It was a wintery mix of storms where accumulations mounted beyond expectations. New York City and most of the northeast region was at a standstill. When I was preparing to travel for South Africa for the first time almost every plan I had to shop was derailed by epic snowfall. It was also due to a cancellation in the group traveling that I received an invitation to go, but with less than 72 hours to prepare for the journey. I gathered myself to travel to a region making remarkable historic progress in the fight against apartheid working in the midst of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the aim of national unity. This visit opened my world-view with a first-hand global experience of fellowship, faith and social justice.
Traveling teaches you about patience. We experienced delays that some would see as a setback, but I was remained overwhelmed by joy and excitement. When we spent 14 hours in the airport, I bought and read Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. I had intriguing conversations with others traveling as well as strangers and yes, I prayed for strength on the journey. By the time we boarded the plane leaving snow on the ground for a more than 16 hour flight to land in the summer climate of South Africa with a seven hour time difference, I was ready for the days ahead and it was a unforgettable time.
As I reflect on this season of Advent in the wake of the death Nelson Mandela, I remember this first trip that established my also understanding of the empowering gift of forgiveness that enables healing and reconciliation. As you gather to exchange presents, share meals and fellowship consider the work of giving and receiving forgiveness with those in your life. In the spirit of Advent with prayer, hope and expectation note the following:
• Reconciliation begins with self-examination.
• Repairing broken relationships is not an easy work, but worthwhile for wellbeing and wholneness within ourselves, families and communities.
• Those who practice forgiveness will experience reward.
“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Let us pray for empowering relationships that enable love while relieving pain and suffering in a world where we all need forgiveness to work in our lives.
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