After the presentations we heard (on that first day when we visited our (UUMC’s) working group, Samaritan Liliaba), the orphans all took us back to where their harvested produce was laid out and we helped sort potatoes into two categories: those large enough to eat, and those too small, but perfectly good for planting. (These potatoes, by the way, looked pretty good, kind of like Yukon Gold: yellow and thin-skinned.) There was no sorting for the beans. I wish I could have brought some home to cook and share, but, you know: U.S. Customs is SO picky about bringing in agricultural products. (And I’m glad they are. One kudzu species is enough, thank you very much.) The sorting was quickly done (there were about 30 pairs of hands doing the work), and I’m sure it was more or less ceremonial, but I think it was important that we get our hands dirty.
Erika had brought some videos she recorded of our VBS kids singing and of the Cotton Patch Gospel, which she showed to our working group (in shifts). While she did that, I handed out the postcards we had made for the group. (In retrospect, I wish we had not done those things in parallel. It maximized efficiency but it was kind of low-ceremony, and I think a little more ceremonious presentation would have been good. Oh well, lesson learned. The perfect is the enemy of the good.)
One of them moved down the rows of us, holding a bottle of drinking water to be poured in a small stream over our hands as we washed them. It’s a very natural way to get your hands washed, since you can’t hold the bottle while you rinse your hands, but it made me think of foot-washing, and I felt special. (I felt the same way the other time it happened, too, with the third-year group we visited.) Lunch consisted of white bread (breaking bread together, if you count “separating the slices” as “breaking bread”), bananas and soda. I think I’ve mentioned the Stoney soda before. That stuff is EXCELLENT for car sickness. Word to the wise.
Early in our visit, which was in a field slightly above and maybe 60 yards from their church, I had expressed interest in seeing the inside of the church. After lunch, we did just that. I really felt that was special. We all walked in and everybody took a seat while I took a type of picture called a “photo sphere”, which is essentially a 360-degree panorama, including up and down, which places the viewer in the center of the sanctuary. That took a few minutes, during which was there was silence. It was a bit worshipful, except for me looking foolish taking four pictures of the ceiling and four of the floor (along with all the other pictures I took). Then, they asked one of us to pray for them. Since Erika had blessed lunch, it fell to me.
I’m kind of the Ernest Hemingway of prayer, I think. “The sun was hot. The old man rowed the boat.” “Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us here. Please bless these children.” It wasn’t quite that curt, but here’s the point: a lot of people are shy about praying out loud, in “public” (if you consider church “public”), including me. But: God is there. He sees your heart and your thoughts, in addition to hearing your words. There is no such thing as a prayer that is bad simply because it is clumsy. Those of us who take a trip like this in the future: be brave.
After we visited the church, we all danced together outside the church while they sang (I just love that African call-and-response thing). The steps aren’t hard to learn and the go-forward, go-back, go-left, go-right parts were accomplished with nudges by the program facilitator (Dennis Kimadhi) on my right.
After that, it was time to depart. They gave us a final present of a bunch of bananas and danced us back up to the place where we had parked the pickup truck. We have pictures and videos of that, too. It was just wonderful, and I know they did not want to see us go. We would go forward for a bit, and then backwards. Then forward a bit more, than backwards, again. It was wonderful. I think the program facilitators (I sometimes call them social workers; they’re the ones who are each contacts for 1,000 children) finally had to scold them a bit to let us go.
It was a wonderful visit, and I whole-heartedly encourage somebody to do it next year.