Saturday, February 2, 2013

Liberia Day 3- Speaking Keynotically

Got up at about 6:30 after a semi-restful night of sleep.  I woke up a few times to yelling, or a car rushing by, or general disorientation.  I took my first Liberian shower in room-temperature water under low water pressure.  It did not take Bruce or I long to discover that the toilet flushed best when manually flushed from inside the tank.  Breakfast was served by an elderly gentleman called "Papa Richard," whom Randy dubbed "the most important man in Liberia."  It's his responsibility to feed us dainty Westerners without getting us sick.  Papa Richard is quite skilled at this and, in fact, once served as a cook at the presidential palace in Monrovia.  Breakfast was fried eggs (overhard) and bread with mango jam.  The eggs were very good, especially considering that they were cooked miles away and then brought to the hotel.  After breakfast ended and the car arrived,  we began an hour plus drive north and east to the site of the 44th National Conference of the EC Church of Liberia.  On the way, we got to observe village and rural life as we drove over increasingly rough roads.  It was a very dusty drive and pretty quiet too.  We arrived at the seat of conference, within a village called Saturday Town, which was the home of the Derby EC Church. Derby EC is one of the simplest church's I've yet seen.  It was constructed of bamboo poles; walls, benches, everything.  There was no pulpit to speak of, but the choir area also was set apart by those hardwood poles.  Conference was held in a larger structure made of bamboo poles and palm leaves.  It was low enough that I had to duck to get in.  This structure was built on top of a larger permanent foundation that represents the first steps in Matthew's dream of a permanent conference center than can hold thousands.  He has a model of the finished structure and it is quite beautiful.  They broke ground two years ago and so far have have managed to construct the foundation.  They might have a pretty long road ahead of them.  We were seated up front and each given a chance to extend greetings to the whole Conference.  An offering was taken, a rather more drawn-out affair than in the United States.  Rev. Powell did things few Americans would dare to try, like calling people out by name to give.  Randy says this is a fun time for them, if unconventional to my sensibilities.  Randy had a chance to address the group.  He reminded them of the exciting things God is doing in the world and reminded us all that God regularly uses unexceptional everyday people to do His work in the world.  We can all join in the mission of God.  We had our lunch, which reminded me of chop-suey, along with green beans and potatoes, quite tasty.  In the afternoon session, I was given the opportunity to be "key-note speaker" for a very special commencement ceremony.  These 14 graduates, 13 women and one man were the first class to complete Matthew's three year discipleship program.  I chose my Epaphroditus message with several quick adjustments made.  I didn't feel that I delivered the sermon very well, but everyone was encouraging.  I was a little nervous and got to talking too fast, but I felt genuinely honored to be a part of it in the same way that I was proud to help pour the floor of the elementary school in Zambrano, Honduras last year.  In these parts of the world, doing something to advance education feels like striking a blow against evil, especially if it is Christ-centered, Kingdom building, education.  After the afternoon session, we were sent back to the hotel, while the whole conference got involved in a football match with a neighboring community (I found out later that the Conference won 2-`1).  I would have like'd to participate, but was not dressed appropriately.  Perhaps next time.  After the travel home to the hotel we had dinner at the same restaurant as the night before.  This time I had a cheeseburger which was rather gristly, but I got it down ok.  After dinner, though it was still rather early, we retired to our rooms and Bishop Hill and I talked long in to the night about a variety of topics: personal history, Community Church, baseball, pastoring, dealing with cows in your yard.  It was a good way to close our 1st full day in country.

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