In the summers as a kid, I went to Bible school. Weeks at a time. One summer in particular, I went to Bible school five times, once at Granny’s, at my maternal grandmother’s, at Aunt Sophie’s and at home. Twice. It was an amazing race from one Methodist to the next Presbyterian church. An entire summer of cutting out little pictures of baby Moses and pasting him in the green construction paper rushes.
This adventure was offered to me no doubt because school was out, I was bored, and Bible school was cheaper than a baby sitter or anger management classes for mom. In my teen years I sang in three choirs for the express purpose of getting away from the parents who had parked me in Bible school all those summer. There I learned the fourth and fifth verses of countless hymns, how to construct a speech with an intro, three ideas, and a conclusion (Dr, Kirkman was a master at the 5 paragraph theme) and how to squint my eyes while looking at the stained glass until the colors began to kaleidoscope in mad circles that made me dizzy. An early lesson in how and what kids take away from learning opportunities.
Back to Moses. Every year of Sunday or Bible school kicked off with the original water baby, Moses, afloat in rushes. So, today, as we cruise down the Nile with cattle, donkeys, and farmers in fluid blue robes that catch the morning breeze it is as if those cartoonish pictures from our Bible school newsprint books have come to life. Unlike the pictures of the North Pole workshop and Dino, the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur, turns out that this place – a river with rushes and desert on either side – is real.
And let me tell you, in the countryside along side the Nile, some things haven’t changed. Donkeys are still used for transportation, rice paddies are being tended by hand, fishermen are slapping the waters with sticks to chase fish into nets and laundry is still being washed by hand. And though the water is more polluted, the floods have been contained and the crocodiles are snatching fewer humans, which is change we can all believe in.
I never received or sought much religious instruction beyond the paste pot and memorized verses and hymns, this ancient, generous river seems sacred to me – a path of life that has enriched the land and people for all time.