Under the tree were a small group of wazee (“wah-zay,” that is, older men). They were sitting around in a circle as we shared with them. One man gazed intensely through his glassy cataract-covered eyes. His forehead was covered with so many wrinkles it looked like a topographical map. We sat with the men as we spoke, which was probably more acceptable to them culturally then standing behind an imaginary pulpit. We presented the Good News thoroughly and with clarity. They critically thought through it. One asked, “If Jesus was God, how can God die?” I was encouraged that they were critically thinking through what we had said and were actually considering it. That was a win enough for that day.
– Doing children’s ministry, I saw many gentle eyes. They were also using a bottle as a water bottle that said Orion Products Standard Thinner. Oh, heavens. I hope that thing had been washed out… But, heck, they’ve probably been using it for a couple years anyway.
– Most of the ground is dirt. Just plain sandy dirt, which gets more sandy near the dried-out riverbeds. It’s a light rust color with little bits of black rock fragment, probably of a prehistoric volcanic origin, and other pellets the size of English peas, which I’ve determined to be goat pellets (that is to say, feces). Did I mention there are a lot of sheep and goats around here? You’re even more likely to see a herd passing than one of the not-uncommon dirt whirlwinds in the distance. Speaking of that which is remarkably stirred up…
– The animals, in general, were, in my most humble opinion, in want of not a slight dosage of the chill pill. I’m quite serious. The flies were everywhere and occasionally would get into such a manic frenzy that they’d touchdown on my body in 5 different places in 15 seconds. Even as I was writing this, I was hearing the sound of dogs making a sound somewhat akin to rabid growling-slobbering-barking with a little bit of howling at the moon. They were high-strung and used to people hitting them. A few minutes before, I’d heard distantly the braying of a donkey. If I had half that beast’s vocal range, I tell you, I would be the next Michael Jackson. Fortunately, the flies calm down after dusk. Unfortunately, they tag team, and the moths begin their relentless pursuit of light. Heaven help you if you keep a light on inside the barn-like church for more than a few minutes. You’d instantly be swarmed by white moths suicidally attracted to the celestial brightness. I’ve squashed more than a couple on my body and felt dozens flutter across my face, yet that’s not quite the worst of it. Earlier tonight, while cleaning up after a Jesus Film outreach, I’d obliterated the largest spider I’ve ever personally killed. With its frighteningly prolonged forelegs, it was more than the length of my middle finger. I don’t know if I’d ever get any sleep unless I eventually found those putrid vermin were more insipid than the rocks they crawled on, and I was told that their bites are not any more serious than a bee sting. Thank heavens.
– What we really needed to look out for though was scorpions. This was the first time I’d ever personally encountered a notable population of scorpions. They do live there, and there’s a good chance you’ll see at least one during a stay of at least several nights. My teammate John killed one the first night that was about the size of the aforementioned spider. It’s a good thing we saw it before it saw us. The scorpions here are a ghastly white color with enough yellow to blend them in with the surrounding sand. It’s too bad I had to sleep on the ground. It was pretty uneventful except…
– One night, when I was reading the dystopian sci-fi section “Ender’s Game” on my iPad before going to bed, I felt a slight tickle on my leg and jolted up almost immediately. I fumbled around before I found my headlamp, switched it on, and found that one of the desert spiders was crawling on me. No, this wasn’t a gargantuan spider; it wasn’t fully grown and so was only the size of the average American wolf spider. Still, though, anything crawling on you on the floor of a room in a desert in Africa is pretty startling. Due to what I can only explain as a massive brain lapse, I wasn’t able to kill it with my shoe. I swung at it, and then the worst possible thing happened. It disappeared. Now, let me stop and invite everyone to think about what you would do in such a situation if you found a spider crawling on you in bed and then lost track of it. Interestingly, though, I felt a strange peace and assurance on me. I was thinking, “I should really be more terrified of going to sleep on this floor than I am right now, but I’m not, so this must be the Holy Spirit giving me grace.” I was able to lay back down, but at this point I had enough energy that I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon. My legs were also pretty restless from lack of circulation on the thin mat. I tossed and turned. About an hour or two later, I felt for mild tickle on my arm. This time, I was just as startled, but twice as fast, quickly grabbed my shoe, and obliterated the spider’s bulbous abdomen… all over my bed sheets. Its innards had the general appearance of a red curry that had been left out at room temperature for about 38 hours. The little vermin could have bit me twice, but fortunately it was either a coward or an idiot. Crawling on me was the last mistake you ever made, little bugger!
– I made a run to the cho. I say that instead of bathroom because I want to note the difference between it and what we think of as a restroom. It’s either simply a hole in the ground, a pit latrine with no seat, just a place to squat. This one was particularly breezy, as below it opened to a ditch outside. Fortunately it was a short “long call,” so I finished quickly to get back to my writing. I use my headlamp to avoid thorny bushes and kicked away a small quartz rock along the way, which actually turned out to be a goat vertebrae, which are also scattered all around this desert/semi arid area.
Stay suspensefully vigilant for the celebrated part four.