"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
It's official. I'm heading back to Africa next month. At least it's official in that I've bought the plane tickets. This time it's a two part trip.
The first part is the TEAM (Toward Effective Anglican Mission) conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. TEAM was put together by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican primate of Southern Africa and Desmond Tutu's successor as Archbishop of Cape Town. (I had a chance to spend some time with him several years back when he spent a few days in St. Louis talking about the MDGs ... and even preaching at a Wednesday night at Rockwell House). It's a gathering of people from all over the Anglican Communion to focus on the Millennium Development Goals and specifically on how the Church is addressing the AIDS pandemic.
For me, it's an incredible opportunity to network and listen. Even as I learn more and more about what is happening in the American Episcopal Church to eradicate global poverty, I know so little about what movements are happening elsewhere in the communion. Unfortunately, the press about the Anglican Communion is almost always about certain leaders screaming about sexuality (though read an article here that finally exposes the house of cards I believe this truly is) and we hear precious little about how people are living out their faith in ways that are literally saving lives.
Whenever I have had chances to be around people from around the Communion (for example at General Convention when we got to spend time with Bishop Ochola from Kitgum in N. Uganda), it's been an incredibly moving experience and I have come away just in awe of how huge and deep and wonderful God's creation is. As much as we hear about the terrible things happening all over the world -- and they are terrible -- there is such deep beauty. I've never been in a place where there are literally people from all over the world gathered for one purpose (the Ikea at Potomac Mills probably doesn't count) and to say I'm excited would be a definite understatement.
As much as I feel a sense of awe about the TEAM conference, it is far greater with going to Rwanda. There was something I felt powerfully in Sudan -- that in places ... physical places ... where people had undergone great suffering, there was a hallowing effect. Lincoln spoke of it at Gettysburg and we know it from those places in our own lives. Places become sacred by what we and others go through there.
But what's even more amazing than simply surviving is that the stories I hear coming out of Rwanda are those of thriving. That Rwanda is becoming one of the great success stories of sub-Saharan Africa. That out of this devastation -- and in many ways because they have been through this devastation and are committed to never going back there again -- there is springing new life.
I'm drawn to Rwanda because from my safe vantage point here in America, it seems a nation of crucifixion and resurrection -- not just the linear chronology of genocide and reconstruction but lived as crucifixion and resurrection happen in our lives ... over and over again, overlapping each other, feeding into and off of each other.
Jesus promises us that we will find him in the poor, in the destitute, in the hopeless -- but he will also be the form of abundance of life, a fullness of joy, and hope. When it comes down to it, I'm going to Rwanda not to see the great work being done on the Millennium Development Goals. Not to see what the Anglican Communion is up to. Not even to spend time with my friend. I'm going as part of my ongoing search to meet Christ.
And if I can let that encounter change me. And if I can bring back here even a bit of the sense of that presence ... a sense of the gift God is giving us when we are drawn closer in relationship with each other ... then, well, that's why I think God has made this movement and EGR and all this happen.
| Mike at 2/02/2007 06:14:00 AM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."