The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of movement and activity with abundant blessings in the midst of it all.
Representatives from the ELCA and the NTNL arrived in Sierra Leone last week and have been engaged in conversations with the ELCSL since then. We have covered a lot of ground in recent days, including a working/leisure visit to River #2 and a trip to Bo for churchwide consultations. Rich conversations about church and mission have shaped our time together with the ELCSL.
In the midst of it all, the ELCSL richly blessed me with a night of singing and dancing and traditional ceremonies to bid me farewell as I prepare to leave Sierra Leone on Feb. 27th. Out of all the experiences I have had in Sierra Leone over the past three years, the farewell celebration offered by the ELCSL was the most surprising and amazing of all. Special songs of blessing offered by the youth and women still echo in my heart. The sound of drums and the traditional gourd shaker being played still resonate as well.
As the night unfolded, I was quite moved to see Bishop Barnett lead a dancing procession of my Lutheran brothers and sisters — coming my way with gifts in hand As the procession drew near I could also see two men carrying a stout branch across their shoulders, and wondered what exactly they were bringing. Eventually, I spotted a beautifully woven hammock and began to suspect what was going to happen next.
During this time of ceremony, Bishop Barnett honored me with the name/title of “first born daughter.” I was then invited to settle myself into the hammock. Being carried in a hammock is an honor accorded to chiefs in Sierra Leone, and I felt deeply moved to be acknowledged in this way. I was carried in the hammock, in the midst of drumming, dancing and singing; eventually I received the hammock as my own, among many other gifts. The blessings of the evening were abundant and memorable — a true reflection of the grace and beauty of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone.
My final good-bye to my ELCSL colleagues and Freetown friends is only a few days away as I write. Today I gratefully sent one heavy suitcase filled with many of the gifts I received in Bo and books from my Africa collection back to the US with the NTNL visitors. This weekend my challenge will be to empty my kitchen and my closets, and to fit my possessions into two additional suitcases for a flight to Buffalo New York.
As I write tonight, the electricity and the internet are on and off and then on. That somehow seems fitting. At this point, I will plan to make one final posting for On Mission Sierra Leone when I am stateside, once I’ve had a chance to unpack my suitcases (if not 3 years of African life).