Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Beginning of Holy Week

 Freshly cut palms
Monday 14th April

It is already a week since I set off from home in Cheltenham.

This morning I realised the value of my trips to Africa. I spent a couple of hours passing the time of day with two friends. The first Obert I met some years ago when walking down the main road. He tells me that he is now fulfilling his dream which was to drive a car. He passed his test at the second attempt on Thursday and is now on his way to get his provisional licence. This is a guy from a poor background who was told he would never be able to ride a bike because he only has one leg.

We talked about the weather in England, the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian plane and the actions of Oscar Pistorious, among other things. I enjoy our discussions and we get to know each other better each time we meet. It is through such encounters that trust develops and a mutual friendship which gives life to both of us. I stressed how important I felt that seat belts were when driving – it is sadly the case that very many lives are lost here in Zambia because the wearing of seat belts is not the norm.

My second discussion was with Fr. Clement who happened to be in the sitting room. The children from Our Lady of the Wayside church sent an Easter card to the children at St. Gregory's Church in Cheltenham signed by all the children who attend mass and call themselves the Holy Childhood. Dilys was running the children's liturgy on Sunday in Cheltenham and the children there signed a card to be sent to Our Lady of the Wayside church. I thanked Fr. Clement and asked him to pass on thanks and greetings to the children. Over recent years the children at each parish have been encouraged to learn about each other, to write letters and send photos. We think that talking to each other over Skype might also be good. I am very keen to foster a close relationship between the people of the two communities.

St. Gregory's church with St. Thomas More in Cheltenham has now adopted four projects instead of officially just having one – Our Lady of the Wayside. I see this as a positive mood because the more we engage with different parts of the world and the more we learn about issues worldwide the richer our community becomes. I am not concerned about reduced income. Money is not my focus. In fact I suspect that both interest and funding for Our Lady of the Wayside will grow because of formally adopting additional projects. We discussed various ideas that are being considered at the new parish in Monze, building a parish house, constructing a piggery and proving a water supply for a bit of land they have for growing crops. My gut feeling is that the agricultural projects are more likely to fire the imagination in Cheltenham than the building!

I have a vague idea of organising an African concert when I return to the UK. We have a number of people in our parish who originate from Africa and I am sure they and their contacts would be able to find the necessary talent. I would be very keen to ensure that entrance is free and would push for free refreshments too! It is important to me that we do not exclude anyone, but particularly the financially poorest. If we do, we are failing in the objective of making our world a fairer place! I also believe it is important to ask the question “what are you willing provide” and hope for generosity in whatever form it takes. When challenged and shown the needs very many respond with wonderful generosity – even on a financial level!!

So what happened over the weekend? I actually spent more time than I wanted trying to resolve an issue with the Hands Around the World database. Sometimes I wish I never started playing with this software!! Anyway I think I know what I am doing now.

I also tried to put together the documents for Jennipher's visa. Yesterday I started to complete the application online. Apparently there is a new website (in beta testing – which is always worrying!!) which makes things simpler! Well I am not so sure. I would appreciate some sort of guidelines for completing the form – I can find none. There are many obligatory fields and some are free text, but have a very limited sized field – even twitter gives more scope to describe an event. Despite this I have produced a reasonable draft and Jennipher is coming soon to review it with me.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Congregations from the two Catholic parishes in Monze and the Salvation Army met at a point about equidistant between the two Catholic churches, which are perhaps 3 km apart. Unfortunately other Christian churches, who have been present in the past, didn't join us. It would have been much better had all Christian churches joined together to proclaim their shared faith which recalls the final days in the life of Jesus.

It is a shame that the history of Jesus is unknown to many in the UK. Many consider it as myth and storytelling without any basis, yet there is plenty of evidence that the man Jesus existed, that he was known as a teacher and healer and that he claimed to be God. These are as much historical facts as the existence and exploits of Julius Caesar.

We gathered from 8hrs and the service began at about 8.50! After the palms (freshly cut) were blessed we processed together into the neighbourhood. First those people from the Salvation Army peeled off waving a farewell goodbye with their palms. Later the two Catholic congregations said goodbye and headed for their own churches. I was with the Our Lady of the Wayside branch. We moved into the church packed beyond capacity with some standing outside as well as inside. Here we celebrated the mass – our Eucharistic service. By 12.30 the morning's service was over.

Of course it was an opportunity to renew my acquaintance with many friends. Sr. Juunze, Mr Meheritona, Kennedy, Obert, Sr. Gabriela, Vincent and Bridget to mention just a few. It is lovely to receive such warm welcomes – including big hugs from the men as well as women!

I was having a frustrating time with the visa application and so headed for the little lake beyond PIZZ school. I checked on the fencing around the additional land that was acquired for the school some years back. Some people have build right up to the boundary and in places beyond it. It was therefore important to demarcate the land with a fence.

Walking around Monze is important. It allows me to interact with the local people. Young men shout out “muli butu” and are surprised when I respond “kabotu, muli buti” the children shout out “how are you” and are delighted when I respond “I'm fine, how are you” and give them a wave. The adults around smile and enjoy the comedy! I feel very much accepted here in Monze. Many have come to recognise me over the years and I feel truly welcome.

Walking gives me time to think and mull over the events unfolding. I think of discussions I have had and often feel the gentle presence of my God. At the start of the procession it seemed that numerous swallows and swifts were joining in the procession flying up and down the line – a bird of prey circled above – possibly a snake eagle. The marvels of nature usually lead me to God. We need to build machines to fly and how long did it take humankind to work out the mechanics? Yet some of these birds might be in the UK next month just using the power of their wings and favourable winds.

At the dam all seemed to be quiet – few people, except for a small group of young boys who, pied piper like, had followed me to the dam. They sat and watched me while hiding behind some bushes - they eventually decided to move on. They are not usually so timid. I then spotted a heron and a bird behaved like a cormorant drying its wings – it probably was a cormorant, the first I have noticed at this lake since coming to Zambia. A pied kingfisher flew by, a couple of African Jacanas jumped out of the tall grass and a bird of prey – probably a snake eagle - soared overhead. There are a lot of butterflies about at the moment and they mingled with the dragonflies near the water's edge. It was good to relax for a while and take in the wildlife around me.

Blessings to all this Holy Week.


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