Worship today was incredibly moving led by the West African delegation with some assistance by South African and Asian musicians. The presider at the service was the Right Reverend Tilewa Johnson, Bishop of Gambia. I met Bishop Johnson on the first day of the conference and was amazed to learn that he had spent time in the city I was born in, Harrisonburg, Virginia when he attended Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacemaking. My maternal grandmother is Mennonite and still lives in Harrisonburg. My aunt and uncle are active in the EMU community as well.
After breakfast our group gathered together in a large bus to visit Tumelong Mission - where the Pilgrimage for Peace participants (joined by Anglican Student Federation members, and young people from the St. Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria and Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation's Mike Kidman, Alex Baumgarten from the Episcopal Policy Network Washington National Cathedral's Eugene Sutton) visited a daycare center for young children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS and a hospice for those dying of the disease. The children welcomed us warmly in song and were excited to have their photos taken with digital cameras in which they could immediately see themselves on a tiny screen. One wishes that the eradication of poverty and disease could happen so instantaneously. I was deeply touched by our time there and hope that when I return to the United States that a relationship with these places of healing, hope, and compassion may continue.
Our group then visited Bokamoso Life Centre where we had lunch with a large group of young people who welcomed us warmly in song and dance. During the meal, I talked with three young people who shared with me their passion for poetry, dancing, singing and drama. Each conveyed to me tremendous hope about the future and pride in the emerging South Africa. When we talked about matters of sexuality, each reminded me that South Africa allows gay marriage in their constitution. Following the meal for well over an hour we played some wonderful games together, sang and danced ---
There is so much to say yet I am not sure that words can express fully the profound gift this time of witness truly was for all of us. Life transforming, global community forming and hope proclaiming. There is much serious, hard work to be done and precious times like these will help sustain us for the long haul.
For pictures from today's journey visit: http://bishopmarc.vox.com/