We reached our final destination well into the night. It took a while for the team to unload our semi-comforts of home (in the form of inflatable Coleman mattresses, Off Mosquito spray, 12 rolls of American toilet paper and beauty products to keep the age lines away).
We also had to adjust to the sounds of fighting dogs, and the rustling feathers of what would become tonight's dinner. We busied ourselves packing bags of balloons, beads, games and stories to be ready for the morning. It was after midnight when we finally succumbed to the humming songs of crickets, locusts, and canines whimpering in the dark.
After an early rising, we met with the nationals who arrived to help with the days scheduled village programs.
We felt prepared.
I lost my new Timex glow in the dark watch last night while organizing our "camp space." However, time in the third world isn't time kept on a clock. A trip we are told will take 40 minutes is usually at least a two hour ordeal (judging by how many breaks we take to water the roadside trees). My watch would have just made me anxious.
We drove, and drove, and slowed down for water buffalos, naked children in the road, cows napping, and baby goats happily jumping in front of the moving vehicles taking us to our destination. We were so far off the path it wasn't even "beaten." It was a decimated drive of trenches, troughs and bicycles parked in the midst of the trail. After all, four wheeled vehicles are a rarity in this stretch of jungle and rice fields.
As we drove along the banks of the river, the silted houses of the "Mising" tribal people appeared. We kept thinking - this place must be it. But further we drove, deeper and deeper until the vistas of the rice fields disappeared and the jungle closed in around our cars.
When we did arrive at the village, it wasn't the foliage that created density - it was the people. There were already children gathered and as soon as the vehicle stopped - the adults who had watched us drive into their domain came out as well.
There were hundreds of children, and an equal number of adults. It took a while to engage them - but they did finally begin to have fun. Once again, the men of the village stood on the outskirts of the program watching. Once again, alcohol was a factor. Once again, the devil showed his ugly face and that he was not giving up this territory!
Shouting broke out on the periphery, accusations of black magic and the lies of Christianity were all flying back and forth between the tribal elders (supporting us) and the enemy and his minions who were against us. Lipok suggested we pack up and head toward the cars.
By the time we reached the surrounded van - the agitation had increased. We sat and prayed, asked for intervention and supernatural protection. We drove away.
The disciples asked Jesus when they were met with opposition in the villages they traveled to if they should pray for "fire and brimestone." Given my history - it felt like a good day for some "wrath" to rain! But His answer was to shake the dust off their feet and move on.
Move on we did. We drove just to the outskirts of the village and trekked (and I do me TREKKED) to the neighboring village that had invited us to have a program there. Lipok assured us of our safety, as well as their willingness for us to be there.
We loaded up our backpacks, sacks of games and gifts and started walking. We crossed a 30 foot high bamboo bridge over a river that seemed as wide as the Mississippi (to this girl afraid of heights). And we walked, and we walked, through the rice fields, the sugar cane, the cow dung we were desperately trying to avoid and then we walked some more.
We walked past herds of water buffalo bathing in the river, men with elaborate bamboo constructions designed to catch fish, and a variety of women who walked out to the path just curious at the foreign pied pipers with hundreds of children keeping step.
As our 5 minute walk went well past 20, we arrived at a schoolhouse where the children were waiting in the sunshine and watching our approach.
They had a great time! They sang, they played games, they made Gospel bracelets and they heard the message of the gift of God through Christ His Son. We concluded without incident but definitely with the Kingdom advancing!
Around each corner we turned, it felt like at least we reached the "edge" of the "ends of the earth." But we kept going further still. I sense we still have a long way to go. Today, one "Mising" Tribe remained lost - but one was found.
"This Gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth - and then I will come!"
You can hardly say that without a smile
But you'd better be serving when He does
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