I recently moved to a new apartment just down the street from my old apartment and acquired a new roommate in the process. Her name is Adrienne, and she’s been here before. I couldn’t have been blessed with a better roommate at this time in my life.
She recently spent four months in Africa and is now spending a few months here at the hood, while preparing to move to Africa for an extended period of time. I’m so excited to be living with her because she’s such an example to me in so many ways. Once things calm down here (if things calm down) I think she’s going to help me learn Swahili. (-:
So I came home the other day, and she asked if she could read me something. As I sat and listened, her short story (can I call it that Age?) took me to places I can only dream of and at the same time reminded me so much of my home here. I asked her if I could “publish” it here. Please take the time to read it, I promise it will be well worth your time. I think it would also be neat and encouraging to Adrienne, if you could take some time and comment too. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a regular “guest” on my little slice of cyber-space.
She wrote this on Sunday, during a large snow storm.
Getting to church today was an adventure. Wrapped and smothered in layers, sporting the always fashionable skirt and boots combo, the routine began with brushing, then scraping, then shoveling the mounds of still accumulating snow off my car. The forecast had called for twelve to eighteen inches, and the sky was determined to get it all down as quickly as possible, and of course right at the moment when I desperately wanted to get to church, instead of any one of a number of other convenient times it could have picked. Rubbing my hands by the vents still blasting out icy air, I kicked the car into four wheel drive and managed to roll over the slight snowbank I was parked behind and inch onto the road. If a car can meander, that’s what the pace was down the partially-plowed highway, and so as I settled back for the slow, cold ride I found myself thinking about another time I remember getting to church being an adventure:
It was a perfectly sunny Sunday morning, one in which you wake up joyful and comfortable in the day and everything it might bring. A moment after that awakening thought, however, I remembered I was in Africa, thousands of miles from home, beginning my third week in a country that was as different from everything I’d ever known as possibly could be. The view outside our tent door was different, dressing for the day was different, breakfast was different, and getting to church would be, I knew, different. Still, it was Sunday, and somewhere in the magnitude of differences between cultures there is a precious commonality that brings us together on Sundays. And so with this hope we gathered to leave for church, and were met by a woman, probably young, but made older than her actual years by what life demands of young women in Africa. Her smile was ageless, though, and beautifully joy-filled. It was all she had to offer, understanding none of our language, and us very little of hers, and so she seemed to will it to burst forth from her face, that we might somehow read her welcome in it. She had brought her daughter, and someone explained that she was taking us to her husband’s church in one of the villages in the mountains above us. So we set off down a narrow dirt trail, which quickly ran into a river. We jumped from boulder to boulder, taking our flip-flops off to avoid slipping into the muddy waters below. On the other side the trail became practically indistinguishable, choked in brambles and weaving through trees. Several times, as the long skirt I hadn’t yet got accustomed to wearing got caught in a stray thorny branch and yanked me backwards, I wondered at the unswerving grace of the woman in front of me, who was no doubt accustomed to traveling to the extent of her known world by foot through these trails. The sun rose and began to beat on us, and still we walked, weaving up hills and past fields until finally, 45 minutes later, we arrived at church. An empty doorway and windows cut out of a building of red brick slightly larger than my college dorm room greeted us. Inside, a few beams lain across more bricks served as pews, instigating gratitude that very little time is spent sitting down during African church services. The setting was simple, no doubt, and the pastor a man who spent his weekdays building roofs for a living. Being only a pastor in this place would never be an option. As the first song began, however, and the praises of 15 voices swelled to sound like 30, it was if the walls fell away. This building was not the church, and they realized it. Suddenly I knew in so many ways I was the simple one. We worshiped together and then the children sang, the shuffling of their feet in rhythm and the pure joy in their voices and eyes coming together in a sound I will never forget. A sermon and a long series of greetings, as is always necessary, and we headed down the mountain again, following the pastor’s wife. It was now the middle of the day and the heat was relentless, but tears of humility stung my eyes as we reached camp, said goodbye, and she turned to make the 45 minute trek for her fourth time that day, undoubtedly rejoicing in the sacrifice, while I longed to tell her it was us who had been blessed in ways not quickly forgotten.
Getting to church was an adventure, but not one I ever would have traded for the easier option, the option that will always be there. And so, two years and a world away from that Sunday, this morning’s slow snowy ride took me back, and I was humbled once again by realizing how quickly I am inconvenienced in my world of unbelievable ease. At church, worshiping with the few others who had braved the weather to come together, I felt again the commonality with my brothers and sisters in that red brick building. I felt renewed with the reminder of what the church is, and what it means, in this place, to be a part of the worldwide fellowship of believers. Sometimes we need a Sunday morning reminder to keep all things in proper perspective.