“What was it, Baby?” she asked, having not heard the crash indoors.
“I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was big, it shook the whole…”
“PATRICK LOOK!” Heather erupted in excitement “It’s a baboon!”
Sure enough, darting into the bush behind our water-heating fireplace, the shadow of a monkey bounced off. Heather had gotten a clear look but I had seen it too late and was sorely disappointed. Then suddenly the trees before us exploded into motion and I quickly realized this monkey was no stealthy thing. It crashed from tree to tree until it landed on a dead stump atop a termite hill not more than 10 yards away from us. It stared at us a long time, clutched to the trunk like some curious child.
“Heather, get the camera…”
“I’m afraid it will move,” Heather whispered, and then as if on cue the baboon leaped away.Now Heather was the explosion of motion blasting into the house for the camera before all opportunity was lost. She raced back out fumbling the camera out of the bag, turning it on and ready to snap. Trees farther in the distance bounced into motion again and high in their tops we saw the funny creature blinking at us.
“I was praying God would show me something EXCITING!” Heather said with glee, the first real joy I had heard from her in the last few days.
Four days earlier Heather was standing in the living room of a large westerner house. Her husband lay in bed, sick with malaria, and so she found herself oddly having to operate alone. She was pleading with Wayne our landlord to replace the refrigerator in our home. The lack of a working fridge had been a thorn in our side since the day we arrived, and while there had been a temporary reprieve borrowing Wayne’s for a few weeks, that had ended and the old fridge had returned “fixed.” Only it wasn’t fixed. Our newest American friends David, Becca and Kade sat around the room listening to Heather’s plea to Wayne and Carlos.
It had been a tough few weeks: a staff member at AHI had been fired for sleeping with a student, a staff member that Heather and I had really grown to love and build a friendship with. We felt betrayed and hurt. What was worse was that it had been going on for months and many of the staff and students had known. The students had rightly been too afraid to come forward, but the staff had few valid excuses for their silence and yet could not seem to see the wrong of what they had done. In the light of these events we had learned more dark secrets about our African friends. Heather and I had grappled with how Christians could be so earnest with their words about loving Jesus but blind to living that out against any cultural norms (sound familiar?).
And now for Heather all of that weight, burden and disappointment was resting squarely on the topic of a simple refrigerator. Standing in the living room pleading with Wayne it had all become too much and she just broke down in tears. Carlos jumped up to comfort, her offering a shoulder to cry on, assuring her it would be alright.
“I can’t stand to see a woman cry,” Wayne finally broke down and admitted. “We’ll get the fridge fixed.”
No one realized these tears were about a lot more than a kitchen appliance. Within the hour Carlos, David, Becca and Kade were back at our home helping Heather unpack all of the food from the fridge so it could be temporarily stored in the refrigerator at the conference center. They all had a light heart, laughing and trying to cheer Heather up, Carlos always good for a joke. Heather was already feeling better spending time with our new friends. Between them and the time we had spent with the team that had come from Bellevue earlier in the week, it had been a much needed “cultural escape” for a few days after the crisis of it all.
Carlos is Ugandan but has been working for Wayne since he was a boy, and is quite Westernized. He oversees all of African Childrens Mission property here on the ranch. David had just graduated from college and is here to do pastoral training out in the local towns during the summer before he begins seminary this Fall. Becca is also here for two months, preparing the way for her evangelism team that will be here in a few weeks. And Kade... Kade was a young “high school” grad (Homeschooler) from Arkansas (but originally California as I deduced by his name) who was here for three months just to experience being a missionary. Well that and to try to teach any Ugandan he could find how to play his sports passion, ultimate Frisbee (excited, Jason?).
I sat feebly out in our dining room listening to them recall what had happened at Wayne’s house while they packed. The burden clearly had not fully lifted from Heather and I felt guilty for being so useless struck with malaria and resting at home all day. It looked like it was about to rain so they hurried to gather any remaining food in a giant ice chest. Heather, genuinely concerned, asked Carlos if he wanted to make the walk now with rain approaching. Carlos scoffed at her, assuring all that it wouldn’t rain. So off Carlos, David, Becca and Kade went carrying the load of our food. It began to rain.
A couple nights later I lay in bed listening to the sound of rain against the tin roof as my body began to recover in earnest. My mind was churning and somewhere from sermons I had listened to in my sickness, books I had been reading, or just straight from the Holy Spirit a great truth was revealed to me. In America the great lie has become that God, and all things supernatural were simply fiction. That science and enlightenment had progressed beyond a need for such primitive ideas. But in Africa that would never work, with witch doctors and shamans exhibiting the supernatural often, and a lack of widespread education keeping high-minded science pretty distant from the average villager. So instead, the great lie in Africa is not that God is false, but that God, and particularly Jesus, is weak, petty, small. And so you put him in a box, and when desperate (and you are often desperate), you beg him to spit a few shillings (money) out for you, and that makes you a Christian. As that thought circulated in my mind, I started to grow angry. Because my Jesus is not small. My Jesus laid the foundations of this earth and he rides a white horse. His eyes burn like fire, he wears a robe dripping in the blood of his enemies, and in one hand he holds out ahead of him a mighty sword, and in the other hand he grips a rod of iron, and on his thigh is a tattoo that reads “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Then my anger turned to excitement, because showing THIS Jesus to people, in bible studies, in dinners, in life, was REALLY going to be fun. Now if only I could get a chance to see a monkey…