G.O. 2005: Namibia (pt. 5)
A Place Called Home
I’ll make my bed with the stars above my head…
It had been twelve months since I had seen Dieter and Joan’s property, Mpampo. I remembered the setting in 2004 as having been more than adequate for about a dozen or so of our folks who called it home on that trip. I was a little anxious to see what our 2005 team of 29 would look like there. We had sent Germaine ahead to make advance arrangements. She had assured us that while the accommodations would be different from our earlier experience, they would be more than adequate. It was one week before our departure that I learned Mpampo would not only be home to the Christ’s Church 29, but also home to a team of 18 from South Africa and a team of 9 from Northland. A quick tally, counting the Morsbach’s, that’s 59 people! As our flight neared Namibia my stress levels were climbing. Would this really work?
Looking back, I realize that I wasn’t really concerned about the accommodations. I had every confidence in this team. We were prepared to rough it. A number of people, including some of the dancers’ parents, had teased me about this trip. It was a common assumption that taking a team largely made up of American teenage girls to Africa, and asking them to live in relatively primitive settings, would prove to be too much for many of them. I had great confidence in this team. I was worried about the other teams that were there.
I suppose it was my experience in the church over the years that made me nervous. I knew that our team was not your typical group of short-term missionaries. I feared that as that truth dawned on the other teams sharing our camp with us, members of those other teams would begin to see our team as their mission field. I suppose if I am really honest, that isn’t all of it. My experience in the church has taught me that often well meaning believers lose sight of the most important thing, Jesus, when ‘sharing their faith’. I had visions of dear folks cornering members of our team and addressing the fact that they dance to ‘secular’ music, or that they shop at Abercrombie & Fitch, or worse. My imagination ran wild. I imagined little holy huddles springing up to ‘deliver’ a member of my team from demons or something. Moreover, I was sure that once some of these folks learned that I wasn’t forming my own holy huddles or joining theirs, that I don’t particularly care where people shop, and that I listen to ‘secular’ music myself, that they’d brand me a heretic too. It’s at that point in each daydream that I’d smile. This was going to be a hoot!
Germaine had forewarned me that the leaders of the team from Northland had established some ‘rules’ to help make everyone’s stay at Dieter’s smooth. Now it’s here that members of our previous Namibia teams will crack a smile – their leaders were going to greet me and our team with ‘rules’. Germaine tells the story, that as these ‘rules’ were being announced a few days before our team’s arrival, Richard, Joan and Dieter’s son, shook his head and said under his breath, “Good luck with these rules and the New Hampshire team.”
When we arrived I was invited to join the leaders of the other teams for a quick planning session. Mike and Sandi drew the task of accompanying me. I managed to behave myself, but Mike and Sandi sure looked nervous. We went over ‘rules’. I’m not sure how, but I managed to misplace that list of rules by the time I got back to the dorms.
We could not have been happier with the accommodations the Morsbachs and Germaine arranged. Our sleeping quarters was a large building divided in two, the larger side for the girls and the smaller side for the guys. There were some issues with toilets and showers and a ‘common room’ which caused us to awkwardly pass thru one another’s dorms, but by and large these issues were remedied quickly. Just as I had anticipated, this team was ready to be flexible.
Darkness arrived as our team was settling in. I decided to gather our team for a brief set of initial instructions and called everyone out of the building to a clearing on the backside of the property. As we gathered a hush fell over the group. Our team was at once overwhelmed by the starry sky of the southern hemisphere. I looked up and practically lost my breath. For one who has seen the Namibian sky a number of times before, I was shocked at the clarity of that night’s sky. All I could think was, “Thank You Lord. You showed up!” One of our leaders, Nate, began to point out the different constellations. I can promise you, my words cannot capture the power of those few moments.
This setting under the stars would prove to be the fertile soil for important conversations and experiences too numerous to list on this trip - many after hours strolls by members of our team; many praise and worship song sessions; much prayer; many tears - a nightly communing with God. One of the early nights of the trip Samantha, Becca, Diandre and Colleen chose to drag their sleeping bags outside and literally sleep under the stars. I didn’t figure to sleep much that night, sure something would eat them. This is Africa! For a little while I sat down a hundred yards or so from the group all bundled up under the stars. Again, all I could think was, "Thank You Lord. You showed up!"