by Fr. Michael Greene
25 Jan 2010
This morning came much sooner than I had hoped. I was awakened by Cathy in such a groggy haze that I had a hard time keeping my balance. The mass was the very first thing we got up to, in a charming little oratory up in one of the towers of the place. I managed my way through it, but only because there was a South African Prayer Book there, and I can’t remember it terribly well. The Gospel for the day sticks in the mind, though. It was, “You are the light of the world,” from Matthew. Apparently, I preached a meaningful sermon on it, but I’d be hard pressed to repeat it. Time was too short at Rosettenville, but Fr. Thabo did give me a tour of the old CR church and the school, which is a fabulous facility. The place is much bigger than I ever expected it to be, and the cooperation of CR and OHP to help it out and keep it together has clearly made one of the Church’s most legendary ‘lasting differences’.
We were taken on to the airport, which felt a little punative, but it was much more active and pleasant than it had been the night before. We were told that we would have to pay R3220 in excess baggage fees, but when they learned what was in the bags and where they were going, a sudden loophole in airline policy was found that allowed us to bring them all along, free of charge. The flight was completely uneventful, except that it was overbooked and we had to check our carry-on bags, too, which meant that some bags had to be removed from storage there, including another one of ours. It’s promised to be delivered with the next flight…we shall see. Arrival, immigration control, and customs at the airport was one of the most phenomenally complicated things I’ve ever seen. We had to wait in line to wait in line to wait in line. First we had to fill out an application for a visa, which cost $30 for the Americans, but $55 for Deb, as she was part of the imperialistic overlord archenemy of Britain. Then we had to have the hand-written visa applied to our passports while we were questioned about our purpose there. The others didn’t have much trouble, and in truth, neither did I, because we indicated that we were here for tourism and sightseeing. I, however, marked down ‘priest,’ on my visa application, and was asked very sternly about it. I was dressed without a collar, and repeated several times that I was just here to visit friends. The fact that I’m Anglican didn’t help matters, but in the end I was sternly told not to do any ‘priestly work’ here. I decided not to press the issue or to argue that that was a philosophical impossibility, and went on to get our bags in order and get out to meet Nicolas. It was Cathy’s name that was on the bag that was delayed, and Mary Ann and Deb were riding herd on the other stuff, so I headed out to find Nicolas and assure him that we wouldn’t be too much longer. Apparently they were detained, and the customs clerks wanted to search the bags (which had clearly already been searched) but Deb and Mary Ann talked their way clear of that hassle by telling them that they were all used clothes, and no, we were not here on any kind of business. I suppose they were concerned that we were bringing in designer stuff to sell on the black market. It was a moment of pure joy for all of us to be gathered up by Nicolas and crammed into his car. There was laughter all the way into town, and a lot of learning, too. Nicolas paid our $2 parking fee with an American note that looked like it had been used as part of a mop head for a particularly nasty job. Ever wonder what happed to $2 bills in America? There all here, it would seem, keeping the country from drowning in its own economy, but at the same time suffocating all those on whose backs Zimbabwe was built, because their life savings became null when our currency was adopted. More on all that later, I’m sure.
We were brought to the house of the Kellys, in an upscale neighborhood of Borrowdale, which is as far as I’ve been so far. Bob is a businessman who works with farm equipment and seed, and they seem to do fairly well for themselves by local standards. By American standards, it would be an upper middle class house, except with a large yard and a few hired hands around. All surrounded, as are all the houses in the neighbourhood, by very tight security systems and walls. Their hospitality has been extremely generous. We were met here by Daniel, a fellow Mirfield priest who has been here for two weeks with Nicolas. We said the Eucharist again, together, this time for the Conversion of Paul. That sort of house mass, it seems, is the norm for people who don’t get to use their own church buildings any more, but it’s hard to find priests. The rest of the group was taken on from there to the houses where they were staying, and Daniel and the Kellys and I talked for hours and hours about everything you can imagine: Power shortages, Mugabe’s regime, the wars for independence which Bob fought in, the inflationary crisis, motor blockades, problems with drugs and prostitution, problems in the Church, and the heartbreak of living as a Zimbabwean and watching your brothers and sisters be made to suffer. I was made to feel right at home, and when my head hit the pillow, I was out. Here I am at 4 a.m., feeling rather better than I have in a few days, and my head is swimming with all the new information and possibilities that are now present. There is no anxiety at all, however—it’s been a rare period of my life when the Divine Presence and Protection has been more keenly felt. Tomorrow, it’s Tariro, and our first work with the children.