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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Africa there is always room for one more

Something we notice very early on in our trip is that there is ALWAYS room for one more.  In Malawi there is always time for someone, there is always room for someone.  Mini-buses are actually like Volkswagen Vans, used as public transportation.  Designed to seat 7 or 8 comfortably, these vans are often packed with 12 or 15 people, their suitcases, brooms, firewood, chickens, etc....And they will gladly stop to pick up one more person.  We have not ventured into a mini-bus.  I wonder if Steve would even fit.  But you get the idea, there is always room for one more. 

We drive around in our van, all comfortably buckled in with ample wiggle room, even if the kids don't think so.  We've been asked for rides by police officers, nannies at the crisis nursery, and complete strangers.  We are pretty stingy with our "rides".  When the nannies ask for a ride we are happy to help out, but only as our space allows.  I am beginning to feel torn between safety and the idea "there is always room for one more." 

Yesterday as we left the nursery a nanny hollered from the window for a ride.  I said sure, not knowing where she was going or who was coming with her.  I had all the kids in the back seat double buckled so we would have plenty of room for "one more."  Steve told her we only had room for one.  So there she and Jen sat, just the two of them in the middle row.  Room for at least one more, but in Africa probably two or three.

Sunday worship in the camp is another example of "room for one more."  Benches and chairs are crammed together with just enough room to walk pass, but not really to have sit without your knees in someone else's back.  This week at St. Stephen's Catholic Church we were allowed to sit in the benches in the back.  This was a rare treat, and most appreciated.  All the other weeks we have been ushered right to the front, where everyone can watch us.

We sat down a couple of minutes before the service began.  Steve, Charlie and I in one bench; Jen, Casey and Jessie in the next; and Jack by himself in the next.  Every time there was break in the "action" more people would spill into the church from every door.  They would carefully look for any sliver of wood on a bench and then claim it as their seat.  By the end of the service Jessie was on my lap, Jen and Casey were sharing their bench with a mother and her two children, and Jack was swished between 3 ladies.  (These benches are maybe 4 feet long, and between 4 and 6 inches wide.)

I think we enjoyed this service more than the others for a couple of reasons.  The kids liked it because it wasn't as loud, and it was only 2 1/2 hours long instead of 4 hours.  I liked it because the people worshiped in pure joy.  Their faces shined with joy.  They danced and sang unto the Lord, not in a showy way like we have seen at other churches.  These brothers and sisters were worshiping the Lord.

Jen has been working with the youth pastor at St. Stephen's helping him with a letter exchange program.  The school aged children of the church work together to write letters in English, and send them to a school in the UK.  Sunday following the service we met with some of the students for a letter exchange activity.  We played Simon Says to practice simple English commands.  They also played their favorite game, Sword Drills. Three teams were formed, a passage was given, and a member from each team raced to see who could find it first and read it in English.  Our kids participated, and were even eager to help.  They have been shy and reluctant in past activities like this.  It was great to see them interacting with kids more comfortably.

Anyways....I am hoping when we return home we will take with us the idea that there is always time for conversation, and there is always room for one more.

Casey leading a round of Simon Says

       Jack, Casey and Charlie with Francis, the youth minister at St. Stephen's Catholic Church

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