The dust collects in between my toes as I walk down the road towards the next house. Even though it’s 100 and something degrees hot outside, I pull my black scarf over and around my head so the motors passing by hopefully won’t take much notice to the white girl in the village. I can’t do much to hide my blue eyes, so I just turn them up towards the sky as the motors pass and take it as a quick chance to reconnect with God until the path is clear again.
We have been coming to this village for a long time now, but I still try to remind myself each time I slip my sandals off outside the door that I am forever to be a learner first in this place- a learner of their tribe and culture, their way of living, their people. I don’t come in with all the answers to their problems and I don’t want to ever pretend to be the hero. I am most definitely not the hero. If only you could get to know them with me…they are the heroes.
I step into the house and immediately get handed a baby. So I sit down on the ground, hoping the baby doesn’t use my lap as a diaper today (buuut he probably will), and I take in the familiar view around me. The inside of this house looks the same as all the others I spend my village days in. A stock of clothing is piled in the corner to be shared by all 15 people living in the house, a small table made from trees stands proudly in the center of the house, and next to it a bamboo mat is laid down where the family will all huddle together to sleep at night. There is likely a gun somewhere, but I don’t see it today. A metal mug, a few spoons and bowls, and a pot hang from nails on the boards of the house. Laundry is drying on the clothesline outside. And that’s it. That’s the house and all they own. I remember the teaching of Jesus…
“And when you pray, He said, pray like this:
Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread…”
I’ve been coming to these villages long enough to know the secret: there is really a special joy to be found here in this kind of life. I don’t say its easy, because absolutely nothing about life here is easy. But something is so real and powerful about a life completely and utterly dependent on God to show up and do what He says He’ll do, and be who He says He is. The Bible comes alive to me here; God is tangible.
“And looking at His disciples, Jesus said:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
After a while, Auntie takes the metal mug off the nail, blows on the old fire coals to spark it up again, and sets the water kettle over the wood to heat water for our coffee. She sits down beside me and catches me up on the chika (news) from the week. I understand most of what she says to me and just smile and nod through the few parts I don’t quite catch. Afterwards its silent between us for a minute. We goo and ga and do all the baby things for a while. Then she lifts her head and almost in a whisper, leans in to ask me a question…
“Why do you keep coming here? Even your Filipino companions from the city, why do they keep coming here to us? The road is hard, it’s dangerous here for you, we have nothing to give to you, we smell like the mountain…”
She stops her question short because I start laughing when she says their smell is like the mountain. But then I pause for a minute, because I know this question matters and I really want to answer her well. Its not the first time I’ve been asked this.
I take a second to pray before I answer her. If I bring up God’s name too soon or in the wrong house or in bad way, it could get our team into danger. I have to be bold and honest, but careful and discerning. There is no rulebook for this and I so often feel the heavy weight of responsibility to keep my team safe, but today I feel peace as I pray so I continue…
Auntie, the same God who brings the rain to water your crops so you can have food on the table, and creates the children in your womb, and provides for your needs here each day, the same God who created the materials in nature for you to build this house, who renews your strength every morning so you can fetch your water and care for your family, the same God who sees us sitting here right now together in your house, is the same God who brought us here to your place.
Because He wants you to know that He loves you. You are not hidden from His sight or forgotten about here in this village. His ear is not deaf to hear your cries for help and His hand is not short to save you. I can see His handprints all around your land even though most people here don’t yet worship Him. You think you’re alone out here, but you’re not. The one true God is here. And He loves you.
(I do the best I can with the language skills I have, but in a weird way I can’t explain, God tends to take control of my mouth when it matters most and give me words I don’t even know that I know).