The last month was full, brimming over with goodness and friends and divine surprises. I was in South Africa for our annual gathering of friends. Over 200 friends from across southern and eastern Africa, plus some westerners for good measure. It was a reunion that embraced new friends as well as old in an on-going conversation about God's work in African communities.
Conversation was rich, connections were rich, communion & celebration were fitting for us.
Coming together like this never gets old!
Right away we flew from Jo'burg to Bujumbura, 7 friends carrying joy from one gathering into the next. We arrived to Burundi in the dark, early hours of the morning. The city streets were empty and the electricity in the house was off... our friends would have to wait till morning to see where they had arrived. But in the morning light they could see the goodness of Burundi - with sweet sun and light breezes that were so refreshing after the rainy winter days of South Africa. We'd rest by the shore of Lake Tanganyika enjoying pizza, wireless internet access and that glorious view of the lake and the Burundian foothills.
But just a day later we were in high gear as we readied to welcome 30 friends traveling from Texas to meet the Batwa of Burundi. Bringing these two diverse communities together was a year in the making, or planning or praying. God wildly surpassed our best plans, expectations and hopes for this gathering of friends! Connections between these two communities seemed effortless, natural and God-ordained. Greetings were enthusiastic and warm from the first smile, from the initial hand shake. There was music - the sounds of hands clasping together, harmonies of laughter, lyrics being learned in Kirundi and English... new songs of friendship being composed right before our eyes! Then we danced together on the beach - and found one another with joyful abandon. I promise you this is no exaggeration, something happened that first day together. The Spirit drenched us. Maybe it was a taste of Pentecost on the edge of Lake Tanganyika... where language and culture did not hinder our ability to express love and share in joy together. I will never forget that God-drenched day. Ever.
The days that followed kept my eyes moist with tears. The goodness keep unfolding between my American and Batwa friends. Each community was laden with blessings, the friendship was yielding a bounty of blessings that could scarcely be contained. We played volleyball together on the beach and swam in the lake, we worked together clearing fields and weather-proofing homes, we shared meals, sang by the fire, exchanged gifts and blessings and laughter. At one point I wondered, fleetingly, when the bubble would burst. Too much goodness was... too much. At some point something had to give... But God's goodness does not run dry or evaporate like burst bubbles. His goodness grows, expands, deepens... and this was a foretaste of His lavish goodness to all of us. As our friend Tracy sings, 'So much beautiful.' It was just so much beautiful.
I will write more... but this is a start.