Bang! Bang! Were we the only people in the guesthouse? Did no one else hear the sound? Bang! Bang! A wind from the ocean, only 20 km east from here, started blowing during the early hours of the morning and, as all windows are left open here, doors were being blown open and shut. Bang! Bang! I heard the voice of Lynn Bouterese of SAMS saying, “Earplugs, Johann! You need to use earplugs!”
Bang! Bang! Finally, I decided to get up to close the offending door. But the power had gone off sometime during the night as well, and it was so dark I could not see my hand in front of my face. Walking with my arms outstretched, I found our door, walked out into the courtyard, and towards the banging door. But first things first…I needed to do what men my age often have to do during the night…but the bathroom was pitch dark as well. I had to make sure I located the correct receptacle. Bang! Bang! Blast that door. Having succeeded in my quest, I slowly found my way to the source of the sound and closed the door. But oh, stuff and fluff! It had no clip and would not stay closed. The only other option was to open it all the way to the wall and hope that the wind would keep it there.
After having relocated our bed, I tried in vain to go back to sleep. After Louise and I had tossed and turned for what seemed like an eternity, she finally got up to make coffee…they had used Cassava branches to make the fire, so the water had a distinct sweet fire flavour. Hmm…Cassava flavoured coffee…
The cooks arrived as I was making our second cups at 5 AM. “No power?” she said in Portuguese. “No…no power,” I replied in sign language. Obviously she knew where the problem lay as it came on soon after. Our hot water for bathing arrived in a kettle…hmm, Cassava…now we smell like our coffee.
Morning Prayer was at 7 AM…and, praise God, one clever soul decided that we need to go directly to the conference room rather than wait for breakfast to arrive. Moving along.
The teaching was difficult today. This is an unusually large group. 45 participants plus spouses and visitors…some come, some go. People seemed to be tired and often nodded off. We had to take a lot more breaks than usual and we did stretching exercises and sang songs in an attempt to energise folks. Also, there seemed to be a tendency to go off on rabbit trails…this is quite normal when there are priests in the room (J), but unfortunately, in this case, it appeared to reveal a lack of unity and some dissatisfaction within the group itself. Some political questions came up as well…we tried to dodge them as tactfully as possible, bringing people back to the manual before them.
I also experienced a first today. One of my translators was checking his emails while he was translating and answering questions! Talk about multi-tasking…and he is not even a woman!
It started raining just before lunch…lunch that was not on time again. Have I said that this training has been very different and difficult? Not just because of the logistics and the inability to plan ahead. Not just because of the need for translation. Not just because we have English manuals and they have Portuguese manuals. Not just because this is actually a family getaway weekend for clergy families. But everything seemed to be in slow motion. At one point, during my teaching, I sensed that there was some spiritual disturbance going on. I looked over to Louise to ask her to pray and do spiritual warfare. She did and the air cleared. Strange…but real here.
The rain was wreaking havoc with the electricity throughout the day. On, off…on, off. And then, when lunch arrived we experienced something of a missionary nightmare. The dish is obviously a local delicacy, but not something westerners would normally find palatable. An acquired taste and smell, to be sure…like the Filipino fruit, Durian..or like Livarot cheese. It appeared to be the stomach of a goat…and you know what they say…if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…sigh, and we were doing so well.
The rain brought cooler weather to Maciene. For us, this was welcome, but for the locals this was catastrophic. Everyone went searching for woollen scarves and caps and jackets and sweaters. Windows and doors were closed…which created a bit of a problem with the goat, but that’s another story.
Then Bishop Carlos arrived together with Bishop Allen from Pretoria who was accompanied by two Archdeacons and a non-stipendiary priest…at this point the wheels came off the training bus. They addressed the group for about two hours. Then we had Evening Prayer and two choirs. Needless to say, no one was looking forward to another whole session of training…so we improvised as best we could and shortened it. I took the life of Peter and condensed it into a story, which, for some or other reason became a comedy. But through the laughter the penny dropped and I once again heard the Lord say, “You see? Leave it to Me and I will see that my children understand the message. I am still the One Who makes Fishers of people out of the most unlikely people in the most unlikely situations.”
So, yes…ultimately this was a very good experience…in spite of the many hiccups along the way, the overall message was comprehended. Bishop Carlos reminded us and everyone else that this was just the beginning…many people said they could not wait for us to return. Hopefully, next time, the groups will be smaller.
I gave my old clergy shirts to Padre Campira, our Growing the Church coordinator, and for one panicky moment I thought the man was going to kiss me. He told us that he only has one shirt…a shirt that was given to him when he was ordained many years ago. These priests and deacons have sacrificed so much to be labourers in God’s Vineyard. This was a humbling moment for us to be sure.
Their family time continues but our time has come to an end. Tomorrow we leave for South Africa…