Surreal moment for today: Sitting in our hotel bar in 90 degree weather after everyone has gone to bed, writing this while a country western song plays: "God is good, all the time." For sure.
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Holy cow, what a day.
Finally on time for breakfast—yesterday they sent someone upstairs to make sure I was awake. “Why would I get up earlier than I have to when there are no children?” was my bleary reply (I was, let me be clear, in plenty of time to be ready to get the bus for the day; I just wasn’t there when everyone else was planning to eat. Which may have been antisocial. mea culpa. Let’s just say that that extra thirty minutes went a long way for getting over my jet lag).
So, breakfast. Plain omelet on toast with watermelon and tea.
Then onto the bus for a visit at the Holy Cross Magila parish and school. We talked for a long time with Joel, who is the priest there (he spent 9 years previously at St Alban’s, where we were yesterday). We had the “standard” (which is mind blowing, and not standard at all) parish welcome with music, gifts, and introductions. We talked for a long time with Joel and his ambitions to start a monastery, which is apparently pretty hard. Bishop Tom, Bishop Mark (Hollingsworth, of Ohio), and I each got to bless something—Tom and Mark even got to cut a big ribbon—the playground and the sewing workshop. I got to bless a classroom—oh, heart meltlingly sweet.
Then we went on to CANDY—I said before I’d do some more theology on this, and frankly it’s 10:30pm and this probably isn’t the time. I will say, though, that today is St Nicholas day and even Joel had candy to give out to the kids, and they were very, very pleased. Then a long conversation with Edward, who is currently getting his master’s degree. His family came as well and we talked about the previous bishop and how hard it had been on everyone. I found yesterday at the diocesan meetings and today something very moving about the way people talk about the fraud and chaos when he was here; people are so honest and open. And it doesn’t just seem like please-the-donor-posturing. A lot of people were really hurt—Edward, in particular, in heping to bring some of it to light—and it’s both heart breaking and hopeful to see how new things are being done.
We also heard from two boys who are in high school and studying, eventually, for ordination. One of them said in his introduction that he so appreciated meeting me and that he had never seen a female priest and that it was a very good thing. I forget that this is a really big deal. I forget that it’s a big deal that I forget that it’s a big deal.
Later in the day a smaller group of us went to a leper community, which was tragic and not very hopeful. It started with folks who are now in their eighties being exiled out of town to the “leper colony.” These are people with all the classic leprosy symptoms—noses and ears deformed, fingers and toes having fallen off. Then those folks had children—so far so good—but then their children still live there. And there are babies. And they are out in the middle of nowhere—a 45 minute walk just to the road—with no electricity and nothing to do. There have been a number of recently funded developments--they have chickens, now, as well as a few cows and goats. There is a new rainwater collection system and a dam, which when the rainy season comes they can use to provide water to the local community and also earn some money. Unfortunately due to climate change the rainy season didn’t quite come this year, and so hopefully—hopefully—in March the “big rains” will actually fill it. Funds are being sent for two of the older girls to study sewing to try to give the a skill so they can get out, but it is so bleak. As we were leaving, the candy came out, and after giving it to all the kids the old people started putting their hands out. I threw one to a woman with no fingers. She caught it.