Wow! Wow! Wow! All of the women are finally here!!! And I think today I may have seen the best Young Life welcome ever! We greeted the buses of African women with a local wedding band, a parade of their national flags, a Young Life bag full of goodies, cookies and punch, and hugs and high fives all around. And they greeted us with a dance party that went on for 15 minutes, despite the crazy, sun beating down, sweat pouring down, heat. They were so excited to be here, to see each other, and to soak up this time. We just tried to jump right in and hold on!
Not long after everyone arrived, we began to set up outside for dinner. We brought little treats to put on their plates every night, so tonight we put their YL Africa Women’s Leadership Summit t-shirt at their places. Then, we sat down to a catered Tanzanian dinner that was so yummy and fellowship that was even more sweet! I sat with three women from Swaziland, a teeny tiny country right in the middle of South Africa, and a leader from Zimbabwe, who is originally from South Africa. We talked really frankly about racism, way more frankly than whites and blacks talk in America, and it was such a neat thing to hear Rentia share how she felt the Lord moved her and her husband to Zimbabwe, to get rid of the racism she had grown up with. “We are all the same,” she said, “just different colors!”
Then, at our first club tonight, Benga, from the Congo, led us in worship in the style of Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo, and America. And we’re just getting started! When I say “style” what I mean is that we sing worship songs that are native to their country and they get up and lead the singing and a kind of dance to go along with it. It is worship that is so filled with joy! Then, Shelley brought back Kippy, a character she used in program for the African All Staff Conference in 2008 (where this trip was dreamed up), and partnered with Esther, from Kenya, to introduce her to YL program by making her, Kimmy, Kippy’s twin sister. They were hilarious and were able to get a few women up front with a silly game. Irene and Agnes, both from Dar es Salaam, shared their testimony about how they have served in Young Life as mother and daughter. Ann Shack, from our team, spoke tonight on the woman at the well and did a fabulous job as well. It’s amazing how, even though the languages and songs are different, there is so much that is the same. There is no doubt we are in Young Life territory. I can’t overstate what a gift it is for us to be here and hear their stories. We are in Africa, yall! And Young Life is alive and kicking!
Here’s the one major thing that has stood out to me all day. These Christian women here in Africa, are among some of the most joy filled people I have ever met. There is a sense of freedom that feels precious and rare to me amongst women. And, frankly, considering their stories of oppression, and the difficult lives that many of them lead, it is hard to understand. Except that, “he who the Son has set free, is free indeed.” These women are a testament to God’s grace and his abundant life! And I want to be more of a testament to that!
And…just so I don’t forget. Someone remind me to tell you about the problem with having women leaders in Young Life Africa and why teachers and Young Life leaders can almost never be the same person. Did I leave you with a random cliff hanger or what?!?!
Pictures to come soon....