Of Christians and volcanos

Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
Trip End Feb 15, 2009

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Flag of Reunion  ,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This morning I walked down to the house for an 8:00 breakfast: strong coffee, juice, yoghurt, toast butter and jam. They wanted to show me some of their island, so we were going to go for a drive as we talked. The west side of the island is the developed, touristy side. But a stretch of road was still out along the coast, damaged from the high waves of the past days. So they decided we would visit the less developed east side of the island. One reason it is less developed is the lava flows. There is a very active volcano, the piton de la fournaise ("furnace peak" quite an apt name for a volcano) that takes up a large part of the south of the island.
We drove out from the region of Saint Denis east and then south along the coast. It took about two hours to reach the area called grand brûlé (the "big burned"). There are periodic lava flows in this area that can last for up to a month or more. They can run several hundred meters wide and go all the way into the ocean. The flows don't seem to follow exactly the same course, so as one drives along the coast there are signs identifying which flow one is seeing: this one from 2002, this one 2004, this one 2005 etc. The highway has to be rebuilt after each flow, and the flows are palpably hot even a year or more after they stop. As we drove by the most recent one from 2007, I could feel heat coming from the flow through my open car window. It is a most remarkable area. We stopped to look at several different places and I took some photos. It seemed clear to me that this isn't an area where many people would want to invest in real estate (although the island is actually growing on this side - the lava flows extend the island by several hundred meters each time they reach the sea and cool).

We continued talking as we drove: does the Church have a position about political parties or issues? How do we who live in the States, view the recent elections? I asked them how the election was reported here, and what they believed most people thought of it (the answer was: with a strong liberal leaning). We talked about the moral slide that is obvious to them in their island, and how that reflects a general trend in the West. We talked about other islands in the area: Madagascar, Mayotte, Mauritius, Diego Garcia (a huge American base far out in the Indian Ocean) and what's happening in them. We talked about the clash of religions in the world and how they see that illustrated in Reunion (there are Tamils, Hindus, and Muslims here as well as Christians). It's clear the Prodigues are very eager to be able to discuss such things with someone of like beliefs. I believe those of us who have regular contact with church members and regular congregations and easy communications in the West often take that 'meeting of minds" very much for granted.
We arrived back at Saint Denis in time for lunch. It was a French lunch: fresh raw vegetables and salad, baguette and several kinds of cheese and a small glass of Bordeaux, followed by French pastries for dessert. I couldn't have asked for a more pleasant lunch, especially since we ate outside on their terrace, with the view of the city and the ocean down below.
Mrs. Prodigue had an appointment at 2:30, so I walked back to the apartment, worked for several hours and had the chance to talk briefly with my wife on the phone. As the trip winds down, we're more and more ready to be back all together at home. Only five more days to go!
Around 6:00 I walked back down the hill and Laval showed me all the things he has downloaded from the Internet over the years: ABC classes, Internet video updates, sermon videos, sermon audio, sermon transcripts, booklets, articles, and more. I think he must know as much about what UCG offers on the Internet as anyone except our own media department. He explained that they're alone physically on the island as far as their faith is concerned, but they have so much information and encouragement available that they can keep very busy on positive things.
I showed him a Bible software program in French which I thought he might like to acquire, and gave a primer on how to use it. I also showed a PowerPoint presentation about our Home Office operations, which the three family members found interesting. Thierry wanted the exact street address so he could look the office up on google maps.  We continued our discussion of all sorts of things until dinner time. Patricia had prepared a typical réunionais dish: rice and chicken in a mild pepper sauce. It was very good. I had another very sweet mango - called a Josée here - for dessert. I won't be having those again for a while unless I can manage one more tomorrow.
After dinner we had another long talk about what they can do in their situation to be of service to God and the work of the Church. Their enthusiasm and desire to serve is remarkable, and for someone who lives in much easier circumstances, thought-provoking.
It has been a very full, and I feel very productive day. Tomorrow should be my last day in the tropics for a while. Tomorrow afternoon, if all goes as planned, I will start the long voyage to frigid Paris.
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