calling us by name this Sunday.