Last night we were able to be present for Herb, Sue, Lanecia and Heather’s presentation at Belmont UMC on their mission trips to Malawi. Herb and Sue shared their consistent enthusiasm, deep love and shared joy for the accomplishments and challenges of the United Methodist Church in Malawi. Heather described perfectly the beauty of arriving at Chileka airport, the smallness of the airport contrasted with the largeness of the welcome. And Lanecia had made a beautiful iMovie with video clips and pictures that touched Jeff and I so deeply. It was heartwarming and heartwrenching to see our friends faces, hear them singing and even see images of ourselves in the midst of ministry.
Heather told the congregation about the teacher training event nearly overcome by tears remembering the joy, gratefulness and strength gained from the community that weekend. Lanecia conveyed the challenges, humor, compassion and vision of the youth from her time with them. It’s a joy to see the place and people we love through the eyes, words and memories of those we love so dearly here at Belmont.
Jeff and I spoke briefly about our time, impressions and the beauty of Belmont’s partnership with this growing church. We were greeted warmly by so many people before and after the program (and on the previous Sunday). Nearly every person has commented on how healthy and happy we look. I don’t know if they are surprised by our health, worried about our state of mind, relieved to see us in one piece, or simply and quite enthusiastically happy that this journey has been so good for each person in our family. Whatever the reason, it is wonderful to hear and to feel in the embraces. And we know that our health and happiness is due to the wonderful care and attention of our friends in Malawi and the prayers of so many here.
Each hug and smile and welcome is precious because it puts flesh and blood to the emails, comments and prayers that traveled over the miles while we were gone. We carried physical prayers with us, written with pen and ink. And we lived for each message and email from home. “Too much internet,” Wilson would say. But on good days and bad, we needed to stay connected to those who had sent us with such generosity and love.
Our transition back to Nashville has been surprisingly lacking in drama or trauma. We have been to the mall, Target, and restaurants all without incident. In part it is because even in a developing nation, it’s still 2010 and we have access to so much that is familiar. But I think, like everything over the past nine months, it’s largely due to the prayers that constantly surround us. Friends emailed us in the weeks leading up to our arrival asking how to pray for us. We asked that they pray for our smooth transition and… here we are.
This weekend we will travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and West Unity, Ohio, to visit with family and spend time with two other church communities that have supported Our Journey. We will play with cousins, drink lots of coffee, talk, share meals and enjoy time in close proximity. The journey continues and continues to be wonder-ful.