Sunday, October 9, 2011

oh wow. did that just happen?

Wow oh wow oh wow oh wow.
Where do I start?  Well, maybe by saying that I do not want to not post about the 2nd and 3rd days of hiking mt mulanje.  They may not be as fresh in my head when I write about them, but, I am about to explode with the past couple days.
Last night, I came home, and I could not stop smiling.  In the morning, I had said it outloud: this week, I have hiked a mountain, helped deliver close to 10 babies, done school work (which also included some not-so-great news about the ethics approval from University of Malawi about my project… but, at least it is something which provides at least some direction.) and have gotten to meet the archbishop of Canterbury.
What the!??!? 

How is this life so remarkable?  How is it that I get to be a person who experiences this?  How is it that I can be so blessed?  How is it that my heart feels like it is going to explode, because of how much joy I am experiencing these days?
I have been so so SO amazed with how each week just keeps on being more and more amazing.  And, I know, that this week will be amazing as well.  Because, my beloved will be landing in Malawi on Wednesday at noon.  And, for the next 10 days, we get to explore. Discover. Learn.  See. Listen. Smell. Taste. Malawi. Together.  What joy.
October is the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the Anglican mission to Malawi.  Bishop Charles Mackenzie was invited by David Livingstone to spread the gospel, abolish the slave trade, and settle in Malawi.  It was these times, when David Livingstone, Bishop Mackenzie, and the rest of those Muzungus sowed the seeds of Christianity in a continent that is currently (arguably) the most vibrant communion of christians on the planet.   Christianity in Central and Southern Africa is deep rooted, passionate, and oh so vibrant.  Yet, one thing which is nice… being Anglican, despite the fact that I am so far from home, it is so familiar.  The same order of service, the same words said, and the same sacraments shared.  And, that is nice.  It speaks of community.
But, the 150th anniversary celebrations was going to be a HUGE celebration, even with the His grace, the Honourable right reverand Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams (I think I got that title right…) coming down to celebrate.  WOW.  Now, if you don’t know anything about Christianity, or Anglicanism… this man… well, who is he, and what has he done:

  1. ·      He is the head of the Anglican communion world wide.
  2. ·      He presided over William and Kate’s wedding last year.
  3. ·      He is a poet, scholar, and theologian.
  4. ·      He is a vehement advocate for any person who might experience marginalization due to religion, race, socioeconomic status, beliefs, sexuality. 
  5. ·      He meets presidents and world leaders, yet he shakes hands with the children.
  6. so... in my books?  He is pretty much a rockstar. 
I was so overwhelmed when I heard that he would be here in Malawi.  Really?!?!  I would never have this chance in my life.  The two main events were a dinner on Friday night, and a mass on Saturday at Magomero (the site of the first mission). 
The dinner, as it happened, ended up being a gong show.   It was meant to start at 7pm.  People were not let in until at least 8pm (don’t get me started with the ticket system… definitely not organized or efficient.  100’s of people who were meant to be checked off one of three lists when they gave their ticket: a ticket with one name [a single], or with two names [a double], or if the list of clergy and officials.  Things were late, and people wanted to come in, and they were excited.  as if “list checking” works when that is the environment.  What else.  Oh, right.  Tables.  There were chairs, in circles, looking like they should be around tables.  But, there were none.  The tables didn’t show up until at least 9pm, and they trickled in slowly. After that, things were ok.  But, it was a bit of a gongshow.
Thankfully, you gotta look at things like this with humour.  I mean, you shouldn’t screw up a dinner with the archbishop.  But… if you do, it is nice to remember that he is a man who is so humble, and must have a great sense of humour, and gracious, and forgiving. 
On Saturday, I traveled to Magomero with the Dean of post-graduate studies at Kamuzu college of Nursing.  (Her name is Angela, and obviously, she is an Anglican.  And, she is so wonderful.  Very nice to have her as a contact here. ) She was just as excited as me about the archbishop.  In addition, she was hosting the bishop of eastern Zambia, so we drove out with him as well.  This location is on the road to zomba, and then off the road into the middle of nowhere.  But… thousands of people showed up.  The children from the village crowded in.  anglicans from around the world where there.  Journalists. Women in beautiful commerative outfits.  Choirs from Likoma Island way up in Lake Malawi.  And… the PRESIDENT.  Yup, dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika was there as well (but, he arrived 2hrs late, which was kinda annoying).
Not going to lie… the service was very long (very African typical.  Lots of presentations of choirs with songs and dance, and speeches at the end.) and it was hot (first time I have gotten a bit burnt here in Malawi). But.  It was unbelieveable.  I was amazed at the archbishop, who was able to preach on the past history, and linking it to current time.  How he was political, but based on solid faith.  How he spoke on justice and inclusion because it is community.  How he linked scripture, and relevancy (not just to one culture, but to everyone).  the full sermon can be found here.   I was amazed at how the service was held in 4 different languages, representing all the people of Malawi.  I was amazed how they were able to serve communion to anyone who so choose to take of the bread and the wine. 
This morning in church, one of the visiting priests from Texas was delivering the sermon.  And, one of the things that hit me, what how visits like this are not meant to just minister for the time being, but, is meant to minister into the future. And, to that Malwians have to hold onto the grace and mercy and love and hope that was delivered this week, so that it can continue to minister. 
One of the things that amazed me, which was a bit of retrospective thinking.  I believe that the gospel…  and, when I say the gospel, I mean Christ’s love and sacrifice and the grace and mercy he showed up on the cross… is applicable to all people, of all times, and all cultures. Archbishop Williams demonsrated that with such a gift.   I just thought about how amazing it is that he gets to experience how Christians (and anglicans) worship world wide.  He gets to see the traditions that are unique to each church, and he knows how to share the gospel, and serve gods people in the most applicable and humble and culturally sensitive way.  And, that is such a gift from God.  Wow.  I kinda think I should start praying for a gift like that.
And, I can so feel that.   I leave this weekend with my “cup” overflowing.  And, I just feel so blessed to be apart of this experience.
Two moments that were the highlight yesterday. 
1)  I just tried to take as many decent photos as possible.  And, I knew where the archbishop was.  And, I hovered.  I kinda thought “oh, dear.  I wonder if I can get my photo with him.  Oh, probably not.  Not appropriate.  But… when will I ever have the chance again in my life?  Would I be using/abusing my whiteness if I just walked up to him?  Oh dear. Oh dear.  So conflicted. Yes. No. yes.” 
And, so, I popped my head into the room/building where he was (I could tell they were just chatting and laughing) and said something to the effect of “um. Hi.  Um….  Errr…. Ah.  Do you think, um, that I could get a picture with you?  My friends, er, parish, er, people at home, I mean, my church priest, crap, the priest at my church, will NEVER belive this.  I’m from Vancouver.  I’m Amelia. Thank you for coming to Malawi.  This is amazing.  Hi.” And he responded.
“yes.  Of course.  I see no reason why not.  What are you doing in Malawi?”

AHHHHHHHHHHHH! so, i was then so awkward, and would've put my arm around him, but then I thought it probably wouldn't be appropriate.  so.  i hovered.  kinda leaned in. and hovered.  but, oh man.  as you could see, i was SO thrilled.  and nervous. hand shaking nervous, in fact. and, (as my dad would remind me...) i know he also puts his pants on one leg at a time... but... still.

2) when the president said in a speech “I would like to remind the archbishop that god loves malawians.”  Um.  Right.  I think that the archbishop already knows that.  He probably doesn’t need to be reminded.

 And, on that note, I think this is long enough.  There will be a lot of the better photos up on Flickr.  So, go have a look. 

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

That is moving...he is also a prolific writer. thanks for sharing. Hope you and Sean are having a wonderful week!