Bus Trips

6 Dec

We are back.

What a trip! From scarlet fever to preaching in the bus to amazing hospitality to long drop toilets to hold onto your hat minibus rides to meeting with pastors to conferences to Zimbawean picket pockets to mormon missionaries, we definitely had an adventure in Malawi. WE ARE SO THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GREAT GRACE TO US AND HAD SUCH A FUN TIME!

I will need some time to process our trip and what we learned while there, but it definitely feels like it was worthwhile! It is almost unbelievable how many church buildings there are in Malawi, but it seems like there is a desperate need for sound teaching and discipleship. There’s part of you that wants to rejoice at how widely Christianity has influenced Malawi but other parts that becomes very concerned about how superficial some of the impact seems to have been. I am wondering if it is a little like our bus ride. It began with gospel videos and went from there to dirty comedians to Malawian soap operas. The same people watching, the same people nodding their heads and laughing, and nobody seeming to sense the great disconnect.

By the way, what a bus ride.

This is for fun, but let me “complain” a little bit.

I am telling you I had no clue and I am not sure that you can describe it unless you take it. It reminded me again of how privileged a life I have lived because for most of the other people on the bus, the trip just seemed normal to them. But it wasn’t normal. Or maybe it is normal but it makes the stuff Americans complain about when it comes to travel almost laughable.

It’s not just the fact that it takes thirty six hours to get to Malawi on the bus. That’s fine. You definitely get to see beautiful countryside and things you would never see otherwise. The other bonus is all the conversations you get into. By the end of the trip you develop a sense of friendship with your fellow passengers after what you have been through.

But.

When we got off the bus in Midrand I felt like I was being released from prison. The border crossings on the way up were really no problem, but it is hard to believe how difficult they were on the way back. The worst was entering into South Africa. We pulled in around five a.m. and only left around one, and most of the time, we just sat by the bus with nobody telling us anything about what was going on or why. You get one meal at the beginning of the trip, a piece of pizza, a piece of chicken and a muffin and that is supposed to last you the entire trip. It is hilarious at every border crossing, you have to get off your bus to do things like wait in a long line in order to pay for your visa, get harrassed by soldiers and have your bags checked. But, everybody on the bus is in such a hurry anyway. They all jump up and push pass you and when you are standing in a line, often try to wiggle their way in front of you, even though you all are on the same bus. African lines, I am telling you. It was this that helped the pickpocket steal my phone. There were supposed to be two lines and somehow the two became three and there was so much pushing and jostling that it was hard for me to feel the man reaching into my pocket. Twice I looked down because I felt like something was going on with my pocket flap but I thought, no, you can’t assume that. A few minutes later I realized I could assume that. But he was gone, long gone by then.

I was so thankful that I am saved by the work of Christ and not through my own personal holiness because by the end of the bus ride, I was having a difficult time thinking about my neighbor’s best interest. The man behind me for some reason loved to talk as loudly as possible in the middle of the night, and not only that, he enjoyed randomly telling us what to do and waking me up by patting me on the head to tell me something else.

And yet you know, really what a wimp.

All this complaining just to say that. This was only such a small part of the trip and since I just got off the bus it is the thing on the front of my mind and it really was fun and I am mostly having fun, but still I am just saying that I was reminded of how much of the kind service I expect and comfort I have come to think of as almost my right, is not for most of the world.

And I wonder what that does. I think to survive you almost have to just lower your expectations down as far as possible because if you expect the people at the border crossings to do their job or if you expect people to treat you with a level of respect of if you expect the toilets to work you are going to be pretty disappointed, but if you don’t have those expectations you might be able to just enjoy yourself.

Anyway, one of the greatest parts of going away is coming home. I am so privileged to live and minister in South Africa. I love this place. And I am so thankful for my family and especially my sweet, beautiful wife!

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