I can’t believe the different pieces of the day belong to the same life…
Before we left Nashville, Dot Anderson (a beloved saint at Belmont UMC and missionary in Mozambique and Kenya for 30+ years) told us that we would feel a tensions straddling two worlds – the people and the church we came to work with and the expat community. Yesterday was our first day living in both worlds. Singing, learning, and laughing with our friends in the church as we hosted a Writing Workshop with Steve Bryant in our home in the morning. Then singing, learning and laughing with new friends from around world in the evening. The two communities exist almost completely independently.
The morning was spent with the Publications Committee of the UMC and some additional lay members. There was great conversation, writing and learning as we worked together to draft the first quarterly newsletter of the Malawi UMC. (see next post)
As we said good-bye to our guests around 2:30pm we put the house back together and began getting ready for the “braai” (barbecue) we had been invited to at Masomphenya Lodge where we stayed when we first arrived in Blantyre. The owners, John and Elaine, are wonderful hosts – down-to-earth, funny, kind, generous and “brilliant”. Carter immediately asked if Anemike, the chef’s little girl, was home and they played, ran, giggled and squealed for the next three hours until Carter curled up on Jeff’s lap and fell asleep in the warmth of the fire.
Over 20 guests arrived shortly after we did, three expat families who have lived in Malawi for 20+ years, including teachers from Marie Claire’s school (St. Andrews), several teenage girls who also attend St. Andrews, and several children Claire’s age. Marie Claire got a first-hand account of youth life in Malawi and Steve was able to ask lots of questions to allay some of his own anxieties before leaving MC with us.
It was a lovely barbecue atmosphere with delicious food and good conversation. It all felt oddly familiar yet totally outside any experience we’ve had since we arrived. After the meal we all pulled chairs up around the fire while John and one of the young women pulled out their guitars to begin a campfire sing-a-long.
It seemed a bit bizarre sitting around a fire in Malawi, Africa, singing songs by the Eagles and the Beatles led by a Zimbabwean-born Irishman and white Malawian teenage girls with British accents. But we basked in the glow of the fire, enjoyed some of John’s original songs and laughed together. Jeff even took a turn with the guitar playing a Brother Henry song. But when the group started singing “Country Road” it was too much; I looked at Marie Claire and said, “this is so surreal.” I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t been there. As we left, we heard the opening chords of “American Pie”. So surreal.
Mrs. Anderson said that we would need to find the best balance for our family between time spent in each of these worlds. I couldn’t understand then exactly what she meant. But I see now how seldom our worlds will overlap. And I can see a glimpse of the tensions that could come with constantly moving back and forth. As our travel and ministry picks up within the church and as our kids enter school next week, we will continue to learn how best to navigate this new life we are living.
As your summers wind down at home and you gather for the remaining barbecues, sing a few verses of “Country Road” and know that we just might be singing right along with you!