Amazing Malagasy Grace
Madagascar, October 2000
My face was pressed against a steamy taxi window, staring at moving images while I tried to spirit my mind halfway around the globe. This place was, by map miles, the farthest location on the planet away from my home. My time in Madagascar had been difficult. I was physically exhausted from twenty miles of daily walking on dusty, diesel-clouded roads leading to the more polluted capital city of Antananarivo. Witnessing the depth of poverty the Malagasy navigated to survive left me emotionally dazed. I was homesick. I had been away from my family for a couple of weeks. I was missing my wife’s kisses and the tickling laughter of my three young children.
Heading to the airport in a taxi, we came to a traffic stop on a quiet street shaded by tall, ramshackle buildings holding off the rude western sun like giant sentries. A humble Malagasy church lingered in my direct view. I heard something familiar enough to pique my interest enough to roll down my window. From within the red brick sanctuary there came the cherubic echo of the Malagasy tongue. I recognized the tune. Pouring from the small building, in a beautiful language foreign to my ears but not my heart, was the song Amazing Grace.
I shut my eyes.
For what felt like a decade, I had been cut off from anything familiar. Suddenly, as if I were a giant brass bell and someone clanged me with a great hammer, I was overtaken by a truth. One day I will stand in ecstasy with the brethren of the ages, before the throne of God, and all languages will merge into a magnificent musical accord, common in the most gloriously uncommon manner. My tribe, my people, were never as far away as I imagined. I just was not looking.