October 3, 2002 Tawatana
The director of our field orientation course told us that many missionaries leave the field because of other missionaries. Another friend said that missionaries are like manure—useful if spread around, but creating quite a stink if heaped up in one spot. I thought these sentiments odd (and certainly inconsistent with missionary biographies)—but then I lived with missionaries for a few years.
After another encounter that left me feeling like I’d been hit by a steamroller, I wrote this meditation on Psalm 23:
In the presence of mine enemy
Yes, she is there
You don’t intervene to remove
But who can look at an enemy when You are here?
Instead you prepare a feast
When she steals my joy
You fill me again
Food of your choosing
You serve up forgiveness
When I would rather gorge myself on grudges
Lavish, beyond my needs
I will eat until I’m full and
Carry the leftovers away for a midnight snack
I had a funny cultural moment with a guy yesterday. Billy came up to our house to try to pass a radio message to his wife, who went to stay with her family on another island. He told me what he wanted her to know (come back!), and then I tried off and on for several hours before Andy finally got through at lunch time to give the message.
Usually you just have to give the message to some unknown person and hope that they will pass it along. But she herself came up, and when Andy gave her the message, she said sorry but it was going to be "hard". Hard to find transport, and hard to take the kids out of school to come back.
So then Billy came, and I had to tell him that she said it was "hard." He got really mad and said, "Why did she say that! She should have said something to make me feel good. Even if she wasn't going to come, she should have said that she was coming, to make my feelings settle down. Oh, she's a hard woman. I don't think she has any forgiveness in her heart." So I said, "You mean, it would be better if she lied to you?" "YES!" he said.
Billy’s mother is very frail and elderly. She fell a few weeks back in her garden, and I think she broke a rib or two. She’s been lying in a small garden lean-to ever since, too sore to move back to Billy’s house. When we go to visit her, she’s lying there in the dark, with her feet close to the fire, the air full of old smoke.
Billy says that a few days ago, she suddenly started talking about death. And she said that she wanted to see Billy’s little boy before she died. She said that if she didn’t get to see this child, her ghost would come back and make him sick and he would die too. Hence Billy’s concern.
Me and Billy and Billy's wife and Billy's mom. We've all got people to forgive.