Saturday, May 31, 2008

Acts of Faith

Over the past many, many days, I have been reading Philip Caputo's Acts of Faith. (I'm a very slow reader.) Every few pages, there will be a paragraph or a phrase that takes me back to the fortnight I spent in southern Sudan on a diocesan mission trip about two years ago.

I am now chair of our diocese's Companion Diocese Committee, and one of our current tasks is planning the next mission trip into Sudan. I've not laid claim to one of the "slots" on that trip – saying that others have more important missions and ministries to fulfill on this trip. I've put myself at the back of the bus, willing to let others onto the trip; if empty spaces are available, I would go back in a heartbeat.

But over the past two weeks, as I see small airplanes landing and taking off from the municipal airport near my office, I seem to feel a tug. I remember the terrible fear I felt as I flew from Nairobi into a dirt airstrip in southern Sudan, and the immense gratitude I felt on the journey home, having been so touched and humbled and inspired by the Episcopalians in southern Sudan.

For several hours now, I've been catching up on Tandaina's blog. (Why the heck did her delightful blog fall off my daily reading??!!??) When I read this one, I was reminded of what I experienced in Sudan. The struggling Christians who live there, without electricity or running water or reliable crops … they don't seem to live with a sense of scarcity. They greet one another with a call-and-response; one says "God is good!" and the other responds "... all the time!" My time with them grounded me, changed me in important ways.

I took this photo during one of our visits to a Sudanese parish, where the people engaged in a hand-washing ceremony before our meal. Maundy Thursday has never been the same for me since.

I wrote this prayer, this plea, in my journal as we flew from Sudan to Loki: Please God, please, strengthen me to sustain this attitude, this perspective when I get home. The Moru have taught me: It’s all about servanthood. Jesus taught that, too. But it seems I only “got it” by going halfway around the world and meeting desperately poor people who would wash my hands with water when they are dying of thirst, would give me food when they’re dying of hunger, who would attend to our needs as if we were Christ himself.

We Americans do seem to operate from a "theology of scarcity," as if there's not enough and we must hoard all we can. The southern Sudanese – though surviving on a pittance – seem to operate on a "theology of abundance." They shared what little they had. I envy that faith.

And I wonder what "call" the Spirit is whispering in my ear.

I fear this isn't very articulate. Maybe it's only a half-formed blog-post. I'll look at it again tomorrow.

+ + +
Edit (thanks to Ann): I usually do know the difference between "hoard" and "horde." I've fixed it now. It was late, and I was tired.
And an addendum: Part of what motivated me to write about this last night was that I'm now frequently having dreams again about being back in Sudan. I had a great many of them when I first came home from there in 2006. They seem to be returning now. And I wake, wishing I were there again, and wishing I could do more ministry this time -- rather than (as last time) being mostly ministered to.


Blogger FranIAm said...

Not very articulate?

Oh no Lisa... very articulate. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

6/01/2008 8:19 AM  
Blogger Tandaina- said...

Well said.

6/01/2008 1:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Franiam, my comment stems from that fact that I just never feel able adequately to convey what I experienced on that trip.

Tandaina, considering the caliber of your writing, I'll take that as high praise.

6/01/2008 4:06 PM  
Blogger FranIAm said...

I just read these words and felt compelled to come share them in response to this post:

[W]e see that our poverty is as absolute as that of the poorest of nations. We have attempted to deny the human condition in our quest for power after power. It would be well for us to rejoin the human race, to accept our essential poverty as a gift, and share our material wealth with those in need.
- Robert N. Bellah, et al
Habits of the Heart

As to the genesis of your words - that I can understand. I can't imagine what that trip was like and what it would mean to put any of it into words.

Peace my sister.

6/01/2008 5:17 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

we do operate out of a sense of scarcity here in the states, despite our wealth. Also fear rather than hope... and of course, politicians use that to good advantage.

6/01/2008 10:22 PM  

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