Sunday the 19th
You know you are a Westerner when the main thing keeping you up at night is connectivity issues. Our Lord taught us to pray for our enemies, and last night my enemy was AT & T. All kinds of little tabs and options for cell coverage in my little iPhone– absolutely none of them works. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Dr. Mark has Verizon and faces the same problem, but bears it with a serene equanimity that is beyond me. And Jay? Jay is connected to everything.
Thanks to T-Mobile, Jay is getting e-mail from the moon. He got updates from his carrier in mid-air letting him know what country he was crossing into as he flew! He is surfing the web smoothly and efficiently, posting media to Facebook, graciously lending me his phone (they only charge him 20 cents a minute???) when I have to make a call. I have always loved and respected the considerable intellectual and spiritual gifts of my canon for formation: the way he connects recovery to a Biblical worldview, his affable good humor, his grasp of history and culture here. But I am now beginning to think he has a sixth sense about just getting through life. Jay’s flights were all on time. In a Kampala restaurant, Jay knows the absolutely best thing on the menu at the absolutely best price. From now on I am just going to do what he does: T-Mobile. Brussels Air. Fajitas (beef, not chicken– the chicken will kill you).
So, I have Jay on one hand, and on the other Dr. Mark Guy. Mark is obviously a first-rate physician, but he is also gentle, wise, able to communicate cross-culturally, and compassionate. Most important, he is a deeply formed Christian, and conveys scientific information in the context of God’s hope for His people and His Church, something that the Christian leaders here deeply appreciate. Yes, he has Africa experience from previous years in Sierra Leone, but the way he has been able to settle in among the clergy and people of Teso, gaining their confidence in such a short time, is really remarkable.
So I have a seer on one hand and a healer on the other. I am surrounded by a vibrant and hopeful Church. In Pittsburgh, I serve a wonderful Diocese with deep personal knowledge of the Cross, supported by excellent staff. I chair an NGO that is attracting international attention for our work in malaria, education, and food security, all carried out by some of the most talented and faithful people I have ever known.
And I am angry about my stupid phone. Exactly like Jonah angry over the vine that stops shading him.
I need to go to church this morning.
I am picked up at 6:45 a.m. to preach at the 7 am service at Saint Peter’s Cathedral. When I get there, the place is packed, about two thousand souls. I slip through the side entrance to the chancel and am greeted by old friends,while the youth choir sings traditional Ateso hymns. I think all Ugandans can sing, but the Iteso are sort of like the Welsh- they love choral singing with rich harmonies, and when you are in the middle of two thousand people doing that in the power of prayer, it lifts you into a different place. I get on my knees and pray that God will enlighten my heart with His Word, and fill my mind to preach faithfully. I am suddenly aware of the fact that everyone here has bigger concerns than their phones: they carry the burdens of poverty, sick children, unemployment, alcohol abuse in their families, disputes with relatives over marriages or land. There is no room for first-world dilemmas in this place.
What I need to preach has become pretty clear.