We leave for Africa a week from Friday.
There is always in the days leading up to a trip the sweet feeling of anticipation, and today is no exception. Tomorrow it will be even better. And so on until we leave.
It’s not as though I haven’t been to Africa before, if you count day trips, one to the Sinai Peninsula to climb Mount Moses and another to Tangiers to purchase rugs. But those were short visits taken a long time ago and tacked to the back end of other trips to other places.
To add to the sense of anticipation, I’ve met with most of my fellow travelers several times to plan, swap stories, and sample some extraordinary South African wine. There will be 17 of us who will travel separately and then come together for one weekend in the village of Acornhoek in the northeastern corner of the Republic of South Africa.
And it’s really this one weekend that I am most looking forward to.
Our plan is to dedicate a fresh-water well in a part of the country that doesn’t have nearly enough wells, where people must walk miles to have what we ordinarily take for granted in this country, where one in three is HIV positive.
Our group raised the money for the well during the last year. Then we hired a local well driller and paid him half of the cost (the other half on completion). And now we’re waiting for word that he has started and – more important – that he has found water beneath the village.
The well is to be drilled near the Calvary of Hope Christian Church in Acornhoek, which is an hour or so west of Kruger National Park, and we will worship with the people of this church on that weekend.
I have been invited to preach that Sunday, and I haven’t been quite so anxious about a sermon since my year as a student pastor more than 30 years ago. Members of our group who have visited Acornhoek previously have brought back videos of the church at worship, and it’s wonderful, but also a bit scary. There’s plenty of dancing and singing and celebration, not at all like Presbyterian worship in this country where worship, if I may be honest, can be just a bit subdued.
Pastor Winny Manzini founded the church, along with her husband, who died in a car accident a couple of years ago. She is carrying on alone and appears to be a strong and forceful presence in that church.
I can’t wait to meet her. I can’t wait to worship with her people. I can’t wait to dance and sing and celebrate.