Today my heart was in Africa! At lunch time, we were invited to the Kenya House, the residence of the Kenyan ambassador, on the occasion of Kenya's 50th anniversary of Independence. The residence is south of Stockholm on the water and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We walked in and saw this amazing piece of art of a lion attacking another animal. We were immediately transported back to our safari in the Masai Mara and I felt longings to visit Kenya once again. Samosas...mmmmmmm. We know several of the Kenyans on the staff from church and it was really neat to celebrate with them.
Then this evening we had the great privilege of hosting a remembrance and celebration of Nelson Mandela, "Madiba" in cooperation with the South African Embassy and other African Diplomats.
The gospel choir from Immanuel sang (beautifully!), another song group from another church shared in some lovely music and several ambassadors from many different nations shared in profound and amazing ways. I especially loved hearing a wide range of accents speaking about peace and reconciliation. To me, it just really drove home the point. The speeches were well stated and lifted up Mandela's influence while at the same time pointed to the reality that the breaking down of apartheid took the efforts of many. Mandela's commitment to forgiveness and non-retaliation is a message that all embrace for solving today's problems. It's hard to know how to make this happen in our conflicted world.
Tonight was a great privilege and I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to hear Africans speak of Mandela's influence and legacy. His message is one that needs to linger. He embraced the heart of the gospel by encouraging people to not return violence with violence nor hatred with hatred. It challenges me to consider where in my own small ways I am allowing my desire for revenge and retaliation to override the higher value of forgiveness and reconciliation.
On the main slide for the evening was this quote by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela:
“During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
I was blessed to give the benediction. Here are the words I used taken from the Covenant Book of Worship: "Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to what is good; do not return evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; guard the dignity of all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you forever."
May our world continue to fight for justice, peace, and reconciliation and may we, each one, be prepared to do our own part to make it happen.
Peace to your memory Madiba! Long live your legacy Madiba!