A Day of Wonder
What a day today was. In the morning we made a visit to the Methodist minister, Mark Stephenson, who runs “Salty Prints.” This is an economic development project he started over 20 years ago. Now they do all of the publishing for Upper Room Africa and for a lot of NGO’s and other groups. What I loved about him was his clear playfulness and sense of joy and wonder about what he is doing. He plays with it – from the signs around to the laughter among he and his colleagues it is clear that there is a very real sense of the joy that Jesus talks about among them here.
He talked with the boys about how they should use their interests, to connect with what they are seeing on this trip and realize that one day connections will arise from this that will benefit them far beyond what they think about now – when Dad drags them along to boring conversations like this with Methodist ministers! There were signs around the place that all had a playful sense to them. There were plays on words. There were funny pictures. It was just lovely. Just lovely. I like to think that there is that playful sense around Broadway at home – but we could certainly make more visible signs of that playfulness around our place, I thought. But it just made me delight in our life together in Indianapolis and connections with places, like this, a world away!
We left there and headed back to St. Paul’s and grabbed some lunch at a gourmet burger place. Then we headed off to the Waterfront where we visited the Two Aquariums. They call it two aquariums because the two oceans meet here. And because of the warmer Indian Ocean and the colder Atlantic Ocean the varieties of marine life are incredibly diversified! I was also impressed with how well the place was made to connect with young people – both Conor and Jordan really enjoyed it here. They knew how to connect with a sense of playfulness in young people. One of my favorite examples was a commercial they had playing -- It showed a crowd swimming on the coast and then fleeing from horror out of the water. I thought it was a scene from Jaws it was so well shot. Finally, people are gasping looking out at the water and you see a chair floating in the water and then the words “last year 696 people were killed by chairs. 9 by sharks. RETHINK THE SHARK.” Kathy and Jordan stayed and watched the next commercial – same thing but this time with kites (Kite killers? I had no idea!).
Then in the evening I headed out to Guguletu to speak with the leadership of the JL Zwane Presbyterian Church. What a wonderful time. When I stood up to speak with the pastor, Spiwo, offering translation into Xhosa – I almost burst into laughter at the idea that here I was speaking to folks who live in this township, in a Presbyterian Church, in South Africa about things that we are doing and talking about at Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Spiwo had told me he wanted me to talk about the Roving Listener. He also wanted me to talk about the theology of witnessing to abundance where the world sees poverty, etc… But the main thing he wanted to talk about (and I couldn’t believe that it took coming to the other side of the world to find someone who sees, with such clarity, the things that I believe) was this idea that the role and call of the church has as it’s responsibility to bear witness to the life of Christ, the presence of the Spirit in the world (not just in the church)! He was delighted to hear that the Roving Listener wasn’t going to talk just with people who are members of Broadway, but with our neighbors. He said, in front of his leaders, that he tried to talk with his congregation about that – but that they didn’t understand why that was important.
One of the first questions came from the Methodist Bishop who asked what training we had given the Roving Listener to do his work. I laughed out loud. I said, “No one has been doing anything like this – so there was no handbook out there for us to use. We just set him to working and then to talking about it and it has changed and grown and will continue to, I’m sure.” At this Spiwo was laughing – and he said to the bishop, “ah, you Methodists, always need training. What happened to the way Jesus did things – that’s what they are doing at Broadway -- just responding to the world around him and finding something new to do?” It made me think of the varieties of the way Jesus healed people of blindness (differently nearly every time). And thank God for that. And the way we are called to imitate Christ – perhaps in this way – by responding creatively to the situation before us.
As I drove back to St. Paul’s late at night with the lights of the city gleaming before me I shook my head and laughed to think of finding myself in Africa – talking about Broadway and learning from folks here some truths about us a world away. It makes me wonder.