Why is it that the poor of this world understand it easier?
While we struggle so hard to keep our pride intact?
I’m sitting in this coffee shop, the bug bites still itching from Ecuador.
And my heart is hurting for this city.
I see people all around me looking for identity and purpose, trying to find themselves in this gray town. I want to reach them with the brilliance of His love.
Not just the poor, but also those who are making it… and who are so lost.
The ones who can’t link arms for fear of the other.
We try so hard to be something special, and that very trying keeps us from Him, – the only One who actually calls us by name, who made us, formed us… and brings us into light. In the jungle I found the joy of letting others in, close to my misses and mistakes.
I felt the beauty in the awkwardness of needing help.
I was there to record for the Brinkman Adventures, but it became so much more.
I found myself sitting in an old hand carved canoe, so dependent on this jungle girl who asked me to come with her to her special bathing spot.
I awkwardly climbed into the canoe as she handed me one little boy and one very small girl. She had to tell me where to sit and how to sit, as I watched her standing there pushing us up against the current with her long wooden pole. And she started teaching me a song.
She looked in my eyes as she mouthed the words carefully for me to understand. The song which meant: “Who made the sky that’s so blue, the birds that fly above us?” She pointed to the parrots flying over us. We stopped where a clear little stream entered the river, and she dumped a bucket of river water over the shivering little girl’s head, now clean.
I couldn’t get the song, the words of her language are so strange and foreign to me.
I try over and over and fail. She takes my glasses and puts them in a “safe place” in the canoe. I gulp. She pushes me down in my seat as she steps over me to tie the canoe to the jungle tree behind me.
It felt awkward and uncomfortable needing so much help.
I didn’t like it as I squirmed inside. “How many people feel this way that I help?” The thought struck me and I tucked it away. I reach for my shampoo.
I look into her face. Me all cold, sitting in my bathing suit in that old canoe. And then I realized that she wasn’t looking down on me for needing, she wasn’t belittling me. She wasn’t rushing me… She was gentle. I look at the clean water flowing in from that special spot, the trees over us, those sweet naked little kids shivering and waiting for us… And I see it. My need, as awkward as it felt, wasn’t crushing me, it was actually bringing us closer. I shiver as I poured water over my head, and scrub the dirt out of my hair.
And in that moment, as my dependency and need were met with her love, my tears mixed in with the river… and I realized why the poor understand.
This felt grace is so precious… and How can you not love Him?
Nelly helping us cross the river.
This whole week the Waodani have been taking care of us. The Western leader of our team sits back quietly, as the villagers take charge as hosts and lead everything.They made a jungle “long house” for us to sleep in, and we watch as they hang the hammocks they made for us to sleep in. They take us out during the day to hunt and forage for food.
They protect us from the poisonous snake in the outhouse, chopping it to bits with a machete, and teach us how to outsmart the vampire bats at night. They help us catch stingray and piranha for dinner, and prepare toucan stew, and crocodile with fried plantain, and some other root we dug up earlier that day. They teach us how they make rope, weave baskets, and they show us how to carve spears and shoot blow guns. Minute by minute we are realizing how much they have to teach and how much we have to learn! They lead the Sunday service where Mincaye shares the message about being good soil for the Word to fall on. That same Mincaye who 53 years earlier speared the 5 missionaries who came to bring him that very Word. Now his grandson is a pilot heading toward Papua New Guinea to do missions. His granddaughter goes from village to village sharing the Gospel and teaching kids to walk God’s trail. And even he at 80, still goes whenever he can to visit people and share the Gospel.
I stood under the stars that first night, all my teammates swinging gently to sleep in their hammocks, and I listened to the Waodoni laughing softly around their fire, all having such a fun time hosting us. And it hit me. It was worth it. I sort of knew that before… But now, here, I see it. I see it in their shy and funny smiles. In their kids’ trusting eyes, reverent to their grandpa who speaks to them of Jesus. I see it in their hard working hands that patiently do what it takes to survive in the jungle. In the girls who are laughing and living free from fear. Those girls whose own mother saw her brothers killed in the morning by a terrible man who she was forced to marry later that very night.
That man who she is kissing now so many years later.
“Jesus showed me how to forgive him,” She said, “and what a marriage should be.”
If those five men hadn’t died, if their widow and sister hadn’t gone back in. These people, laughing softly around the fire would be dead.
And those that survived, would be living in bitterness and so much fear.
And I cried standing there, for joy and with longing.
I cried out to Jesus for my generation.
I cried out for more people like those five men, more people like their widows. People who with humility and dedication to Jesus, would be faithful even in the midst of their deepest and most difficult darkness.
And I cried out for my own heart, wavering as it does some days, that I would be like them too.
Like those men, whose lives are living on, even though they are dead… in the feet of the Waodoni who are going even farther than they could have gone. Bringing His message to their people who are lost.
The recordings went well, as God helped me all the way.
The 10 days flew by, and before I knew it we were getting in the plane to leave this very special world.
As I flew over the jungle with it’s exotic trees and winding river, I wondered which beach was the one it had happened on… And I thought… how short our lives are.
He chose even shorter lives for those five men.
But ours are equally short, with all of eternity waiting.
Oh, that my life would count like theirs did.
Even if it has to be shortened so others can really see Him.
The engine roared, and all the petty smallness stopped, as I looked out over that jungle, and offered myself to Him again.
As I stepped off the plane back into this Michigan grey, I wondered..
What could the fruit of OUR lives be?
Only He knows.