My husband has pointed out on more than one occasion that for somebody who says she doesn’t like to travel, and who enjoys being home more than anything, I seem to travel a lot. I actually do really dislike traveling, but am always glad once I’ve arrived, and have never looked back with any regret at an experience involving travel. Life has presented me with some incredible travel opportunities, especially now that tuition payments are a thing of the past for my family, and I’m able to cross a few things off the list of Places One Should Visit. Yet, each and every trip begins with me looking at an empty suitcase and asking myself why I ever thought this particular trip was a good idea. And wondering why going to South Africa for the month of August seemed like a good idea is precisely the question I am asking myself today as I write these words. As you read them I will be midway there, no turning back.
I think we can all list several reasons why visiting and absorbing another culture are good ideas, but one in particular is ringing through my head these past few days. Sing a new song is a phrase that keeps returning to me. Where it’s coming from I don’t know (well, from the psalms of course), but it sounds like good advice. I’ve spent much of the summer helping others learn to sing new songs it seems – at conferences and gatherings of various kinds. Not that the old songs are bad, but there is joy in opening up minds and hearts to new songs, so I’ve always preached! And perhaps it’s time for me to learn some new songs as well. I will be visiting the continent of Africa for the first time, and I’ve yet to meet someone who wasn’t changed by their experiences in cultures so very different from our own. I don’t know how I might be re-shaped, but it’s sure to happen. I’m being asked to bring some American music with me – programs of organ and piano music, traditional church music by American composers – and that will be fun, but I know that I’ll learn far more than I’ll teach, and I simply pray that my heart and mind are open to all the new songs ahead of me in the coming weeks in Cape Town and beyond.