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Sunday, September 24, 2023

114 miles of sabbath, and September news

 September began and ends in Bundibugyo, but the three weeks in the middle saw us travel out to Kampala, meet our Burundian partners, fly to Serge leadership semi-annual meetings for a week, take a ten-day off-line off-work real leave by hiking in the Alps, and then return into the usual fray.

This post is in praise of rhythms of reflection, and of rest. Not as the ultimate goal, but as the nod to our frail and limited humanity. God set 3 different week-long festivals of gathering for feasting and worship and memory in the ancient calendar . . . which makes more and more sense. And not that we had a grand plan, but the requirement of the meeting led Scott to propose that we return to the hike we started for our 30th anniversary 6 years ago that we aborted to be with his parents as his dad died. No regrets that we left and were able to spend Dave's last days with him and Ruth, an honour. And this year is still a 30th, not of marriage but of life in East Africa (we moved to Uganda 30 years ago in October). 

The juxtaposition of the meeting and the hike hits the beauty of a break from two directions. First, in the meeting we were with 17 Serge leaders, some of whom we've worked with those entire 30 years. And we had been tasked to gather data from all 11 teams/6 countries in our Area, which led to deep reflection on God's mercy and grace. We spent hours praying together, and reading Scripture, and sharing meals and stories. And hours generating strategies to bring our teams into the years ahead. I read today that a "sacred space" is like a circle, everything relates to a center and exists in the now, with distractions falling away . . which is true of these meetings. So while a week of required leadership work is not exactly rest, the focus on what matters with people we love, getting away from normal life, did make it a bit like a festival.

But the ten days following were the other side of true rest: we were outdoors, largely in wild high regions, unplugged and fairly solitary, climbing and walking and praying and meditating and occasionally talking, gasping for breath and watching for footing and awed by the views. We circled Mont Blanc, daily ascending and descending the roots of the mountain, ending in quaint towns with inns each evening and scaling precipitous ridges or strolling through meadows each day. The trail was more challenging than I had imagined as a person with brain injury impact, though I'm thankful for Scott's patience and my sturdy hiking poles. We were pushed to the limits (mine at least) physically and gifted with peaceful quiet and stunning views of glaciers and forests and rivers. It is a rare time in life to disengage for ten days and walk with God. And doing that on a mountain made the journey reflect life. Not easy, right on the edge of possible, but good to encounter both the dangers and the beauties together.

Last night we pulled back into the home where we have lived longer than any other, welcomed by our team and our dog Lindi. Ahead we have hard decisions and paucities of wisdom and energy and clamours of need and clouds of obscurity. But behind us we have the solid memory of a leadership team of real friends, and an Alpen route of true wonder. And a re-set spirit to remember that God is with us.