Our church here in Africa had monthly lunches after Sunday worship until the pandemic struck.  Such feasts require a good deal of work.  Local realities don’t lend themselves to potluck style, so a team of cooks spends the night on the grounds, working on both Saturday evening and Sunday morning to prepare the rice, beans, and salad to be served upon the service’s conclusion.  The hardworking committee collects donations beforehand to cover the food’s cost, and strong young men buy it all at the market on Saturday morning.

The magnitude of these logistics is likely the reason for the delay in returning to our routine after COVID restrictions were lifted.  Finally, today, after several months of organizational work, our congregation enjoyed our first fellowship meal since 2020!  The dining tables and benches were set up on our outdoor pavilion, as always, so our worship service was back indoors, in the largest room in our hospital building — also for the first time post-pandemic.

As usual, a few simple but fun games followed the meal.  Calton called ten people to the front, and the one who had just been baptized (a great reason to put him on the spot, right?) was blindfolded and given the opportunity to trade slips of paper with the other nine, without knowing what words were written on them.  To his relief, he ended the game with “life” in his hands, instead of “hatred” or “death”.  In the second game, two lined-up teams raced across the pavilion, with all members stepping only on pieces of paper which the leader laid down as he strode along.  I was the referee and am happy to report that, although one team gave up halfway through, no one broke the rules by stepping anywhere other than on the paper.

Psalm 126:1-3 expresses the joy I sensed in our congregation today:  “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.”

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