We began today with a trip to the local market. I’d been warned that it was not for the faint of heart but I didn’t find it scary or gross or anything. I enjoyed it a lot! Ovi cut a passion fruit in half and gave it to Ed & Janine to taste. Janine wasn’t a fan & passed her half to me. I loved it! It tasted just like sour patch kids, so with my love of candy, it wasn’t a surprise. We bought a LOT of fruit and walked around some more. Apparently the meat end of the market wasn’t very busy today and only had smoked, dried fish and it was a rather cool, overcast morning so it wasn’t very smelly. I do not think I would eat any of the fish found there, but it was interesting to see. After the market, we went to a new, much more modern grocery store. Bought some ice cream for dessert tonight. Then we came back to the house and waited for Samuel and Stanley to let us know that they had found and bought corn and were ready to head out to the village. While at the house we tried a bit of fruit called a prickly custard apple. It tasted good but was rather slimy. Then we played with the kids a little bit. When the call came in, we headed out to the village.
Mpyupyu was quite far away and the road had been seriously torn up by the rains & flooding that happened a while ago. The same weather that destroyed so many crops. Ovi had fun showing off his 4-wheel driving skills while Janine & I sat in the back hanging on and enjoying every minute! We did have to stop to pay tolls three times. Ha! So a few enterprising young men will go to a bad area of the road and fill in the large holes with dirt. Then they stand beside their work and ask for a donation for the service they provided. Ovi thinks they probably dig the dirt back out every night and shovel it back in the next day so it looks like they just did it. He said one place was just the same a week or so ago when he came through! Ha! But he gave them a little money anyway. No need to discourage a little ingenuity. Right? At the last one there was a boy of about 8-10 who came out asking for the “toll”. Ovi gave him the equivalent of about 10 cents US. After we passed he began dancing and screaming and turning cartwheels in the road. He was so excited to have gotten that much money. I’m pretty sure we could hear him about a mile down the road still screaming. It was really cute and really sad at the same time.
We were greeted with singing and clapping when we pulled into the meeting spot. Each man then each woman came and shook our hands in greeting with huge smiles on their faces. Once all of the adults had greeted us the song stopped and the men began talking. Janine, as usual, went off to entertain the children with exploding fist bumps, drawing in the sand and, of course, the camera. When they saw I, too, had a camera, we were both swarmed with children wanting to get on camera! At least until Ovi bought them all a treat from the small stand by the pastor’s house. Ha! Finally the guys arrived in the truck with the corn. Janine and I tried to coax a couple toddlers to talk to us with little luck. A couple of them tried to climb around to the other side of their mother’s backs if we got too close. Their mom’s giggled at their fear of white women. (I did finally get one to let me hold her. She was just beautiful but not too sure of me.) While the men were dispersing the food, I noticed that school must have been let out because there were now quite a few more children, older ones in uniforms and carrying school books. I signed for one to see his book and he handed it to me. I looked through it and found a math page. I tried to communicate that I was a math teacher…not sure whether they didn’t understand or just didn’t like math. Then I pointed at the check marks showing correct answers and gave a big smile and thumbs up. Then all the kids wanted me to look at their books! I looked at several, giving thumbs up or mock scowls then laughing as I handed it back to them. It was fun. Once all the corn had been handed out the pastor’s wife led everyone in a song of praise and thanksgiving—at least I suppose that’s what it was. That’s what Ed had asked her to do. It was happy! Once all was wrapping up, several men loaded their corn back on the truck since it was going close to where they lived. They wouldn’t have to carry the 50lb bag all the way. And we began our exciting journey back.
Once back at the house, Janine said she did not want to take a nap so she could fall asleep more quickly tonight so we started off taking a walk to explore the grounds but ended up playing with children again. I pushed the merry-go-round and fell flat on my backside trying to avoid one of the kids hanging off. Then we came back to the house to play a little monkey-in-the-middle. I’m not sure it was the best thing for this old body, but it was fun. We played with Ovi’s three, Jessica, Amy and Ethan, and Stanley’s twins. Promise and Praise. (Aren’t those just beautiful names?) We wore ourselves out then sat outside while Ovi and Lita grilled a yummy dinner. Unfortunately, the Jackfruit we’d picked up the day before which we intended for dessert was not good anymore but we still had ice cream. It was so yummy and creamy! It was another evening of wonderful conversation and much laughter.
As the day comes to a close and we are all working on our journals, I am glad that we are taking time to reflect on our day and to think about all God has done. We have seen two very different kinds of people in the villages. Many are hopeless. They have no food, no money, very few personal belongings or property and no foreseeable way to remedy this. Then there are those who shine hope through their faces and actions and songs. They are in the same situation as the others, no food, no money, little property, and yet they have Christ. In Nehemiah, many of the Israelites had just returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the city and temple. In chapter 8 they were gathering to hear God’s Word for possibly the first time in a long time. I’m sure it was bittersweet. At the end of verse 10 Ezra told them, “do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Christians in these villages are joyful in Christ and this gives them strength like I’ve not seen before. Even in the midst of so much hardship. I am envious of them.
Well, I need to make a phone call so must close for now. (You can ask Janine about this phone call. 😉)