Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In His Footsteps

 Each denomination has its own natural places of pilgrimages, often after hearing about the life of a pioneer Christian who worked in a particular place, comes the desire to visit and follow in their footsteps. This month marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone and to celebrate this, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev Albert Bogle, invited by our Sister-Church, the United Church of Zambia, paid a visit to Zambia, where Livingstone began his journeys to the East and West and where his heart is buried. As part of the commemoration the Moderator and his travelling companions flew from Lusaka to spend two days with us here in the South and West of Zambia where Livingstone explored and evangelized.

Reverends Manyando & Sivile and Deaconess Mubita with Ida and me met and welcomed the Moderator, his wife, Martha, Rev Ian Alexander, the Council Secretary of the World Mission Council and Carol Finlay, the Twinning and Local Development Secretary off the Proflight plane late on Tuesday afternoon. Incidentally, Ida and Carol are both Newburgh girls and were in the Guides together. We immediately set off for Mwandi Mission, through the Mosi oa Tunya Game Park where the giraffes, zebra and impala who were obviously waiting and lining the roadside, obliged us with several fine photo opportunities.

We arrived in Mwandi in time for an Inshima, Cabbage, Chicken and Fish Buffet Supper in Tutwa Mission House with local Church workers and individuals from the Mission Hospital and Schools’ Management. It was a good time of fellowship with much joy in the laughter, stories and conversation. We ended this evening with a devotion led by Rev Wezi Manda who stressed that our coming to meet and eat together, hailing as we do from the East and West, North and South to extend God’s Kingdom was a start to Jesus’ prayer that we all may be one and a foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. We were here in this rural Mission on the banks of the Zambezi from all over Zambia, Scotland, Italy and Indonesia; our earthly fellowship here and now, foreshadowing our final fellowship with God and pointing to a greater reality than the present. It was David Livingstone’s work for God exactly150 years ago that had brought us here. We closed by singing ‘We are here by the grace of God’ and then in prayer led by Father Klements, from St Arnold’s Catholic Mission.

After breakfast on Wednesday we undertook a tour of the all areas of Mission Ministry run by the Church. These are our attempts at practical Christianity in action rooted in the here and now, the every day in front of us, showing that our pilgrimage is not all about other-worldly-spirituality.  The party met the residents and workers in Kandiana, our sheltered village for the aged, then we saw the farm with its butchery, layers, dairy, beef, pigs and fish. Time was spent with the Hospital Adminstrator followed by a tour of the Wards, Theatre, Pharmacy and Out Patients. We next moved on to the Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s Centre seeing all of the opportunities and activities it has to offer. After that next on the list was a visit the Basic and High Schools and finally the Mission Pre-School and Church.

The Paris Mission, sent by the Church of Lesotho, was the founder of the present-day UCZ Mwandi Mission, the oldest Mission Station in Zambia. A bell stands in front of the Church, a gift from the Church of Lesotho, inscribed in Sesotho with the text from 1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us. The Gospel was brought here at considerable cost and there is a plaque to the first casualty in 1878, Eleazer, an Evangelist from Lesotho and colleague of Coillard, who died of fever.

The ground for a new and larger sanctuary has been cleared. This new Church will stand on the site of the original building. This area is where Livingstone preached the Gospel for the first time on the North Bank of the Zambezi to a congregation of around 600.
The first Church was a burned brick and thatched sanctuary that was opened on Christmas Day in 1913 and dedicated by Rev Jean Roulet. This unfortunately burned down and was replaced by the present Church building.

After an early lunch we set off for the meeting with UCZ’s Livingstone Consistory at the Coillard Memorial Church. En route we stopped off at Kasaya to see the rural Church that will have its thatched roof replaced by corrugated iron sheets with help from a Scottish congregation. We were warmly greeted by the choir and church office-bearers and enjoyed a short time of music, song, talk and laughter together. It was another opportunity to celebrate with friends and companions we met on the way. We followed again in Livingstone’s footsteps through Sikaunzwe, past Mambova, Kazungula, Katombora, Simonga and on to Livingstone 

There we were welcomed by the Anamoyo Choir, an MCF Quartet and the Consistory Officebearers and the Church workers Reverends Manyando, Sevile and Kaluba and Deaconesses Mubita and Sivile. The Moderator led the devotion on Hebrews 11:1&2 Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…… let us run the race…..Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We are like those before us, resident aliens, citizens of heaven put on earth to run the race to completion. Our pilgrimage has a purpose and goal, looking to Jesus and finding our way to the perfect place. Livingstone Consistory then presented a paper on Twinning. The sharing and discussion that followed also wove in neatly to the pilgrimage theme. Twinning is about walking together, a commitment to building mutually beneficial relationships, exchanging, hosting, sharing joys and sorrows, giving and receiving, praying, worshipping and reaching out together. All of this, over time, leads to a sense of belonging and oneness.

We overnighted in Livingstone and the next morning set off for the Smoke that Thunders - the Victoria Falls. Livingtone using scientific lyricism in his ‘Missionary Travels’ decribes them thus: 

The mass of water causes clouds of vapour to ascend, as it leaps clear of the rock and forms a thick unbroken fleece all the way to the bottom. Its whiteness gave the idea of snow, a sight I had not seen for many a day. As it broke into pieces, all rushing in the same direction, each gave off rays of foam as bits of steel burned in oxygen gas, give off rays of sparks. The snow-white sheet seemed like myriads of small comets rushing on in one direction, each of which left behind its nucleus rays of foam; scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.

The Falls are a spectacularly beautiful and impressive site to eye various aspects of the natural beauty of creation. From the climate and vegetation, with its tropical rainforest and wild flowers, the geology with the black basalt rocks and the raw power of the falling water at this time of year, cannot help but reinforce the idea of Eden untouched since the creation, reminding us that all life east of Eden can be considered a pilgrimage. It is easy there to feel God’s presence and feel present to God.

However, in the timeless there is also the immediate and there are few things less mystical than the feel of sodden clothes and the smell of a wet sweaty plastic pancho or few things more glaikit-looking than smiling, drookit and dreepin individuals with rolled-up trousers and kilted-up dresses!

This was rectified after a dash to the airport and a quick change into dry clothes, before saying farewell and the visitors taking the flight to South Africa. For us and the visitors we feel it was a time out for a bit of reflection, an outward expression of an inward journey, time spent on the edge with Christ as guide, and then our return to our more usual lives and work. We thank every one for their help in making this visit so positive an experience and for living up to the Lord’s words in his gospel that ‘whoever welcomes you welcomes me’.

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