Saturday, March 17, 2012

In the Beginning

Monday, February 27, 2012
Day One

Our journey began under a clear, sunny sky, on a crisp, cool opposed to the snow, sleet, or wind we might have expected in February. It was perfect weather for flying and perfect weather to gather 34 men and women for a team photo-op and prayer circle before loading 68 fifty-pound bags plus carry-ons (we were carrying tools, camping gear, and several thousands of dollars worth of medications and medical supplies) into a van, pick-up, and school bus for the first challenge of our trip: getting to the airport on time.

Of course, The Delta desk was neither expecting nor prepared to handle a motley crew this size so all hands were pressed into service at check-in. Despite the chaos, we were soon on our way...each of us with our own set of expectations, hopes, dreams, and intentions. Each of us with our own set of misgivings, constraints, and concerns--some we would carry with us, some we hoped to leave behind.

Among us were mothers leaving their husbands and children behind, husbands leaving wives and children behind...and a few who were slightly miffed because their spouses were coming along ;) . Among us were nurses, physical therapists, engineers, builders, musicians, a couple of pastors, as well as a couple of cancer survivors--all of them strangers to me except for one. It was a former patient of mine who suggested that, because I am now retired--implying that I have nothing better to do these days (just kidding Diane--you know I love you!)--perhaps I would be willing to join the medical team, to serve as the-buck-stops-here physician for the group. She suggested I think about it before making the commitment. That I pray about it. But because her invitation was the answer to a prayer, I didn't have to think about it at all. The answer was a simple, "Yes!"...meaning, "Hurray! Yippee! OMG! I can't believe this! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

By all appearances, there was nothing exceptional about the group that distinguished us from all the other travellers who were on-board that day. No halos, no shimmering auras, and thankfully, no "team shirts". If anyone in our group expected special attention, or held him/herself in high-esteem because of his/her particular expertise, or some extraordinary sense of self-sacrifice or self-giving, it didn't show. If anyone felt entitled or chosen or singularly favored, it didn't show. We went with grateful and humble hearts. We went expecting to work and work, we did.

We simply counted ourselves as lucky--blessed, actually--to have had the opportunity to make this trip. And, trust me, this group dedicated its efforts without exception,  to "the praise and glory of God the Father." Amen. Because Christian Life Assembly is an evangelizing, charismatic church.

Prayer is passionate, spontaneous, shared, and bold. It can be loud and excited and oh-so-emotional. This kind of worship was unfamiliar to me so initially I felt uncomfortable with it, self-conscious about it. I'm not used to seeing people in large groups, men in particular, pray with such passion.

No, my spirit tends toward silence and solitude. It is most comfortable alone, on the banks of stream, along a path through the woods, or beneath the night sky. I am Catholic and I love my faith's traditions--the altar, the robes, the rites, the dignity, the sacred music, and above all, the Holy Eucharist. But I respect everyone's right to worship as they see fit...

...which is why I chose to title this blog, "Cherished Illusions." I started the trip as something of a misfit and skeptic, confronting my feelings about my own faith and the church I was working with...examining my motivations and intentions for this trip...considering the overall issue of aid to Africa and whether it is ever helpful...wondering if we would actually accomplish anything of lasting value in our two short weeks. All of this while trying to make the most of the experience!

On the seven hour flight to our stop-over in Amsterdam, three members of the team felt ill so I was pressed into service making "cabin rounds" (nothing serious). I managed about 30 minutes of restless sleep overnight. We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:30 AM (midnight, our time) after descending into a cold, dreary drizzle, through clouds so thick that we hit the runway the moment we first sighted it.

So far, so good. The next flight, nine more hours in the air, would land us in Arusha, Tanzania...and from there it was on to the village of Lobosoit.

"Seek worthy companions...
Never fail daily to seek for help through prayer.
  And I promise you that the way will be easier
and you shall have a composure of mind
and a confident attitude toward life and the future.
You shall be warned of dangers
and shall be guided through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit."
--Boyd K. Packer--
In my next post, we'll travel from Arusha to our "tent camp" in the bush outside Lobosoit.

Be still--


1 comment:

  1. You have such an elegant way of writing. Hope you are planning a new novel with these experiences