The diamond mines of Orapa

As the sun is setting, a bunch of us are standing outside a small office at a very imposing gate, waiting for our passes to be issued so we can enter Orapa.  A large sign gives the company name, Debswana, a combination of the historic diamond conglomerate DeBeers and Botswana. Underneath it says, ‘You are entering a Precious Stones Protected Area,’ and it goes on to warn that we must have a pass and are subject to search.

I fantasize that Orapa’s diamonds may be the solution to the Diocese of Botswana’s stewardship problems.

We have driven the 125 miles or so from Francistown to be present at the consecration of land given for the building of a church, suitably planned for Pentecost tomorrow. Bishop Mwamba has flown up from ‘Gabs,’ as folk here shorten Gaborone, on the company plane.

Soon I am seated beside him in the living room of a Debswana guest house. He leans over and says, ‘I wonder if you might preach tomorrow?’ That’s not quite as bad as when I visited one of my former seminary students in his Nairobi parish, and as we were walking down the aisle in the processional, he suggested that I should preach. But close. It’s been a long day.

We are enjoying a glass of wine at the time, and I am looking forward to another. Instead I say ‘yes,’ and I take my leave to make some sermon notes.

 

The Pentecost service, held in a schoolroom, is over, and some 30 or 40 of us – many from Francistown have come in solidarity – head over to the new plot, in Letlhakane, a nearby town where many who work in the mines live.

The property is already fenced, and Bishop Mwamba moves from one corner of the plot to another, marking the sign of the cross in the ground, and censing the area, and offering prayers – from the American Book of Common Prayer that Bishop Curry gave him on his first visit. We sing ‘The Church’s One Foundation’ as we go along.

The Orapa congregation has three trees to plant, and Bishop Mwamba does the first two. Then they turn to me. ‘The third should be a "North Carolina" tree,’ someone says.

I begin digging and strike rocks but no diamonds. It’s an orange tree. The task done, a young man comes over and waters it.