Unpacking: A Suitcase, A Worship Experience

My suitcase is unpacked, clothes folded and returned to my dresser drawer, passport carefully tucked away … but I am still unpacking our time leading a conference with over 350 Wagogo pastor spouses several weeks ago on the campus of Msalato Theological College. I am still unpacking the beauty of their faces, the rhythm of their dances, the singing prayers that began spontaneously after Bishop Jane challenged us with her belief that we are all bleeding and at these times shunned unmercifully by others. At the end of Jane’s personal story, there was utter silence.

And then the tents filled with everyone praying in song and then following each other outside in the courtyard to dance. I leaned over to Teacher Phanuel. Desperate to know what was happening to this unscripted moment in our conference presentation. My long time friend, the translator, Teacher Phanuel. Phanuel paused and then turned to me and said, “ They are singing for healing and seeking God’s grace.” I am still unpacking the vision of women that came to the conference with their babies wrapped around them. I am still unpacking the way the Bible Study challenge to teach about the encounter of Mary and the Angel changed the way I envision the annunciation. I am still unpacking the vision of Mama Bishop’s in her stunning rose-colored dress, leaving her chair near me and entering into the throng of dancing village women. In this month that celebrates women, Pendo is a Queen! These pastor spouses that traveled from nearby villages and some from over 100 kilometers on a “dalla dalla “ bus came to pray, to hear biblical stories, and share their own stories with their Mama Bishop, Pendo Chilongani. Her beauty, her infectious smile, her joy that radiated to us all, gave me and indeed surely the Wagogo hope that God is good. Perhaps I will always be unpacking the many gifts of this conference. I came with my teacher lesson plan, scripted with minute by minute detail. That lesson plan, of course, was quickly tossed away! It was replaced by Wagogo song and dance and prayer for tin roofs, school uniforms, and water wells. It did not matter that I could not understand the native spoken language; their faces told their stories. This conference was the first time many of them had ever met each other, though their spouses had studied together at Msalato Theological College. How can I unpack this gift of witnessing such loving embraces when one encounters a friend from afar? Perhaps I will always be unpacking the unimagined gifts from this conference, that answered my own prayer for reuniting with old friends I knew from years of teaching at Msalato and in the new friendships made therein that answered for me a truth about prayer; There are no geographical boundaries to prayer. There are no geographical boundaries to where God gives us Grace to prayer reverently for healing love. There are no geographical boundaries to where one can find women, who, in seeking God in prayer, make a difference in their world.

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