An Addendum to “A Prayer On Losing My Luggage”

In my previous post, I shared some of the ways that being separated from my luggage whilst traveling through Africa was at once disconcerting and worthy of reflection.  I found it to be very helpful to have written that, and I’ll encourage you to go back one entry and view it if you haven’t done so already.

Because so many of you have indicated interest and concern and maybe even identification with my plight, you deserve to know the rest of the story.

As indicated previously, I had done all I could to find out whether anyone, anywhere, had even seen these bags.  “Ah, no, Mr. Dave, they are still missing” was the standard reply.  I was due to fly out of Gambella to Addis, and from there connect to the States on Tuesday evening.  All of my new friends at Ethiopian Airlines had provided me with helpful strategies to scour the lost and found departments in both domestic and international terminals at Addis.  That seemed, to everyone, the best way to reunite me with these missing bags.

I arrived at the Gambella airport on Tuesday afternoon.  I went right to the man who had adopted my problem as his own, an Ethiopian Airlines employee named Belay.  As soon as he saw me, he looked crestfallen.  “Ah, Mr. Dave, it has not been found,” he said.  Since the plane I was due to fly out on was coming from Addis, I asked whether it was conceivable that my bags could arrive on the evening flight.  “Ah, no, Mr. Dave.  That is not possible.”

So I took my backpack and waited through the next few hours and was sitting at a window seat in the old “Dash 8” when the flight crew began to pull up the steps and close the door.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Belay streaking across the runway to the plane, yelling to keep the door open.  He burst into the aircraft breathlessly and held out a small duffel.  “Mr. Dave! Mr. Dave! Is this one of yours?”  My shocked grin indicated to him that it was, in fact, one of my missing bags.  He drew himself up to his full height and said proudly, “Mr. Dave, then the other one is already on this plane.  You will find in Addis, and then you must re-check it to America from Addis.”

Related image Related image

OK, I’m not gonna lie.  It felt like a scene from a “buddy” movie.  Belay and I had faced a challenge, we had bonded, and we survived.  That just felt good!

On arrival in Addis I discovered that they’d evidently sat in the rain at least one night, but everything inside appeared to be intact.  Those who know me (or who are at least students of human nature) might be unsurprised to know that my first thought was “Oh man! This is the BEST!”  It took approximately ten minutes for me to discover that the process of checking my bags from Addis through the international terminal involved me transporting these bags on foot for about a mile – out the door, through the construction zone, and into the newer airport around the corner.  When I learned that, my gratitude seemed at risk of diminishing to, “Holy crap, I have to carry all this stuff that far?”

Ah, life. It’s only stuff.

So I made it home, and I’ve still got the gifts, the alb, the letters, and grandpa’s knife.  In addition, I hope I have a keener perspective on what I take, how I take it, and what matters the most.

This was a sight for sore eyes at the Pittsburgh airport this afternoon!

You can cue the old Peaches and Herb song now… “Reunited and it feels so good…”

Africa Pilgrimage Update #5

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

What a wonder-filled day the 2019 Malawi Youth Pilgrimage team shared today! We began with an early breakfast and then went as a group to visit the Ndirande CCAP.  Ndirande is a fascinating community near the city center in Blantyre – it is about as “urban Africa” as it gets.  To read one description of life in this slum, you can visit this link.

Our experience of Ndirande was (no surprise) marvelous.  The CCAP congregation there is vibrant and alive with several thousand members.  We attended the second (of three) services, the English-language one.  Jessica was the preacher for the day, and Chloe and I also assisted in worship.  Actually, the entire team led worship because we sang as a choir.  It was a well-received rendition of “I Will Call Upon the Lord” in which the congregation joined us enthusiastically.

Prior to each worship service, the worship leaders and distinguished guests greet one another, plan, and pray in the vestry. That room was crowded on Sunday!

Pastor Jessica ready to preach about our call to believe in God’s promises and provision even when the odds seem stacked against us.

Joining in worship with the Ndirande congregation.

After worship we enjoyed tea at the home of the Pastor (who remained at the church to lead the third service). From there we returned to GBCC and set off toward the shores of Lake Malawi.  We stopped to greet Abusa Takuze Chitsulo, the Principal at Zomba Theological College. We had been asked to deliver some books for the ZTC Library, and we took advantage of the stop to learn more about the College’s mission and take a brief tour.

In the manse with the “Mai abusa” (pastor’s wife) and the session clerk.

Hudson and Annabel present the books to Abusa Chitsulo on behalf of the PCUSA.

Although the staff and students are on semester break, not everyone has gone home. I’m not sure what year this fellow is in, but he showed real agility and energy while with us at ZTC!

From there we drove straightaway to the southern end of Lake Malawi, where we’ll be privileged to spend a couple of days.  Along the way we noted the drastic change in landscape, scenery, and the shift from intensely urban to wide-open rural Malawi.  It was a long ride, but it passed quickly enough with a lot of singing, some great conversation, and a nap or two along the way.  Our day ended with a late (but delicious) dinner and (for some of us) a few games before bed.  All in all, a great day!

With Eddie at one end of the bus and Rayna at the other, the songs (and hand motions) were flowing freely!

It wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t play Bananagrams, would it?

 

Africa Pilgrimage Update #4

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

When we began to think about the possibilities of a Youth Pilgrimage to Malawi, one of the most important considerations for such an experience was creating spaces for young Malawians and young Pittsburghers to meet together for mutual enrichment, encouragement, and growth.  Once we had agreed to proceed with this trip, our counterparts in the CCAP identified a theme of “Developing Leadership Through Partnership” and planned a series of three half-day workshops wherein the young people from each side could gather around important topics.  Today was the first of those meetings, and we held it at the Grace Bandawe Conference Center in Blantyre.  There were approximately 35 youth from the Synod to meet with the 9 of our young people as well as the advisors and mentors.  Gospel Mbvutulo presented on behalf of the Malawian church around the topic “Challenges faced by the Youth in their Christian Life”, and then our own Michelle Snyder led a discussion around the topic of “Dealing with Anxiety”.  Each was well-received, and even though it was clear that there were cultural as well as theological differences, folks came away glad that we had taken the time to walk through this experience.

Getting settled in at the Youth Conference

Barb Swan responds to comments about her group’s reflections on the material.

It wouldn’t be a partnership gathering without self-introductions. Here, Rayna takes her turn.

Our time together included a mixture of large group presentation and small group reflection and discussion.

Michelle adapted her material beautifully to be able to respond and add to the segment with which Gospel had begun our seminar.

While I wasn’t listed as a “presenter” on the program, I may have told a story or two anyhow….a coincidence that I’m sure had NOTHING to do with the fact that the conference ran overtime…

When the seminar finally ended (approximately 90 minutes after the schedule indicated), our group of young people spread out around the campus of GBCC and shared a meal with their Malawian counterparts – under the gazebos, in the sun, or in a dining hall.

Lunch with new friends…

The gathered assembly!

A highlight of the day for one Pittsburgher was a third trip to the airport to collect last of our missing luggage.  We are now fully here!  We took a tour through much of downtown Blantyre and saw a number of historic buildings as well as some very interesting new construction.  One of the more impressive stops was an impromptu visit to the Mchiru CCAP, which happened to be hosting a group of 15 representatives from South Africa. While the South Africans had just left, the choir was still rehearsing and the pastor gave us a tour around the church grounds, their new manse, and more.  We might have stayed a while to listen to the choir rehearse…

As the Mchiru CCAP Women’s Choir rehearses…

… our group of travelers seeks to soak it all in!

For dinner our hosts at GBCC showed us how well their new wood-fired pizza oven works… and we were delighted to have had the chance to sample their success! We ended our time together by sorting through the nearly 700 pounds of medical supplies that our team brought with us (using a list compiled by our colleagues here in Blantyre Synod). Vitamins and gloves and pain relievers and antibiotic ointments and more were segregated into the appropriate suitcases and are ready to be shared with those who have experienced the devastation of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth.

That’s a lot of hand sanitizer…

Thanks to everyone who helped us fill these suitcases with medical supplies!

It was a full and rich day, and we each noted something that we’d been able to see that stretched us, pushed us, or reminded us of something we knew to be true. And that’s what pilgrimages are for!

Africa Pilgrimage Update #2

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

A pilgrimage is a trip that is taken with the intention of deepening the traveler’s spiritual life and connection with the Holy. Often, such a journey is associated with a particular site: Muslims travel to Mecca, Jews to Jerusalem, and so on. Within Christianity, there are pilgrimages that are taken to specific places in the hopes of attaining a certain end: there are those who visit Lourdes in search of healing, perhaps.

When we began to talk about bringing a group of young people from Pittsburgh Presbytery to visit partners in Malawi, we knew that we wanted to do more than arrange a tour or plan a project.  And while many youth trips involve engaging the young people in some particular task or act of service, the nature of this experience is much more in the realm of that of a pilgrimage: that is, we have invited these travelers to leave behind that which is familiar and enter into a place that is new and different with the expectation of seeing God at work there.  Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “To go on a pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art, or history.  To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

In fact, we could argue that a pilgrimage is an exploration of a deeper truth that we as Christians hold: we arrange ourselves into congregations or “parishes”.  That word is derived from the Greek paroikos, which translates as “sojourner”.  It’s used in the book of Acts where the Apostle Stephen describes people of faith as “aliens who are living in a land that is not their own.”  In a real sense, each Christian is a pilgrim making her or his best attempts to find meaning and purpose in a world that is not always hospitable to those who value faith, hope, and love.

In my experience, God’s self has been revealed in quiet conversations and raucous worship services in many African communities.  I have sensed that there are ways of glimpsing life, living gratefully, and trusting in God and neighbor that are more readily experienced when we can step away from what we perceive to be as “normal” and look at life with fresh eyes.

To that end, our group of fourteen pilgrims from Pittsburgh has arrived safely in “The Warm Heart of Africa”.  Our pilgrimage began with a drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC and continued with flights from there to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then Lilongwe, Malawi, and finally Blantyre.  We’ve waited in some really long lines, eaten some new foods, and managed to misplace 11 of our 14 suitcases along the way (don’t worry, mom, we’ve been assured that the good people of Ethiopian Airlines know EXACTLY where they are and we should receive them in a matter of hours).  And we have begun to realize that our worlds are not as big or full or wide as we thought they were… they’ve begun to expand already.  And that’s a good thing.  In fact, that’s why we’re here!

One step closer!

The sea of humanity that is gates 1-3 at the Addis airport!

Coleman leading us in devotions at the Addis Airport

The turbo-prop plane fit my headgear exquisitely!

Ah, the baggage system at Lilongwe. Sadly, it’s empty.

A contingent of more than 2 dozen people from Balaka CCAP came to welcome us at the airport – especially partners from East Liberty!

One of the representatives from Balaka was Mr. Mmanga, who stayed at Crafton Heights 20 years ago!

There *may have been* a few speeches upon our arrival…

The sun is setting, but we made it to Blantyre!

The folks at Grace Bandawe Conference Center set up a beautiful welcoming spread for us!

Awaiting the “snack” that was more like a meal after we arrived.

Sharing stories of the road at Grace Bandawe

Hudson was interviewed by the Blantyre Synod Radio station!

A new day dawns over Africa for our group of pilgrims!

Africa Pilgrimage Update #1

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me. 

About two and a half years ago, I was privileged to lead a group of five excited and capable young adults from Crafton Heights in a pilgrimage to Malawi.  The response from both the church in Malawi as well as in Pittsburgh was energizing, and at an April 2018 “summit” meeting of the partners in Malawi, the Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian asked us to think about having a youth-themed trip.

We met with an enthusiastic response from a number of churches, and this morning I am sitting at Dulles Airport in DC with a team of nine young people and four other adults representing five congregations in Pittsburgh Presbytery.  If you’ve already heard about this journey, you might be thinking, “Wait, I thought those numbers were different.” And you’d be right.  But at the last minute one of the young people had to withdraw from the trip, much to his (and the entire team’s) chagrin.  We will trust that change to God’s care and assume that this is a trip delayed for that young person, rather than a trip that is missed entirely.

One of the questions that we are often asked as we prepare to engage in a “Youth Mission” trip is simple and straightforward: “What will you be DOING when you are in Malawi?”  That query underscores an important presupposition about our mostly-western mindset – that is, that mission is about a group of US going to be with THEM in SOME OTHER PLACE and “helping out” somehow.  With young people, that often implies a project, such as building a school, or leading a Bible School, or something similar.  The hope for this pilgrimage, however, is that while we will indeed GO, we will be focused on BEING more than on DOING.  We want to learn, accompany, listen, and simply dwell with sisters and brothers in the faith who have been given different stories than we have.  We expect to be changed and molded by this experience – and ask for your prayerful support.

While a few of the leaders have been to Africa before, most of the team has not.  This group of High School students is energized, anxious, eager, and a little bewildered by the opportunities that face them.  And all of them are wondering what it will be like to be on a plane for so long! Last night as we arrived at our airport hotel we read the Psalm that has become a tradition in our Partnership – the “Psalm of the Road” that is known as number 121.  In it, ancient travelers remember and trust that God’s care extends to protection from accidents and fears of the unknown – the Lord will watch over those at risk from injury, heat stroke, and night terrors… and so we rested in that promise last night and look forward to eighteen hours of flights and five hours of layovers in the day ahead… and perhaps we will dream of the warm heart of Africa tonight…

The team has cleared security and is heading for the boarding area…

One of the wonder-full and wondrous things about the International Terminal at Dulles is the grouping of flags and displays that just makes us FEEL like we’re on a great adventure!

Rayna leading the devotions as we prepare to depart.

The Crafton Heights Team includes Danielle, Rayna, and myself.

Thank you for your prayers!

Psalm 121 New International Version (NIV) — A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

 

 

 

 

Fossils or Fingerprints?

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  These entries will help to describe that experience – the sermons return in September.

When I checked into the Salt Lake City hotel as our 8-state, 3745 mile road trip came to an end, the young woman said, “Wow, that sounds like an amazing time.  Was this like, a ‘bucket list’ item for you, or what?”

My first thought was, “Hey, kid, how old do I look to you, anyway? Do I LOOK like I’m close to needing to check items off my bucket list?”

But upon reflection, I realized that she was right.  There was a lot about this trip that was “bucket-list-able”.  And I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’ve buried a lot of friends who are younger than I am, and about my own sense of accomplishment at having to made it to age 59 after my mother’s death at age 58.  We mustn’t take these things for granted, friends.

Our trip began and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah (about 8 o’clock on this map). Proceeding as indicated, we visited portions of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming (again), South Dakota (again), Nebraska, Wyoming (again), Colorado, and Utah. Amazing!

Having prefaced this entry with the above, it’s not a little ironic that the last real “stop” on our great adventure was the Dinosaur National Monument, which spans areas in both Colorado and Utah.  We spent the night at a campground on the Green River just a mile or two away from where Andrew Carnegie’s chief fossil collector, Earl Douglass, unearthed an incredible trove of bones belonging to such amazing creatures as the Apatosaurus that is still on display in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.  Between 1909 and 1924, he shipped more than 700,000 tons of bones and other materials back to Pittsburgh until finally, the museum decided that it had all of the Jurassic bones that it needed.

At the Dinosaur National Monument’s Quarry Exhibit.

Here’s the crazy thing: there are still more of them there – just sitting in the ground.  I mean, it’s crazy – walking down the path and seeing a giant bone protruding from the dirt.  Touch it.  Climb on it. We have more…  In fact, the Quarry Exhibit Hall is built right into the side of a hill, and visitors can see, exposed in the dirt, more than 1500 fossils. Walking along the trails of the Monument, we saw not only dinosaur bones, but fossils of other creatures including clams and some prehistoric dolphin-like fish.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall, built into the canyon itself.

Scientists have some theories about why there is such an immense quantity of bones at this particular site.  There were wetlands here at one time, and the thought is that during a time of drought, a large number of these creatures gathered looking for water.  Then an unexpected flood came and many dinosaurs perished at once.  Their bodies were swept to a certain location along the floodplain where they were covered with silt and sand and the process of fossilization began on this “logjam” of dinosaur bones.

The inside of the Exhibit Center contains a rock face displaying hundreds and hundreds of fossils.

You can say it: this is just a couple of old fossils in Utah.

Obviously, the easiest answer to the question “why are there so many bones here?” is this: “because so many animals died here.”  While the dinosaurs obviously didn’t vote for or decide to do this, they got overwhelmed by a flood or stuck in the mud and that was it.  They became fossils.

A dinosaur bone that we noticed on the trail in the Monument.

We knew we’d be seeing bones on this visit, but we were delighted to see something else – something even cooler, to my mind: a vast treasure trove of petroglyphs: etchings on the rock walls of these canyons that have been here for hundreds and probably thousands of years.  As we wandered through the park, we saw dozens of these markings – lizards, dancers, hunters, necklaces, and more.  Many of the sandstone faces of these cliffs are a darker hue on the outside – it’s called “sandstone varnish” – the wind and elements have apparently scorched them a deeper shade.  At some point between 200 AD and 1300 AD a group known as the Fremont People lived in this area.  Using sharpened rocks, they chiseled away at this varnish and left petroglyphs (carvings) and pictographs (paintings) on the walls.  While they are of great beauty and interest in and of themselves, what fascinates me even more is the fact that some of these pieces of art must have taken months or even years to complete.  Which means that someone in that community had the luxury of some free time – that not every second of every day was devoted to the same old grind of hunting and gathering, hunting and gathering.  This also tells me that those who left this art behind were doing more than simply waiting to become fossils themselves – they were leaving fingerprints all over this desert in the hopes that their peers and their children and grandchildren would find the land a little more hospitable, a little more welcoming, and a little more beautiful.

How many different images can you see in this single photo?

 

Many scientists believe that the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives are birds – like this Lark Sparrow that greeted me in the morning.

Fortunately, this is not a dinosaur.

This formation has been named “Turtle Rock” Can you see it?

A panoramic shot of the Green River. our campground is front and center.

So here’s the deal, beloved, as I conclude this part of the sabbatical.  Each of us, sooner or later, has the opportunity to become a fossil. One day, the folks will stand around me in a circle, throw dirt on my face, and then go back to church and eat some cheesy potatoes and ham.  There’s nothing I can do about that – I’m no better off than those bones in the Carnegie Museum in terms of my earthly mortality.

But I can choose to use the time I’ve been given to leave my fingerprints in places that will, I hope and pray, lead to beauty and joy and reflection; I can work to shape the environment so that my child and grandchildren will have more keenly developed senses of awe and wonder because I’ve walked these paths; I can be grateful for those moments of leisure and reflection that I’ve enjoyed.  This is the difference between fossils and fingerprints: a fossil says, essentially, “Well, I made it this far, and then I died.”  Fingerprints say, “While I was here, I did this.  And then I went on to somewhere else, and did something else.”

I am trying to be grateful, and I am trying to remember that I am still on my way.  And I challenge you to be the same.  Think about your own “bucket list” – what is something you can do todaythat will allow you to resist the rush towards fossilization and give you the chance to shape someone’s world with hope or beauty or joy?  Do it.

Since I’m on Sabbatical, and I’ve been thinking and reflecting in a different way, I’m remembering poetry that has shaped me.  One work that has shaped me for several decades – and in fact has been clipped and rides inside my Bible everywhere I go – is by Scott Cairns.  Listen, and remember:

Imperative

The thing to remember is how

tentative all of this really is.

You could wake up dead.

 

Or the woman you love

could decide you’re ugly.

Maybe she’ll finally give up

trying to ignore the way

you floss your teeth as you

watch television.  All I’m saying

is that there are no sure things here.

 

I mean, you’ll probably wake up alive,

and she’ll probably keep putting off

any actual decision about your looks.

Could be she’ll be glad your teeth

are so clean.  The morning could

be full of all the love and kindness

you need.  Just don’t go thinking

you deserve any of it.

– from philokalia, ©2002 by Scott Cairns

We ended our travels by sharing dinner with former CHUP organist Alec Chapman and his wife, Rachel. What a joy to reconnect – undeserved – but treasured!

Glimpses of the Black Hills and the Badlands, South Dakota

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  These entries will help to describe that experience – the sermons return in September.

We spent several days exploring a fascinating part of the country in Western South Dakota.  The Black Hills are named because after miles and miles of prairie, these gentle slopes covered with dark pine arose to greet the settlers of the west.  Further to the east (and also in North Dakota), is an area called The Badlands.  The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. French-Canadian fur trappers also called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.” We found traveling in the RV that the land was good and the hills were gentle!  Enjoy these photos!

The Black Hills of South Dakota

A visit to Wind Cave – the bottom of the Black Hills!

Boxwork – a calcite formation that is fairly unique to Wind Cave – the calcite remained in place after the limestone eroded away.

Also in the Black Hills – the town of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok met his maker whilst holding the “Dead Man’s Hand” of a pair of black aces and a pair of black 8’s. He looks pretty good here…

Deadwood was a hub for the “Gold Rush” in the Black Hills. Here I am checking out the accommodations.

I celebrated my birthday at Wall Drug, with ONE of these pieces of Cherry Pie.

The Black Hills was the first place we encountered feral donkeys on our trip. I’ve seen plenty of wild asses all over the world, however…

We couldn’t make a visit to the Black Hills without seeing four great leaders on Mt. Rushmore…

… or glimpsing the titanic monument to another at Crazy Horse Mountain. In the foreground is the model for the finished work; the background shows completion to date.

A panoramic shot of The Badlands. Can you imagine trying to get from here to there across THAT?

The Badlands at sunset.

A pair of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep navigate the Badlands with ease.

Western Meadowlark

A Great Horned Owl greeted us at the dawn of a new day…

…and, being less than impressed, went about his business elsewhere.

I learned that it’s egg-laying season for Painted Turtles in this part of the world, and that they like to find gravelly areas to do so. That meant turning the RV around a few times to help some of these ladies make it to the other side of the road and accomplish their mission…

While leaving the Badlands, we were driving through northwest Nebraska when we got an email from our old friend Mark Campbell. Turns out that we were only a hundred miles away at the time, so we headed west in time to eat a (lake trout!) dinner with Mark and his wife Cindy. We spent three hours catching up, praying, and enjoying each other’s company. What a gift!