Day 14 - Sun. 22nd

I'm writing this in our Brothers' house in Castelgondolfo, just outside Rome, having arrived here today for a week of meetings for vocations directors in our order from around the world (21 of us). Hasn't sunk in yet that I'm now in Italy. It feels rather surreal, as if my mind is still elsewhere (back in Liverpool, or even in Togo). Looks like I'll be able to continue updating the blog most days this week.


On the Sunday we went back to Mango parish church for Mass, but this time with many of the Festival weekend participants. The Novice Brothers had gone back to Dapaong (1hr from Mango), but the Scholastics (about 12) and the French groups were still with us. We had been invited to help lead the music for the Mass with the local choir. It was a real cosmopolitan affair, reflecting the 9 different nationalities amongst the Mennaisian Brothers and youths with parts of the Mass and hymns sung in the following languages: French, Moba - Togo, English, Wolof - Senegal and Creole - Haiti)

Having lead the singing of the Alleluia (Fintan's) it was Team Win's turn again after Communion. We gave them a blast of "Lord I Lift Your Name On High". All 14 of us stood on the altar facing the congregation to lead them in the actions during the chorus. I had my guitar and we all joined in the singing. Seeing how our group took this in their stride showed just how far they had come in terms of confidence and courage since our first meeting in Liverpool all those months earlier. I have to confess that I felt a tremendous surge of pride seeing their faces alongside me standing on that altar. The church was packed, we were far from home, but we were made to feel so welcome through the warmth expressed by the local people. It was one of those timeless moments that will forever remain with me. As will what ensued.

We went through the verse + chorus a first time, everyone (congregation included) clapping during the verse. At the end of the chorus when we jump up and down with arms raised to the words "Lord I Lift Your Name On High", the congregation erupted in shouts of joy, applause, laughter, cries... it was an amazing reaction. They were obviously unprepared for seeing these straight-laced Brits giving it some with such joyful abandon. The congregation then responded in kind, the second time through doing all the actions and jumping at the end, the priest and altar servers included, even the older people there.

When we finished there was rapturous applause. Everyone in our group was beaming with joy. Then, spontaneously, from somewhere in the church, someone started singing what was obviously a well-known song from their repertoire that also had actions. The whole congregation joined in and this time we followed them in their actions. Some people came and danced with us on the altar. The joy and affection they showed to us was infectious, warm and genuinely heartfelt.

Moments such as this I like to describe as giving a taste of heaven and this truly was a heavenly experience. God's kingdom truly present here on earth. All barriers were down. People from all corners of the globe united in dance and song like there was no tomorrow, literally. Like this moment could last forever. And all in the name of Jesus.

For me, it was perhaps the high point of the whole trip, seeing our teens being part of such an experience. Everyone was so caught up in the joy of the moment that I don't think anyone of us took photos or film footage. There's no way that either could really have done justice to the moment. I pray that the memory of the heart will keep that moment alive in each of us who was there.

After Mass, Bro. Romain took myself and Bro. Francis for a quiet drink in one of the local pubs. Another precious moment between Brothers and friends.

We had announced to the Mango youths that we would have a final photo session with them on the Sunday afternoon before saying goodbye to them (though many came to see us off the following morning). Tears were shed on both days. We had all become very attached to these people in just a week and these feelings were clearly reciprocated.

Here are some of the photos myself and Bro. Francis took that day:

"And for my next trick...!" Tom up to something with some balloons. What exactly I'm not sure.

Not quite sure what I'm up to here either!
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