Inside the Smoke That Thunders

As I’ve been reflecting on the recent MCC Learning Tour to Zimbabwe and Zambia, my journal and head have been filled more than my blog. If you want some details about what we did and powerful reflections, check out what Rod’s been writing. If you want to hear the two-hour version from me, Rod, Gwen, and Bethany, come on Tuesday, May 17th at 2007 Frankford at 7pm [FB event here].

I’m trying to write about something small, although it has to do with lots of big things. During my first experience in Africa, I was moved by the natural world and the music as much as the inspiring stories of Jesus doing incredible things through our international partnerships. The history of the land and the people came mostly through immersion, although I did my undergrad in African American Studies at Temple University, so I had some good basics. More for another time! This first post is about the day we spent at the border, completely immersed in God’s good creation.

circle of hope, philadelphia, south jersey, philly, collingswood, churches, church, Jesus, christian, non-denominational, radical faith, faith community, communities, faith communities, pennsauken, circle of hope philadelphiaMosi-oa-Tunya (directly translates to “Smoke That Thunders“), the local name for the wonder of the world, also known as Victoria Falls (named by David Livingstone for the Queen of England), sits on the Zambeze River at one of the border crossings between Zimbabwe and Zambia. You can’t tell someone from Buffalo that it’s way better than Niagara Falls, but I’ve been to both—and both are incredible gifts.

We walked across the border, and across the bridge (road you can see pictured). I didn’t get to go bungee jumping off that bridge this time, but thought about it. After making it through the unauthorized money changers and slingers of overpriced wares (7+ times inflation rate) we navigated the baboons that live in the park. Both were pretty stressful, but getting into the park was to enter a hydrating paradise. The park crossed directly in front of the falls—across a steel-decked bridge, and then on to the other side. Imagine walking from the bottom of this picture to the top, along the edge of land facing the falls. It’s too wet for me to have taken pics, although you can find thousands online. I got to just experience it. It was magnificent.

I didn’t change into appropriate clothes before we went in. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I would have needed to do the five minutes of digging through baggage to get to my swim trunks and flip flops, so I went in with normal clothes. And. Got. Soaked. In the best way possible.

Rod kept saying to me “this is so great.” It wasn’t until the fifth time that I realized how powerful that statement was, and was to me. I felt stressed from the long travel days, police interference, almost getting into a fist fight with a baboon, not bungee jumping, etc., etc. I did have the presence of mind to receive the gift of someone telling the deeper truth in my ear, while we were in the middle of an amazing experience.

I think a lot of people are kind of like me, in that we might be having an interior process full of wonder and stress. We might have the instinct to shut down, or to focus on the stress more than the wonder. Part of exercising one’s faith can be to sincerely say “this is so great”—even in the face of complex political climates, fear, anxiety, and doubt. Let’s help wonder make a comeback. Jesus is doing some pretty wonderful things. 

1 thought on “Inside the Smoke That Thunders

  1. Daryl Climenhaga Reply

    One of my all time favourite places. I remember walking across the land opposite the Falls (rain forest plus grassland) about 25 years ago with some friends and their junior high daughters. The girls’ first reaction to the Devil’s cataract was, “this isn’t so big.” About half way to Danger Point, as we came out of the trees to look at the expanse of Falls across the gorge for the third or fourth time, I asked, “Is it big yet?’ As they took it in they said, “Yeah.” Awesome sight.

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