The following was written as a bulletin insert for St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Father M looked me straight in the eye and said, “If you want to be a Christian, if you want to be Orthodox, then you have to love your neighbor.”
I felt pretty embarrassed. Continue reading
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten myself completely absorbed in a good long book. Right now I’m two-thirds of the way through The Wizard of the Crow by the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and it is absolutely spellbinding.
It’s a mature novel. Ngũgĩ developed his writer’s talent as James Ngugi, writing in the 1960s in English– books about the colonial encounter, independence, first-generation stuff. A Grain of Wheat was a fine and nuanced novel, with complex and sympathetic but broken characters. When you think of classic postcolonial lit, you think of A Grain of Wheat.
I’m still in Chicago, flying back to Florida in the morning.
Metropolitan Jonah with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at the University of Florida
Back home in Florida, the dedication of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center was this morning. A delegation from the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at the University of Florida went to the events. While there, they got to meet Metropolitan JONAH of the Orthodox Church in America, who has been a bold and vocal advocate for OCF in nearly every public speech he’s given. It’s such a delight to hear a hierarch of the Church affirming the important and difficult work that is being done on college campuses.
The preparation stage for missionary service involves a lot of busy-work. Having the opportunity to correspond with lots and lots of people– having so many folks who care, and want to hear what’s happening– is a wonderful thing. While it’s worth the effort, the task of maintaining such correspondence includes some tedium.
I’m talking about stuffing, addressing, and stamping envelopes right now. And especially about turning the text of a correspondence into a properly formatted, merged, converted and printed document. This becomes additionally problematic when my database of names and addresses is being updated daily. Frankly, I’m not very good at this stuff. It takes me a lot of time.
The learning curve is steep, and the skills are valuable. I successfully produced fifty initial copies of my “first letter” and a friend helped me get them in the mail.
Then I found the typos.
As part of training for my summer job, I will be in Chicago from Saturday May 16 until Friday the 22nd. Will be quite busy the entire time (8:30 – 6:30 daily), and without transportation. But still, I’ll be in Chicago (specifically, Des Plaines). Are you in Chicago too? Let me know.
When speaking to me and others about the upcoming work of us five new long-term missionaries with the Church in Tanzania, folks have frequently referred to our efforts as a “mission trip.” As in, “James is going on a mission trip to Tanzania.”
Growing up in Kenya I encountered a lot of teams on “mission trips.” A mission trip is a wonderful thing– a group of people sacrifice their vacation to participate in the life of a Christian community far from their own. They construct schools and churches, they feed the hungry, they provide medical ministration, they teach; and more than any of this they come as ambassadors to participate first-hand in work far away. They bring friendship and they build lifelong relationships. We Africans were greatly encouraged by the love that these teams shared with us. Mission trips are wonderful things.
This summer, I will be based in Fort Myers and spending a lot of time on the road teaching in a summer reading program. It’s a job I had a few summers ago and will be an ideal way to prepare for full-time “deputation” in the fall. (“deputation” = missionary lingo for hitting the road, visiting people and parishes and spreading the word)
So yesterday I left Gainesville and moved down to Fort Myers, where I’ll be through mid-August with family at a beautiful farm called ECHO. The farewell-for-now to Gainesville went very well, and dinner at the midpoint in Tampa with a good friend was also lovely.
Now I’m immersed in childrens’ books. From Where the Wild Things Are through Fellowship of the Ring, I’ll be teaching the whole gamut. And that means I get to do one of the things I’ve always loved best– become absorbed in the life of characters, feel their sorrows and joys and imagine myself in their shoes. It will be a delight helping kids and adults do the same thing.