We are not called to understand each other, but to love one another.
I accompanied the African pastor and his family to the church service. Pitiful. Three people attended.
But the pastor smiled. “I’ve been building up the church over the last four years.”
After the service I was escorted to a guest room with a hard, grass-filled mattress on the floor and no mosquito net. The town garbage heap was just outside where rodents scurried throughout the piles of trash. I only hoped and prayed they wouldn’t enter through the broken window.
I bumped my head so many times on the pillow that by morning I had a lump on my forehead. I was determined to find out what was in it. Rocks, bricks or wood! But it was sewed so tightly shut it remained a mystery.
My dry, parched throat cried. “May I have some drinking water please.”
“Take some from the refrigerator.”
Opening the door, I stared into the empty, warm refrigerator. “Can I take some water from the tap and put it in my water filter?”
“There is no water in the tap right now. Besides even when there is water in the tap we cannot drink it because it is filled with dirt and excreta. So we buy the donkey man’s water from his well.”
I asked. “When the water comes to the city tap can we strain it, put bleach in it and let it set?”
“We could do that, but we just don’t like the taste of that water.”
“Tell me about the donkey man’s water.” I sighed.
“A man brings water on his cart and we buy it from him. But every morning he must feed his donkey to pull the cart and that takes time. So we don’t get water until late.”
“Could you buy a double portion so there would be leftover for the following morning?”
“We could do that, but we never like to buy too much water in one day, because people would just drink it.”
The logic escaped me.
At nine the water man arrived and my hostess boiled some for coffee.
I sat down with the pastor and his wife. As I swatted the flies away from the chocolate spread on my bread, I shook my head. “I’ve never seen so many flies in my life.”
“It is because it is so hot that the flies must come inside the house to get cool air. And we must leave our doors and windows open so we can have fresh air.”
The reasoning once again made no sense. I stared outside at the swarms of flies covering the herd of cows in front of the house.
Early that morning I made a quick trip to the market in search of toilet paper. The pastor and his family of fifteen obviously did not use any.
Checking out twenty various boutiques I mumbled in English, which no one spoke. “You mean in a town of 80,000 people with electricity, refrigerators, freezers, fans, cell phones and televisions, there’s not one roll of toilet paper?”
So I bought the last two little packages of Kleenex, ten tissues in each and sent a prayer it would be all I ever needed.
And then I went with the pastor and his wife twenty miles into the bush. About three hundred people hiked to a swamp with water two feet high. The pastor rolled up his shirtsleeves and folded up his pants legs as he slapped at mosquitoes. Then he gingerly walked to the middle of the marsh to wait for the converts.
He nearly lost three of the new believers as he dunked them. Either the smelly water took their breath away or the things floating around in the swamp caused them to lose their balance.
But if the converts survived the swamp which carried cerebral malaria and river blindness there would be great numbers added to the village church.
I shook my head. “Pastor, it’s a little dangerous to be baptizing in this swamp.”
“No. This way the converts can learn to trust God right from the beginning.”
“Suppose one of them got sick from the baptism?”
“God would never permit that to happen.”
“Why not?” I asked. “The Bible says not to test the Lord.”
“Because God is God and these people trust Him.”
His explanation made no sense to me. Then I wondered if maybe it was a “FAITH” thing.
Three months later, after 212 bed bugs, so many fleabites I couldn’t count, rats, rocklike pillows, a stiff neck and tight muscles from being compressed into taxis, I was ready for civilization.
Yes, even a seasoned missionary like myself of 29 years, who loves Africa and finds every day an adventure with Jesus longed for a comfortable mattress, soft pillow and “falling water” shower.
Folks have reasons for what they do. Although I may not understand the logic for their actions, I still must love them.
For Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves.
I apologize for not posting in two weeks, but I had no Internet. From now on I should be able to post on Sunday. Sorry for the inconvenience.
May God’s richest and greatest blessing fill you today and throughout the week.
Christ Jesus, the most perfect gift.