Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Africa Reflections 1

It's hard to pull all the things in my heart and head together to write about them. There is the nagging issue of having to write a full length book, my first memoir, and the first book-length non-fiction I've done since Always Sisters. I'm not sure what I should say and what I should leave for the book. On the one hand I'm compelled to write, and on the other, I'm constrained. And then there is the pain. The fatigued that settles on you that you wear like ashes marking you for some spiritual death you didn't realize you signed on for.

Now, weeks removed from Africa I cannot believe I dared ask God to break my heart. It was a prayer He speedily answered, lovies. And he did a great job.

I have so many stories, and I want to tell them all, and yet, I want to gather them in some inner trunk and lock them away in my soul. I'm afraid. I kep thinking if I begin to tell these tales I will break into a million pieces and never be able to put myself together again.

Maybe I'll tell you in bits. A little here. A little there. Maybe. Or maybe I will stop at the end of this post knowing that is all I can do until I'm ready to face the whole of it in order to write the book. I can't say as I type this. I don't know.

They took us to the children first. A paradoxical care point with a Moon Bounce, and shoe-less (many didn't own shoes) little Christ's in His distressing disguises.

There were dozens and dozens of children, some with ready laughter spilling out of their mouths, and others with haunted mournful eyes--eyes too old and woe-filled to be practically babies.

I remember a feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do with myself. Do I reach out, or respectfully let the children come to me? Do I blow bubbles, or coo and hug and love? Do I write on the spot, desperately trying to capture every detail before it fades from memory? Or do I talk with the staff to get the real stories? Or all of the above? A feeling of helplessness overwhelmed me. But the children make it so easy on you. They rush you with infectious joy, a kind of joy that seems misplaced amid abject poverty and so, so many human violations.

I start by blowing bubbles with this multiplicity of the Christ Child. They are all Jesus to me, embodiments of Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you fed me..." words of Jesus which haunted me the entire trip. The children--the littlest Christs--loved the bubbles. And they liked my glasses.

It is hot. And dry. And there are enormous thorn briers which I dubbed "stigmata bushes" as they were determined to give me the wounds of Christ in my feet. You would not believe how many of these children had no shoes. How many kids who must have gotten these wounds as well, and had no Neosporin and antiseptic wipes like I had, tucked in my purse to take away the sting and threat of infection. Lord, have mercy. So much was a threat to them.

After a good deal of time playing, dancing, and engaging the children in whatever games we could think of in the moment, they washed their hands in a bucket of soapy water so they could prepare to eat.

This would be the only meal most of them would have all day.

And they were so polite, patient, and orderly as the waited for it. They were grateful. And it went so fast. Just a single bowl of mealie meal. That's it.

Anf yet, there is so much joy that it grabs a hold of you until your face becomes an icon of laughter.
Lovies, it was here that I began to learn a secret that would serve me well on this trip. Sometimes you simply won't be able to do a big thing for God. I realized I would not be the hope of Africa. I would not liberate my people. The call for the day, for the hour, for the moment was simply this: do something small, with great love. Do something. With love. Great love.

Take a piccha with great love. Play a game with great love. Live in the moment, since everything in you says, "For these children it is all now. There is no tomorrow." Say a prayer that falters in your mouth, but pray it anyway with great love. Receive a child in Jesus' name. With great, great love.

And I was to record these things to show you the half-filled bowls of mealie meal, the only meal of these kids would eat that day. I was to say to you, please help. Give something of yourself, anything, with great love. These children are the Savior you say you love.

He is hungry. He is starving, and not just for food.

Will you feed Him?

more later.


Mary DeMuth said...

stigmata bushes. Man, girl, you can write. I love your mind.

We're headed to Ghana (Lord willing) in June, to the remotest part of the eart, to an unreached tribe of folks. I know I'll be changed too.

Elysa said...

Thank you for sharing as you're able, Mair. I can relate. At times I can't even find words to begin to describe our time in Swaziland and the impact it is having on our lives...and at other times I get started and I just can't shut up.

I'll be linking to your blog at my blog, sweetheart.

Keep on writing and treasuring and doing what 'cha gotta do to do what He wants you to do!

Robin said...

I'm not sure I COULD handle it if you wrote everything you've seen...and felt in the "seeing".

In a moment, I want to save the world. In that moment, all I'm called to do is to love. Amazing how big...how beautiful...that tiny four-letter word is.

Truly moving...and perhaps, haunting, most of all.

Joni said...

Your pictures and word-pictures made me feel as if I were right there with you...I wanted to blow bubbles with those beautiful children, too.

To do a little something...just the one thing we can do...

Lord, have mercy.

Terra Hangen said...

This is powerful writing and pure feelings, and you share a good idea: we may not do a big thing, but let us do a small thing. Thank you.

Karen Deborah said...

I learned about you from my friend Elyssa. i've read your whole blog, old posts and all. Girl you are a darling diva. I love it when you talk about your Jesus groove. The trip to Swaziland had definitely been a life changing experience for you too. Isn't it totally mind blowing to meet people who are "poor" and are so much richer than we are in love? They showed you how to express great love. One bowl of mealie meal a day. Can any fat American (all of us) even begin to comprehend that? Write on sistah! It is the small things; be faithful with a little and God will bring you more.