One definition of fellowship is an association of people who share common beliefs or activities. In ecclesiastical terms, the word suggests mutual trust and charitableness between Christians. Denise and I have had a discussion of fellowship this week, in the context of our habitual conversation when we are in Morocco as to whether or not we can evaluate or measure the value of what we do here. Like fellowship, or perhaps anything that is relational in nature, it is very difficult to predict when value will be realized and whether or not the value accrued can be attributed in any way to whatever we might have done earlier.
The catalyst for this latest discussion occurred last Sunday when I made a trip to Khouribga, a city in Morocco I had never visited before. It is located about two hours south of Casablanca by train, which means that it took a little more than six hours for me to travel there from Fes. I went to meet with a friend (I shall call him Hamid) who wanted to introduce me to some men with whom he had been involved in a “fellowship” for a number of years.
The friend to whom I refer is a member of a family we met about five years ago. Mutual friends who had known this family for over 25 years let us accompany them for a gathering in their home, located about an hour’s distance from Casablanca. Since then, Denise and I have returned several times for visits and consider it a priority to be regularly involved with them and their activities. However, I had not been able to schedule a time to go with Hamid to Khouribga to meet these special friends of his. I promised him upon our arrival in September that I had that visit scheduled and I intended to keep my word.
Our two weeks out of Morocco caused us to have to compress some of the other things we had planned to do and it appeared that only the weekend of October 25 – 26 would work for me. Thus I had planned to travel on Saturday, stay the night in Khouribga, and then return on Sunday. I had even purchased my ticket on Friday and would leave from Fes at 6:40 in the morning. Unfortunately, Hamid had to work Saturday and as a security worker, had to be present and stay all day to meet with some officials of the company who were arriving from South America. Still he wanted me to come on Sunday because he did not want to miss the opportunity for us all to be together.
I agreed to do that, even though I had no idea what might be accomplished, if anything, and whether or not I wanted to invest the time required to travel there and back. I was able to get a refund and change my ticket, so I left early Sunday morning. I had to change trains in Casablanca and about 2:45 in the afternoon I arrived in Khouribga. Hamid and one of his friends met me at the depot and we went to the café adjacent to the station and had coffee. About a half hour later, the other friend arrived from a nearby town by Grand Taxi.
For the next two hours and a half, in a train station café, I suppose it would be accurate to say we enjoyed “fellowship” together. The part of the definition about “common beliefs” was certainly evident. As is often the case in this kind of discussion in this country, there was a lot of conversation about expectations, methodology, resources, accountability and cooperation. That is vocabulary which makes it sound as if an important meeting were taking place. Actually, it was just four guys with a common interest enjoying fellowship together and considering what, if anything, we might be able to do in the future together.
Hamid actually had to be back at work at six a.m. Monday morning so my original plan to stay at his family’s house was no longer practical. My best option it appeared would be to return to Fes as soon as I could get back to Casablanca. Hamid was able to travel with me for the first 90 minutes or so of the two hour trip back to the Casa Voyageurs station where I could get the train to Fes. He got off at a station before we reached Casablanca, but we certainly enjoyed that additional time together. Unfortunately, I did not make it in time to depart at 9:10 p.m. but the very sympathetic person at the ticket window kindly explained there would be another train at 10:10. I did have time to get something to eat since we had not taken any time to eat in the afternoon. I did not arrive in Fes until about 2:45 a.m.
The taxi dropped me in front of our apartment about 3:00 and the guardian employed by the shops that line the street below kindly provided a light to assist me in getting into the building. He was a bit surprised to see me show up at that time of night, but it gave us some conversation material as I ran into him a couple of times later in the week.
Thus, I had traveled about 12 or 13 hours for a gathering which lasted only about three hours. Was that a worthwhile investment of time and energy? I doubt I shall ever know. I do think it has the potential to affect the thinking of some people that I had never met before and I do know that Hamid has expressed already to me how much he appreciated the fact I came. Denise has affirmed me in my decision as together we consider how best to use our time and resources when we are here. She also reminded me of that verse from Matthew 18, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Fred – Photo by Denise