The Jungle

We just finished up the end of the quarter.  Today was the last day.  We will be moving full steam ahead into the second quarter of this semester learning about all kinds of beautiful and interesting things in this world.  This school is blessed.  We were all on the ferry heading to Kwaj last night and Nyasha was talking to a guy who said one of the schools here on Ebeye is in need of teachers.  The kids usually have a teacher in the morning but in the afternoon they just wait, sometimes the entire afternoon, to see if a teacher is going to show up or not.  Many of them will read their bibles, pray or sing songs until the bell rings and then they leave.  They’re having a hard time finding missionaries willing to come.

I know God has graced us to live here and be so at peace with it.  The prayers and the support from everyone at home also brings us joy while we are here.  It’s not easy without God’s ability working in us.  After being a part of this kind of experience, I have often thought what it would be like to live completely away from civilization – how other missionaries in the jungle survived and maintained their sanity, how they learned to adapt to a society that speaks no English, has no bottled water, no hot dogs or any familiar food, and no amenities like toilet paper, silverware or shoes.  I just enjoy thinking about it…I mean, here there are people who speak English.  We have, not just a host family, but a host church.  People everywhere here to help us do our job with excellence.  There is an infrastructure, to a degree, and pizza is a twenty-minute ferry ride away.  There are bathrooms and kitchens, running water and beds to sleep on – at least for us.

…But packing up to take a jet; first to several huge airports, then a smaller airport which seems to be on the edge of the earth.  Then you switch to a helicopter which takes you over the edge and onto a grassy clearing in the middle of an emerald green rain forest that has no beginning and no end, at least not that you can remember at this point.  You’re somewhere deep in the jungles of the African Rain Forest.  Now they tried to show you where you would be on a map, but a map doesn’t have sound, or mosquitoes, or moss for toilet paper. You begin to think, why did I bring my leather loafers here?  Why the pear scented shampoo?
One scout gets out with you who speaks broken English, with a mild British accent.  You wave good-bye to the helicopter pilot and he lifts off, back toward civilization, back to familiar things like electricity and bicycles and groceries.  A strange quiet enters your soul. You look around, and what gives you that hallow feeling in your stomach first is not the thick, overwhelming forest ready to devour you out of sight, but the sounds that are lulling within it.  (Okay, now you have to ask yourself, in the progress of this adventure, did you bring another person or persons with you?  I’m going to say yes for the sake of my own sanity –) So off you go with your faithful troop of missionaries and the scout who speaks broken English with a mild British accent.
And for five hours you hike;  no you don’t, you hack and step, hack and step your way through a jungle so dense, you can only hear the scout in front of you and your missionary friends behind you.

Was that a bird that just darted through the trees over your head?  A monkey maybe?

You aren’t sure so you focus intently on hacking down the vegetation in front of you, just in case there might be something else up there.  Something that you know can see you but you can’t see it…
It’s getting dark now and you’ve got two more hours to go before you reach the…village…or whatever they called it.  You’re  sweating, your hair is wet, your back is wet against the gear that’s strapped to your back as the damp, steamy hot air of the rain forest has enveloped you.  But with the sun going down and the canopy above shutting out the heat, you feel a slight chill.
(Coffee anyone?  I could use a good tea time about now.  Pizza?  Or maybe some skittles?  No?  Sigh…okay.)  What’s this?…a tree root your scout pulls up from the base of the canopy floor.  He rings the juice and fibers out into a little tin can and places it over a fire he has built.  Root tea.  Hmmm, interesting.  Your stomach is not sure what to do with it but you’re thirsty, so…bottoms up!

Now you have to use the bathroom because everybody knows tea goes straight through you.  Where are those American health magazines now?  Suddenly you are keenly aware that you are in a jungle, darkness closing in, with creatures everywhere you cannot see…and what are you going to do for toilet paper?

Okay, you’re back in the hack-and-step line and on your way to the people; the people you’ve come for in the name of Jesus.  To save, to teach, to help.  Your arm and half your body is numb from beating down the vines and undergrowth but as you focus on Jesus and what you’ve come to do, it isn’t all that bad.  You look up and notice a soft amber glow that illuminates a small area in front of you.  At last, you’ve reached the people…

(I wrote this speculative account on Friday evening having no idea really what it might be like, only trying to imagine it.  Sunday morning, as I was working in the library, I discovered a book called Through Gates of Splendor.  It shook me up…I no longer have to wonder what missionaries in the jungle might face; nor do I have to wonder at what level the power of God’s love must flow through the heart of a man or a woman before they are enabled to answer the call.  Wow…awesome book.)

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