The sun is probably well above the Doa Mountains by now. My friends the guards, Moses, Wilson, Kay, McNight, and others have long left their posts, are probably eating breakfast by now, and may be soon returning for some piece work on Saturday. Florence and Mtami would be coming soon for their occasional visits to the house in our absence, if today is the day. It could be raining hard, or have ceased after a steady rain through the evening, or be the day this week when the sun will shine. Whichever is possible as we enter the heart of the rainy season, and I hope the patches applied to our roof just before we came here are holding up well, and that those which seemed less than perfect have not become a fountain into our bedroom and down on our mattress.
I am sitting in a men’s retreat at the YMCA Camp Chandler on Lake Martin just north of Montgomery, Alabama. It’s 10:30 or so, and my mind has wandered to now’s early morning in Malawi. It is good to be here with a bunch of men, about 80, who are dedicated to following the Lord, all from the Landmark Church that is our primary sponsor in Malawi, but time to return home is approaching and my thoughts slip smoothly between the comforts and challenges of the present and those to which we return in Malawi. It is cold in middle Alabama tonight, but the room is warm, and the husky singing of this male chorus is encouraging. It is one of many other beloved and caring “suitcase stops” on this six week visit in the U.S. These faces have been a blessing, as have all that we’ve seen while home, kin, and kin in Christ, encouragers all, each in his or her own way. Folks in L.A. and Redlands, those from all over in Dallas at the medical missions seminar, in Kilgore and Shreveport, Jonesboro and, again from all over, in Searcy, now Landmark in Montgomery and University Church in Tuscaloosa next week. Then home.
Home. The U.S. is home. Malawi is home. Which is really home? Or, which is more “home” right now. For all the wonderful hospitality and welcome oh-so-friendly cultural cues from dearly beloved brothers and sisters, American brothers and sisters, we are ready to pull our morning’s fresh clothes out of the customary drawer in the bedroom in the house on the hill, and toss them at the end of the day, damp from the day’s humidity without and within, into their designated corner in that same bedroom. Our bedroom. Ours not by ownership but by use and custom. We’re ready to eat a little Weet-Bix (mixed with granola), to feel the surge of the six-cylinder diesel engine in the Patrol we’ve just been given by each of you, to hear the birds singing in the trees outside, to smell the smoke from the cooking fires, to hear the voices of the children from the orphanage, to see our friends.
Missionaries returning on furlough often long for something of home they couldn’t get “over there”. Dr. Pepper is a common object of such desire, and once going down it usually doesn’t taste as good as was imagined. We were deeply disappointed by the Starbucks we drank on landing at Washington Dulles. Now I look forward to a latte at the the Capucino Café in Lilongwe, and an expreso at the Italian Deli. I think that is a good sign.
Soon Harold will be unlocking the Hospital, Nelson will be arriving on his motorcycle, Napoleon may or may not be stopping by on his way to Saturday’s mission, but Salema or Berta will be opening the office. The workers at the plant will begin their weekly cleaning chores. But now it is 10:30 pm in Camp Chandler near Montgomery, Alabama, and I am being encouraged by the faith of brothers, and the words of my wife and my friend written for this occasion. Today, tomorrow and next week—if God wills--we will talk about our work and be encouraged by you and others, and then on Monday we will fly to Washington, then Addis Ababa, then Lilongwe: today’s home. And we will work to enjoy our new home, and prepare for the next, strangers and wanderers on this earth that we are.