Friday, March 25, 2011
Most of March
What normally takes nearly 8 hours by truck and boat, took 12 ½. It was a long travel day. We started out before morning light. Not long after hitting the dirt road we follow for 3 1/2 hours, a tall truck which had lost hundreds of papayas in the mud the night before, blocked motorcycles and trucks from both directions.
Later there was the brook that flooded, nearly carrying away brave trucks that had forged on through. One truck got stuck and Michael used the winch to pull him out. We waited for the water level to lower in the sunshine before crossing. Water seeped in through the sides, but just enough to remind us of where we’d just been… and we were off again.
I’ve dropped some melted wax from a burning candle to the top of a tuna can. The candle sits in that wax providing my only light, but even its soft glow cannot lure me to write. Another time.
Hermano Hyoni pulled a giant fish in from his net, and everyone was running in circles telling everyone else who already knew. He was this morning’s hero providing breakfast for many. For lunch, I let black beans simmer over the fire, bathed in cilantro and chopped carrots and we had garlic rice and aji (thin slivers of salted purple onion and diced hot peppers drenched in the juice of many lemons). We fried up some eggs and called it a feast.
Balsa logs roped and woven together with strips from the palms formed the raft Abigail, Julia and I sat on while washing clothes. Two other young girls sat along the river with us, so I told them part of Joseph’s story from Genesis until the clothes were washed and wrung-out. And then the four of them were off, jumping from the shallow cliff into the muddy river until their teeth were chattering and they could bear the cold, risen current no longer.
The sky is so black, and the stars so white, Julia was delighted to have stuffed her telescope into her tarp bag for such a night. I’m sneaking outside to watch her watch the sky.
Refuse to lean on my own understanding.
You are the one who will profit if you have wisdom, and if you reject it, you are the one who will suffer (Proverbs 9:12).
Today I am declaring dominion over my fluctuating feelings. They seek to drag me across the thorny valleys of unbelief, like a panicking stampede of furious cattle. I refuse to be controlled by ideas whose only power is the power I yield them. I will not therefore yield or linger on my own understanding, nor my own perspectives. Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected (Proverbs 12:1).
I will receive correction joyfully, even when I want to believe I’m the one who is right. Can I see the whole picture? Can I see all sides in any situation? I cannot.
People who are proud will soon be disgraced. It is wiser to be modest (Proverbs 11:2).
Ema and I went through story after story following the saga of Joseph’s life. I told them in Spanish. She repeated my sentences and paragraphs in Asheninka. I recorded her telling the stories in Asheninka, and as they unfolded, she lamented the fact that her Asheninka Bible stories in written form had been lent out and she was without them, so she stopped telling them.
Everything froze in my mind. She supposes that one cannot tell a story unless they have a paper to tell it from, and here I am confirming this very idea as I read more stories to her and she tells them back to me. She assumes that our story of Joseph is hinged on this piece of gold-leafed paper I’m reading from.
Ema, I lamented, These stories are in your heart! You’re telling details that I’ve not even included. You know these stories better than I do, yet you’re not telling them because you don’t have them written down? My problem is that I depend on what is written. If my Bible falls in the river or gets burned in fire, woe is me! But you! You have them in your heart, and they can never be stolen nor destroyed nor burned…That I would be like you, Ema… And I will!
She smiles. Ema says she will be telling the stories again.
Michael found a snake in the kids’ room this morning. After the excitement of its decapitation, it was time to begin breakfast.
Any time I make a meal, a small crowd gathers, eager to share in what will be served. This morning I was feeling mad about this. There I was-- being hauled off by those stampeding cattle of emotions. I wanted to make a meal for my family and no one else, and was thoroughly vexed. Then I decided I should probably feel really awful for being mad at the little brown eyes awaiting some rice. I should be mad at their parents for leaving their bellies to groan.
Stop. You have to whip a horse. You have to bridle a donkey, and you have to beat a fool (Proverbs 26:3). Dominate the stampede. Demand calm, resolute confidence in your Creator. Who gave me the rice I’m preparing? Who makes my hands to work? Who gives fire and sustains it? Do you realize the disaster that God or the king can cause (Proverbs 24:22)? Do I want to thrash about and grumble as own who leans on her own understanding? Am I willing to risk paying the cost of self-dependency? See what happens to those who trust in themselves, the fate of those who are satisfied with their wealth—they are doomed to die like sheep, and Death will be their shepherd (Psalm 48:13-14). Wouldn’t I rather triumph through trusting? The righteous will triumph over them as their bodies quickly decay… (Psalm 48:14b). And have I not already settled the matter of my righteousness? I have none of my own, but am declared righteous by faith. But those who depend on faith, not on deeds, and who believe in the God who declares the guilty to be innocent, it is this faith that God takes into account in order to put them right with Himself (Romans 4:5). Isn’t this therefore a settled matter? Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time (Proverbs 17:22). The next little guest will be met with a steaming bowl of rice and a hearty smile.
We needed to prepare enough 1 ½ liter bottles of water to get us to Puerto Davis with enough time to allow for water filtering upon arrival. We drank from those and ate sweet papaya for breakfast on the boat. Our leaking boat hoisted upriver and the higher we got, the taller grew the trees, and the mountainous jungle crawled up on all sides around us. Squirrel monkeys flinging through the trees made us forget how long we’d been sitting on those wooden boards.
Ema’s daughter, Lourdes and I shared lunch together under her house in the shade. Lourdes has come alongside me in all things: teaching me, serving me, loving me, and she knows she does none of these things. She anticipates needs I don’t even know I have and rushes to meet them. Like laying hot coals in our cold logs. I go to make a morning fire and it’s effortless, because Lourdes has walked down the hillside to bring fire. Or Lourdes has walked down the hillside to carry fresh water she’s gathered from the heavy rains. Or she’s peeled papayas to share, or guarded her finest meat for us.
It’s been a year since her husband left her and three unusually peaceful children.
I wake up at night thinking about her.
The storm. I didn’t mention it yet. Ferocious rain was beating so hard, I thought no hut would be left standing. In the middle of the night, the wind tore our mosquito nets apart. Water poured in through the openings in the wood, soaking our light blankets. Thunder shook even the ground. We rushed to find an area where the roof wasn’t leaking, and shared the one blanket that wasn’t soaked. Huddled in a circle, we sang all the songs that reminded us of God’s greatness. I was downright terrified.
We lay on the wooden slats. Everyone slept. I could not. I was cold, and could not stop listening to the girls scratching their lice-riddled heads. Nothing would stop the lice. Nothing would stop the storm.
You give perfect peace to those who… put their trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).
Nightly, we’ve gathered by the light of hanging bulbs, powered by the church’s new generator. We told stories, re-enacted those stories (complete with Lazarus rolled up in toilet paper), and sang heartily in their heart language with hand motions and human-trains formed by the children. Michael and Alejo ventured upriver to gather other families who came to share in the songs and stories. We told stories of adoring Jesus (Mary anointing Jesus feet with costly perfume), and how adoration is compelled by love—not ours-- but God’s pursuit of us: We love God because He first loved us (Jn 4:19). And about Cain and Abel: If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling; but because you have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it (Gen 3:7). From this story, listeners were made participants and we generated a list of verses and passages based on the belief that prizing God’s promises is our protection and our purity. How rich are the wonderful blessings He promises His people, and how very great is His power at work in us who believe! This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength He used when He raised Christ from death… (Eph 1:18b-20a)
Michael was up at 3:30 this morning: loading the boat, hauling water… He’s 31 today. And we’re leaving Yarina Isla. We’re moving to another part of the Amazon’s Basin.
The first thing I thought when I woke up to the candle sitting on the tuna can was this: Michael’s life has given me a new life. He is so focused. So compelled and driven by a big picture view of life and people and the world. He solves problems. He refuses to let those raging cattle of whirling emotion stampede and dominate his mind. He teaches me how to do the same.
I suppose I will spend the day thinking about him. We’re heading home, and we’ll be together, and there will be much to talk about.