Today was a big day in lots of different ways. We are busy preparing for the new team coming - all 28 of them! The rooms are the back are nearly ready, the house is just about set (still trying to fix things that were not completely right or finished) and menu is being planned. So, in between events there were things to do. However the focus of this has to be on the two events.
First there was the Thanksgiving Service/Party at Hope Community. I had been told not to arrive until 11.00 and a bit before that time I received a call to suggest that 1.00 would be a better time to arrive. Thank you headmaster - it was time well used. Then, we arrived - the guest of honour and 'the Mr' (as compared to Pastor Ron and 'the wife') were duly announced.
It is an amazing experience to be the guest of honour, one that I definitely choose to shy away from. However, it was a wonderful time. It truly was a thanksgiving time as the event was also about the Scripture Union club at the school. I really do love these people so much. I feel so much at home.
The students performed a number of wonderful dances that had obviously taken time to prepare and were done extremely well. An event like this has a totally different nature to anything that I have experienced in Australia. There is a certain relaxed feel with a strong element of formality included. There is a definite agenda. However, performances are somehow not formal. That is not to say, they are slack, because they definitely are not. I think it is much more about the relaxed nature of the performers. They are not performing as if their lives depended on it but are performing well. There is no falseness in it, what you see is what you get. It is not about meeting a particular standard, but about dancing well. I hope I have captured the essence of it in these statements. A Senior One student spoke. She used no notes and spoke really well, it actually brought tears to my eyes. There were so many that thanked me, thanked Ron and me, and more. I think the nicest thing was that there is an understanding by some that it is our faith that has brought us, it is the outworking of our faith that means we do things and that the honour is to God not to us. It is also hard to be in the position of receiving thanks for gifts that others have given. It was recognised that this was the case but definitely considered to be a result of us. The best thing I think is that the school is developing, it is meeting a need in the community and it is seeking to show students more about God and His ways. One of the things that was also significant was the real sense of what a friendship Ron and I have with Rachel and Robert. It is one that will continue here and in Australia. It is one of mutual respect. It is a friendship with so many different aspects and common bases. I think the best thing is that we share the same faith which has drawn us to a common cause of helping others. This event will always be held close in my heart and mind. I am thankful for being able to teach at the school and I will never be the same because of it. It was lovely to hear the different things about me that have made a difference in the school. Enough, the talks and entertainment were followed by lovely African meal. Rice, meat in soup and chicken, truly delicious. I am wondering if my tastebuds have changed - a calzone last night was too rich and I loved the African meal!
Back home, bit more work and preparing for the next event. This was Ron's idea and a good one. We have had some very faithful workers build this house and we wanted to have a celebration of their work and honour them. Ron thought a bbq was a good idea but unfortunately we have had real trouble in finding a gas cylinder we can buy. We can exchange but not buy - hard to exchange something you do not have in the first place! Strange phenomena but this is Africa after all. Anyway, the workers love pork so lined up Robert to get some pork for us, made sure we had a good supply of sodas and some sausages. Throw in some coleslaw, grilled tomatoes, cooked chips, fried onion and you have almost a bbq. With the new deck complete we were able to meet up there. In total there were 14 of us (though Rachel had to go with a sick child) and shared a lovely time. It was so nice to be able to be there, on top of one of the buildings and share a meal. These guys, and Lucy, have truly become our friends. We see them almost every day. I can be peeved that there are nearly always workers in the house but when they are working at the village I somehow seem to miss them. Not only did we have main course, we also shared a wonderful cake Lucy had made and some icecream. The power remained on most of the day so the ice cream stayed frozen. This was so nice - a rare treat for us and probably much rarer for the workers. I know one in particular does love ice cream. Again, the most significant thing was the talking. One spoke of how he will always remember. Another spoke of Hopebuilders and the opportunity. These guys truly are part of the Hopebuilders team - they are working to break the cycle of poverty in their families and also to build things for their country and people. Robert Kafeero did a great job of talking (as usual) but in doing so shared the gospel, using our lives as an example of it being worked out. Our prayer has always been that people would know Jesus through our lives and our love. I think these guys do know that the reason for us being who we are is Jesus. It is hard to describe how special it was, it was simple, there was not a lot of fuss but the guys really appreciated it and a number said how they would never forget it. It will be so hard to say goodbye to these people. We will be back and we will be faithful in praying for them but it will be so different not to be here. Communication from here back to Australia is not the same for them as it is for us. Fortunately, we know God is in control both sides of the water and that this year has been planned and guided by Him and so is the future.