American Pie

For the last month we have been enjoying a huge slice of American pie. Two days in Oceanside close to San Diego, a week near Nashville, Tennessee, two weeks in Virginia and a week in North Carolina. What a joy it has been!  So much good ol' southern hospitality, so much genuine warmth and so much fun.  We have explored Civil War battlefields; Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, the first place settled in 1607. We have seen the USS Reagan in San Diego harbour, the worlds biggest aircraft carrier; been to CBN, the huge centre of Pat Robinson's Christian Broadcasting Network; walked in snow in Tennessee; shopped for designer shirts in a thrift store (what bargains I found); watched woodpeckers in the Smokey Mountains near Pigeon Forge. The list goes on and on.

We have met many people who are passionate about their country. It has been such a joy to stay in homes of people who have just poured out their hearts in caring and affection. We love the America we have visited and the people we have met.  America is a country that in many ways is hard to comprehend. So many contradictions and surprises. I think in the world perhaps Americans are some of the most misunderstood of peoples. It is only when you sit at their tables, drinking ice tea, sampling grits and cherry pie (not on the same plate) that we can begin to know them. Their world is sometimes very small with many living all their lives within just a few miles from where they were born. Some have barely been out of their State let alone their country.  They struggle to grasp why so many in the world resent American activity worldwide. Also their country is so big. It staggers me how far flung the nation is.

Americans can also be surprisingly ignorant about the rest of the world. In one restaurant our server, working hard for his hoped for tip of 15 - 20%, when discovering we came from New Zealand, asked us what language we spoke there. I think he thought our accent was due to our lack of familiarity with English. Another lady just starred at me with her mouth open as I spoke, stunned by my diction. The she said "I didn't un'erstand a word of that honey, but it sounded real nice."  I was asked if New Zealand had roads!

The people we have been with are politically conservative and very worried about their President. There is a lot of fear expressed about change and the state of the world generally. The recession is hitting very hard in the south.  They seem to feel that the world is a very unsafe place.  Yet for all that they are full of faith and optimism about what God is doing in the world today. They see his hand in everything, more so than most other nationalities we meet. They look to him to meet their daily needs and are unashamed of being Christians in today's world. Every restaurant we ate in, groups paused to pray and give thank to God for their food, holding hands like the Waltons around the table.

We have worshipped and preached in a number of churches, a white middle class church, a black southern church, a sophisticated Californian church, and a wild revivalist church. Each one was real and vibrant and full of generous and warm hearted people. We have had so much fun.

Of course after a month I am now an expert on American culture, so am able to make these observations. No doubt some will disagree.  But I am happy to have been here, looking forward to coming back and grateful for so much of this land, not to mention their amazing ability to make fabulous cherry pie.