When I read the Five Minute Friday prmpt for today GENTLE, a memory dropped straight into my mind from last time I travelled outside the UK. Yes, we did used to do that once!
I was part of a group of eight going to Pagak, near the Ethipian border in South Sudan, to teach at a workshop on peace and reconciliation with South Sudan People’s Defence Forces chaplains, at the invitation of the local diocese.
We flew from Juba by light aircraft and then were driven by four wheel drive into some of the most beautiful grasslands I have ever seen. Flowers and seed heads towered above the vehicle, waving gentle beneath the equatorial sun. The rains had come late, and heavily, and washed away the dirt track in places. The driver had twice plunged into ravines and over-revved the engine to get out again, when he was forced to stop the vehicle because the road was flooded. We walked the last mile through thick, dark, Nile mud.
The local pastors and Mothers Union leaders were waiting for us and sang hymns as we walked into the village. They set chairs for us, brought bowls of water and washed our feet, gently and thoroughly, going between our toes and taking our mud soaked shoes away to wash. It was, of course, an echo of the last Supper, as well as ministering to our immediate needs. We did not have a word in common but their gentleness was evident to all, the Lord was near. Philippians 4 verse 5.
We ran the conference, with the help of translators, drama, and pictures, and left after two weeks, but we remain in touch and have sent gifts of Bibles, fabric and training materials. Through the wonders of the internet we have been able to pray with them. The gentleness of their fellowship spoke louder than words. The memory of it continues to heal and refresh.