Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let It Be

 Sunday. M and J were here for many hours tonight. They told us of things I’d wished I’d never heard. Blood-curdling tales from their adolescent years when Peru’s then-premiere terrorist group dominated and destroyed isolated native communities. In J’s village, bodies of live women and children were piled into covered holes in the dirt for hours-- babies and toddlers drugged with tree and leaf extracts to silence them— to save them. Quityoncari! Quityoncari! Red. Blood red. Ema first taught me this word in Yarina Isla, pointing to the blood of a dead animal. Now I think of the blood of slain Ashéninka and I shudder.

Wednesday. Nathanael, Michael and his Ashéninka language helper, whom I affectionately call the Professor, spent the hottest part of the afternoon with their machetes hacking away at waist-high weeds. Michael’s hands were bloody and blistered and he, Nathanael and the Professor were all dripping with watery mud when they came in for lunch. The girls and I had baked lemon-garlic chicken with plantain and poured it over white rice with a green herb sauce. The professor ate all of it with such enthusiasm and thorough attention to every bit of the chicken bone, Julia and Abigail and I were just delighted.

Friday. The neighborhood goat is now followed by her brown little ones just like her. They were feeding on the newly cleared land beside our front porch this morning while Profesora and I were studying some translated hymns.

Crystal and her language helper outside our house.
Crystal with her language helper outside our house.
We sat on the front porch, and rocked and sang in Ashéninka, and I learned more grammar patterns. Inintaperoeyacaeni. He loves us. Anintaperoeyerini. We love Him.

And commands.Pomampaacotyaari Pava. Sing to God!
And praises. Noquimoshirevenaquimi. You make me happy.

Somehow foreign words spill out more easily in song, so we did a lot of singing today while we watched the goats.

Saturday. The carpenter came by. Out of the blue, Michael had called him to build a workbench area in the shed, but he seemed hesitant over the phone. Upon seeing him, we knew why. H’s face was shadowy with eyes sunken back toward his forehead. Emaciated, he sat down to talk.
The woman he’s been living with sat in the moto-taxi for quite some time while the men talked on the porch. H fears for his life. He thinks he’s dying and is cursed for rejecting God. He’s afraid. And angry. He’d come to ask us to buy his land. Or did we know anybody who would buy his land so He could go to the capital city for medical help?

I went out to the moto-taxi and asked the woman to come and sit in the shade. She declined. So I brought her water then left her alone. I walked in the house and watched her from the window. Minutes later, she was handing me a plate of smoked meat and yucca through the window bars. I gave the food to the children and went to the moto-taxi and asked her to tell me a little bit about what was happening to H.

She cautiously began… and her story unfolded, which was his story, too. She said she once followed God but did not anymore. She was sad, but did not know how not to be. I asked her if I could pray for H with her. She agreed. Together, we asked God to reveal Himself to her as she accompanied H through a great valley.

When we finished, I saw H, his chin in his chest, praying with Michael.
…The Lord is the strength of my life… (Psalm 27:1).

Sunday. Instead of a church service, there was a funeral today. The casket was cut from smooth wood and painted nearly black. On top of it were three plastic soda bottles cut off at the middle to make flower vases stuffed with colorful wildflowers beside taper candles sitting in their wax melted on splintered planks. It was hot. Our bodies were all stuck together on uneven benches. We sang choruses and children played with a puppy and picked each other’s heads.

Someone passed out plastic cups filled with cold, red cola. We looked at the casket. Then they asked Michael to come up and say something. He stood beside the black box. His voice broke. In the casket was the body of a nine-year old girl, Abigail’s friend from Sunday school. She’d been tree-climbing. And fell.
He spoke few words from Psalm 84 through the tears caught in his throat.

My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You…
As they pass through the valley of weeping, they make it a spring;
They go from strength to strength…
O Lord… blessed is the man who trusts in You!

A geniune Leo chocolate cake.
Jose's 5th birthday with a yummy Leo cake!
Saturday. While everyone was playing volleyball in the field beside the corner church, I hopped across the way to visit Leo. Michael suggested I order one of her chocolate cakes to surprise Jose for his birthday. She told me of her dream to own a cake-shop. For now, she bakes out of her house which is mainly brick and mortar without windows or doors on a muddy lot. Her baking tools are neatly covered in fabric, and shelves are stacked with pans and spoons and chocolate bars from Lima. She washes her dishes outside. It is thoroughly enchanting. She sent me with a chocolate baking bar and made me promise to return with whatever I made. I’m thinking about fudge for Thanksgiving.

Friday. It was after 4 when Nellie started singing, signaling the start of another study. While she sang, someone banged a rock on the gate. It was Anali with three other indigenous women beside her. I assumed they were all together, though I’d never seen the three before, so I invited them in.
I went to get some bananas for the crying toddlers and when I returned, the room was full but all the women were silent. That wasn’t normal. So I asked Anali, Do you not know each other?, referring to the three women with her. She nodded. No.

Apparently the women were just walking by, and they weren’t sure why they were now sitting in our front room. So I told them I would be telling a story if they’d like to stay for a bit. They agreed.

I told the woman-at-the-well story—how a rejected woman drawing water heard how she might never thirst again. We talked about our hungry hearts that seek satisfaction in a myriad of mildly-satisfying, short-lived pleasures. And of …Christ who is our life… (Colossians 3:4). I shared examples of things I’ve groped at, vainly hoping to feel fully happy only to find that Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11), and He who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), is also The fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 17:13). Our Maker, who finally and ultimately satisfies us completely, does so because we are His.

When a rejected woman at the well heard about living water: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14), and that its source was found in the One who spoke I… am He (John 4:26), she believed. And was satisfied. And could not keep silent.

When our time finished, the story was more alive to me than before, and I wanted to tell it again and again because each time I do, I believe it more.

Sunday. M and J and his cousin decided it was time we visit the caves. Our families hiked in flip flops through layers of everything green and red and grey. Mainly mud and trees. Nathanael spotted an enormous carcass of some creature … Huge femur bones and a jagged skull, something akin to a creature we read about in Job: See now, his strength in his hips… he moves his tail like a cedar; The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit. His bones are like beams of bronze. Indeed the river may rage but he is not disturbed…(Job 40).

We sank to our calves into pottery-making red clay, then bare footed through fields of wildflowers and underbrush. For lunch, there were noodles with spinach and basil sauce in a lemon grove. And mosquitoes. In a cold, clear spring, the children painted their bodies with red mud.

Found the cave. Into the earth it wound. (I know only because I looked at pictures). Michael and M, his cousin and a boy from an indigenous community disappeared into the darkness armed with flashlights, pocket knives, and a green string by which to find their way back out.
Enjoying one of the open spaces with a pool.
In one of the spacious areas of the cave with a pool. Are there any creatures in the water?

The tighter spots included sliding through mud chutes.
Some areas included sliding down chutes of mud.

Cave Creature!
Too many for a spider, too few for a centipede
J and I talked while the children hung from vines in the trees and the dog chased insects and whatever else he was barking at. The men re-emerged after some time, covered in mud, elated. They saw animal tracks and a spider-look-alike with a dozen legs…on each side. The kids begged to be lowered into the entrance. We heard screams of gleeful terror. Bats. But night was falling, so we followed the carcass-laden trail to where the truck was parked beside a stream. Following the stream led to a river, and we jumped in, commencing headstand contests and mud-scrubbing from clothes and bodies.
Smiling, screaming, and laughing.
Smiles, screams, and laughter marked an underground adventure!
At home, I stood under the hot water apparatus until my skin burned. Through the window and barbed wire, the black sky and gauzily clouded moon yielded just enough light to see flat, waxy leaves reaching into the sky. Complete and total beauty. And my soul was lost in it entirely.

Lord, your constant love reaches to the heavens;
Your faithfulness extends to the skies.
Your righteousness is towering like the mountains;
Your justice is like the depths of the sea.
People and animals are under your care.
How precious, O God, is your constant love!
We find protection under the shadow of your wings.
We feast on the abundant food you provide;
You let us drink from the river of your goodness.
You are the source of all life, and because of your light we see the light
(Ps 36:5-9).

Tuesday. I’m going through a lot of pen and ink learning about the sovereignty of God. How one nation rises and another falls. How some people are rich and some are poor. How some know severe suffering and others do not seem to. How one thing is right for one person and certainly not for another. But so much of what I observe is only a seemingly sort of observation, a dimly-lit, sorely-lacking view of what is true.

This only seeing what seems-to-be has made me really uncomfortable. It’s much more fun to be confident and certain of most anything and being a know-it-all has always come quite effortlessly to me. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). Yet this is what is real right now—dimness. Seeing dimly reminds me not to lean too heavily on my own understanding, but to work through these matters of following Jesus humbly: God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble (1 Pet 5:5) and with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12b). What joyous liberty then is this matter of seeing dimly! I get to hurl myself humbly, headlong, and free into the One who loves me in a way I now only dimly see! O, but when I see Him face to face, I will know! I will know His love and I will know and understand the promise He made to the woman at the well.

O let it be!


  1. Thank you Cyrstal for posting this! Your description of all you are experiencing takes me back. I know that this life is so hard but it is incredible how God lets ud see Him so clearly in the beauty around us. I am so proud of you and your family for the work you are doing among the asheneninka. Praying for all of you!
    Susan Taliaferro

  2. Love you, love your heart, love your blog! Thinking about and praying for you and your family often.

  3. Thank you for sharing Crystal! I love reading your beautiful writing and visualizing all the pictures you paint with your words. We are praying for you all!

  4. Crystal, I can truly see why God has lead you and Michael to the mission field. He is using you to show all of us through the words you write "how great He is". I truly feel the written words. You are a blessing. Thank you for your loving kindness. Blessings on you and your family. Marcie (IBC)

  5. Thank you for sharing! I was drawn closer to God through your scriptures and descriptions of what He is teaching you. I am learning a lot too and it fit into what God is teaching me. I love the way you put scripture into your letters and posts. May God bless you.

  6. Bless you guys...thoughts and prayers from Redding, CA.