By Jim Pool, Senior Pastor Renaissance Vineyard Church, Ferndale, MI
Missions Leadership Team, VM Blogger
It was a hot day in Luanda, Angola, on the afternoon of the penultimate day of our gathering of African Vineyard leaders, and we were having our “cultural experience” exercise. Thirty plus women and men from almost a dozen nations filled a big bus driving the streets of this bustling African city.
After more than an hour navigating the sights and sounds of some of the nicest parts of town – the international subdivision that looked like a set from the television show 90201, with the new football stadium in the backdrop, the federal judicial district and more – we were beginning to wonder what was going on. Finally we made our way to downtown and the long peninsula dividing the harbor and the open ocean. We passed mile after mile of beautiful, unoccupied beaches. “That looks like a great place to stop and walk and rest,” was the recurring cry from the back of the bus. Yet to no avail. We barreled ahead, stopping only when we arrived at the end of the line: a crowded waterfront that looked like it might have been South Beach. As soon as the busload of muzungu Westerners hit the pavement, they were immediately surrounded by a sea of Angolans, some curious, some hawking wares and more. I wondered what we were doing here. My Cameroonian friend grabbed me, and he led the way, like an expert footballer, as we weaved our way through the crowd.
We finally arrived in open space on the beach and walked down to the waterfront, enjoying the quiet, enjoying the company of our friendship, enjoying the energy of the swirling sea of humanity, and the gracious beauty of the grand space of the sea. In a strange turn, that was not my normal way of experiencing God, I found grace and God’s presence in the wonder of humanity on the far end of an Angolan beach amidst the pulsing of music and waves and the joy of friendship across cultures. I was surprised by God.