Blessed are those who give, who receive

Posted: February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

Good friend Lynelle Phillips, on faculty at the University of Missouri in Public Health, recently took a group of nursing students to Cape Coast, Ghana. The goal of the trip was to expose nursing students to urgent dimensions of public health in a 3rd world context, participate in an international immersion experience and to offer some help in public health education and HIV screenings in particular villages. They were also able to enjoy places of local history and cultural richness.

On one day the students visited the historical locations of the transatlantic slave trade. This included a slave camp and the path the captured slaves took down to a a stream for their last bath and last drink of stream water before they were confined in the dungeons of Cape Coast, where they languished for weeks before being shipped long distances to be sold.

There were four African American young women among the students and for them this visit had special  poignancy. This was the departure point of the ancestors and the remains of many were buried directly beneath their feet. As the group stood on the banks of the last-drink-stream contemplating all this Lynelle writes in her journal:

“Local African women appeared out of the woods as if by magic. They took our African American women by the hand and led them one-by-one into the creek to let the cool water soothe their feet and souls. The good Lord sent them angels this morning.”

Somehow these wise mentor women, whoever they were, took these women by the hand and led them to the stream of their ancestors. They were baptized in the meaning of it all. And after they came out of the waters, without so much as a word, the strange visitors disappeared into the forest from whence they had come.

In 2009 President Obama came to Cape Coast and apologized for the role that America had played in the transatlantic slave trade. So often only a collective apology can address collective sin, regardless of whether I, as an individual, actually participated in it.

Lynelle ends her journal with a reflection on mission trips, what really happens, and prayer. I share it with you now:

“It is the secret riddle of all mission trips – this paradox of giving morphing into receiving. Perhaps it’s God’s little practical joke on modern humanity. On the one hand we privileged Americans are driven to sign on, undergo injections and forfeit our vacation. We are compelled to help. We want to make that difference, even if it is only one random dribble off the hillside…yet in a gradual, puzzling twist of fortune, we become the recipient. What sets off to be a practical journey of service mysteriously winds up as our own spiritual enlightenment. We dine on the love and warmth and character of those we hope to serve. We magically transform from master to servant, from giver to receiver.

I sit and ponder winter/spring, servant/master, giver/receiver … in my place of confused wonderment. Oh my dear Lord, what is your calling for me? Wild geese honk their friendly greeting overhead. Looking down, I notice my hands are more beautiful when intertwined together, their left-right/giver-receiver distinctions fade as they unify in prayer. Oh…maybe that’s it…”

  1. lynelle says:

    Thanks Tim for sharing!

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