April 12, 2008
As I go to bed, I take something for my stomach. It also puts me straight to sleep. There's a pride inside of me when I get to tell people I puked in the middle of the bush. Not exactly sure why, but I swell up a little bit. Nobody else will share in my sentiment.
I wake up and feel alive. For the first time since we landed, I feel like myself. Tinga is our destination. We've done the meet and greet twice now. We've also told the story of Zacchaeus and handed out the coloring sheets. It's almost old hat to all of us now.
As we drive up, they are dancing already. Worship has started. When I look at the crowd of kids, there is one that particularly stands out. He has the boldest eyes. Not in the way that we normally notice. They aren't a different color. I notice the whites of his eyes. He is staring, laughing, stunned by us. For as long as I have read the story of Jesus inviting children to come to him, I picture what their faces look like. In my imagination the stares of those children always differ. Never could I place my finger on what they looked like. Now I think I have a little bit of an idea. It's a jumping off point at least.
His face will be burned into my brain for quite a long time.
We are introduced again. We teach a song, they teach us a song. We tell the story and start to pass out the coloring sheets with the crayons. It is at this moment that we first start to encounter elitism on the other side of the globe.
Every day, there are two types of kids that approach us. There are the "church" kids. Most of them are educated. Their manner of dress is a little cleaner, a little more uniform. They know we are coming and wait for us. There are also the "street" kids. They look a little more tattered. They don't know we are coming, but when they see our white skin, they come to see what's going on.
The church and school kids start coming to draw on their sheets. The ones with torn clothes are standing at a distance. Some women in the church actually keep kids away. If you aren't a part of our church, you can't come experience what we experience. I do not notice what's going on before the Bishop approaches the women to tell them that is not the way to live. Jesus died for the world. If the world is trying to break in and see what the church is about, then we should let them.
Jackson, the 12 year old rock star among us sees the need. He sees the street kids watching They are too timid to come and see what we are doing. Jackson looks into an older building and plainly says "We should bring the colors to them." I work with lots of kids the same age as Jackson, and I am impressed at his willingness to live out the gospel. You do not see that very much.
Teaching street kids to use crayons is the best part of my day. It is made possible by a 12 year old who saw a need and went to remedy it. I am thankful for that.
Plans for a church building are about to be put to good use. This community will soon have a place where they can gather. We are thankful that we can be a part of that.
We also meet the chief of Tinga. We are not to look at him directly. We are to address his assistant. We are only to speak to him unless he speaks to us first. Naturally, with the way we sit, the group puts me 4 feet directly in front of the chief.
They might should have granted me the ability to fly and asked me to sit still. I think I would have handled that better. Chief is pleased to see us. He has just assumed his title. There is some sort of mixup and he did not know we were coming. He is upset with our guides, but still likes to talk to us. He has big plans for Tinga. Development of all kinds. We hope to be a part of that.
Fortunately, the Chief does not see me looking at him. Maybe he does. In any case, I avoid offending him.
We return to the village to play football. As much as I try to like this sport, I cannot. To run around in 110 degree heat for 45 minutes while still maintaining a scoreless tie is maddening beyond belief. I hold my own. I seem to be much better than my American counterparts. That is not saying much. Once I get an open shot, I can't maneuver the ball to my other foot so it falls helplessly out of bounds.
I am across the world. I am playing a sport that I will never play again. I hate it. Yet, there is still this stupid nagging inside of me that says I must win. What is wrong with me? The whole time I think that if I had a basketball and a hoop I would cross these guys over so bad they would cry. I think my competitive drive might be a sickness.
While pointlessly running back and forth, my mind is consumed with dreams of victory. Those thoughts are interrupted by the gleeful sounds of children. I know where they are coming from. They continue for 10, 20, 40 minutes. I still know where they come from.
Finally I turn around. The picture that has been in my mind since the cheers started was now reality. Anna standing in the middle of about 50 kids. They mimic her every move. This is an unspoken game of follow the leader, and the kids are very good at it. Anna raises her arms. They do too. Anna claps her hands. They do too. Anna runs to the other side of the field. They do too.
Anna exhaustedly puts her hands on her knees and lets out a loud "WHEW". The kids do the same. Even when she wants the game to be over, it continues.
She may never let me go back home at this point. As long as I have known her, this has been a dream of hers. To see her live it out is one of the greatest honors of my life. I swell up with pride. I also fight back tears.
Today I have felt better than any. From the birth to the death of the day, it has been good. I must rest. Tomorrow, we see hungry hungry hippos.