Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's like living in the Bible

I won't have internet again until next weekend, so I'm going to try to set this post to appear on the blog sometime in the middle of the week. If it doesn't work, I guess you'll have two posts to read at once! Lucky you!

First: one of the girls on my team emailed me some pictures! Here's a bit of the way life has been this past week:

Now, stories.

After two nights at the teacher's house, we packed up our things and headed to another village. As we set out, Anil told our team to pray that God would be faithful in giving us another place to stay with kind people who would feed us. Having seen God provide the previous few days, I was actually excited to see where we'd end up this time around.

We hiked for a few hours, getting lost once or twice and stopping once to eat some snacks since we we're sure the next time we'd have food. We rounded the side of a mountain and saw a huge village spread out in front of us; well, I suppose it wasn't huge, but it did have roads and a few little shops selling snacks, which we hadn't seen in days. We prayed for a place to stay, and the first house we came to offered us rooms. Every home you walk past in these villages will offer you chai; we had tea nearly twenty times in four days. As we sat in front of the house sipping our chai, about a dozen women gathered at the edge of the house to stare at the strangers. A few of them were holding babies, and if you've ever met me, you know I love to steal babies. I asked our translator if it would be okay for me to hold one, and he just laughed. He told me to go try, and as soon as I walked up to one of the women, she practically tossed her baby in my arms. Success! I went back to the benches where the rest of the team sat, proud of my accomplishment. The baby and I became best friends while he chewed on my scarf and sneezed in my face. Ah, love.

We dropped our things in the family's spare room and headed down to the main part of the village to make friends. As soon as we got to the bottom, our team stopped for some momos (basically mandu, only not even half as good), and our translator chatted with the men hanging around the shop. One of the men was a teacher, and he asked if we would like to visit his school in the morning. Schools seemed to be our thing, so we jumped at the chance. Since the last school had about twenty-five kids, we asked how many we should expect and prepare for, thinking it would be around the same number. Nope. This school had five hundred kids. Five hundred!

The teacher took us back to his house for chai, and it was one of the nicest houses we'd seen since we started our village hiking. They had a color tv and an indoor bathroom, and the cups they served our tea in looked quite expensive. The family offered to let us stay with them, but we had already agreed to stay with the other family, so we declined. On our way out, we met a few other people who seemed rather influential. Anil talked with them, then came back to tell us that he had just met the president of the village, and he would like for us to stay at his house. The house he led us to wasn't even finished yet; the president himself had never spent a night in it, but he was letting us stay there. They started preparing food while we went to gather our things from the other family's house; we sang worship songs the whole way.

In the morning, we met the teacher at the school and he let us play with the children. We pulled out our trusty balloons as we interacted with the youngest kids, and the rest of the school came from their classes to watch us. I asked if I could have a piece of chalk to draw a hopscotch board on the ground; the teacher had no idea what I was doing, but he let me draw. I demonstrated a few times while the kids stared in awe at a few chalk boxes on concrete; finally, a few of them were bold enough to try it themselves while the rest of the school crowded around the space. The teacher asked me if I knew of anything else to draw, but I couldn't think of anything else that didn't require other materials - can you think of anything else we might be able to do?

The school fed us lunch before we passed out Bibles and said goodbye to the kids. We grabbed our things and climbed on a bus back to Anil's house, where we spent the night singing worship songs around the fire. We walked through Anil's village the next morning, playing with kids and talking to people. It was what I imagined the disciples' lives to have been like.

I've been trying to follow Christ for about seven years now, and in that time, I've read the stories in the gospels probably hundreds of times. There's a part in Luke (it's also in Matthew, but I'm simplifying) where Jesus sends his disciples out to tell people about the Kingdom of God, and he instructs them on how they should travel. He tells them to enter a village and find the man of peace, and to stay with that man until they leave the village; he says that man will welcome them and feed them while they stay at his home. I'll admit, I usually skip over that passage when I'm reading. I can't imagine walking into Detroit and trying to find a "man of peace" to let me stay at his house for free and feed me the whole time I'm there. All the times I've read that passage, I skimmed it, thinking it could never apply to the world as it is today. One morning, as I sat on the edge of the mountain writing in my journal, I remembered having read something about visiting villages, and I flipped through the gospels to find it. When I came across Luke 10, I was shocked at how much those instructions fit exactly what we were doing. I don't think the Bible has ever felt as real to me as it did in that moment, and I'm so thankful for that hour I spent on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas. Sometimes Jesus feels a bit like a movie character, a historical figure that America distorts to fit its political agendas. In that moment, and so many moments since I've been here, Jesus felt like the Son of God, and I'm so very grateful.

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