When Nathan and I were discerning to move to the Liverpool area to do our curacies, I remember being really sad about losing the links and friendships I had developed in other parts of the world through Southwell & Nottingham diocese. When I was 19, I went to Burundi, and then again when I was 20, but that time we visited Rwanda too. Later that year I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and then shortly before starting Vicar School, Isabelle & I went to Nazareth to help run youth camps for Palestinian Christians. I have been so fortunate to have travelled so much in a very formative time of my life. I heard my call to the ministry clearly for the first time when in Burundi, and it was a very life changing experience.
Each of these trips had some kind of link development aspect and so when it became apparent that God was calling us to Liverpool for curacy, I felt a bit of disappointment that I could no longer be involved in those particular links. I didn’t expect to be travelling again for quite a few years.
But now, lo and behold, I’m packing and preparing for a third trip to Africa this coming Sunday! Further north of Burundi, this time I’m going to Uganda. Nathan’s church, St Peter’s is forging a link with St Peter’s church in Kalule, and our joint church school is also developing a link with the school in the same village. Because my boss is very generous (as is The Educational Trust, a charity for under 25s in Formby), I am able to go with Nathan and the team from school and St Peter’s.
So we’re going for 10 days and we’re going to give a helping hand to the people there, especially the school. It is in desperate need of a lick of paint and various repairs need doing to things like the classroom furniture, the toilet door (there isn’t one!), and the tap on the water tank. There is time for sightseeing and I think we’ll have an afternoon in a zoo (safari park) and see a source of the Nile (pictured below is where the source of the Nile said to be in Burundi).
Apparently the people in Kalule keep asking ‘are there really 11 people coming to see us?!’ They can’t believe that so many would come all that way to make friends and help out! But the thing is that links between churches and across countries don’t work if nobody is passionate about it, and the best way to deepen a relationship is to spend time with the people. So we’re heading off on Sunday night and I am really excited!
But it’s not just about us helping out. I know that we will get as much, if not more, from this trip than we will give. Various members of the team haven’t been anywhere like this before, including Nathan, and there is something so wonderful about spending time with people who in many ways have so little, but in what matters, have so much. If the people in Kalule are anything like those I met in Burundi and Rwanda, we are all about to have our socks blown off by the most incredible generosity, kindness, warmth and faith. There is something very humbling about incredible hospitality despite great poverty, and there are new depths in prayer when genuinely saying thank you for food and safe travel because both of these things are huge blessings in this context.
The very observant will have noticed that this trip comes very close to our Priesting. I was initially a bit wary of going on this trip when it means arriving on ordination retreat a day late, inevitably being very tired, and I also know how brutal culture shock can be. The day after I arrived home from Burundi, a grumpy, tired and irrational me nearly lost her temper at two ladies on Retford High Street who were discussing how outrageous it was that Card Factory had no helium and they had to go to Clintons for their balloons. But the closer I get to Sunday, the more I am really looking forward to getting away and stripping everything back. Less fuss, less choice, less technology, less waste, less distractions and less stuff. Just me, God, a brilliant team and a whole load of people who have faith in the face of immense struggles.