Saturday, September 12, 2009

A shack experience

(Ninth of a series)

The night we arrived in Makeni, it was quite dark at the staff house/office we would be staying at. The little battery-operated white lights above the dining table were weaker than a 5-watt bulb. It took my eyes a little while to adjust to the faint lights over a meal of bread and cheese for dinner while having a team meeting on the work ahead.

Afterward, our hosts prepared our rooms. My two colleagues shared one, and I had one adjacent to theirs. We were each provided with a mattress with a bed sheet that we had bought in Freetown. I dumped my things on the floor, laid in bed. This is comfortable foam. Never mind the plastic cover, I thought. It was stuffy with the windows shut, but I was wary of mosquitoes so I kept them that way. Besides I was afraid of what was outside those windows. My imagination started to work. I prayed and dozed off.

In the morning, I saw my room better. I can live with this. It may not be the best but, hey, you've got to be a trouper in this kind of work. I will be out the whole day anyway, I thought. I hung the clothes that I bought in Freetown on the clotheslines near the ceiling. I opened the windows to check out the outside--a path, lots of plants, a wide unkempt lot, a shed and a few houses about 100 metres away--to let some fresh air into my warm and humid room.

It did not have many mosquitoes. Instead there were tiny ants crawling on the floor and on my mattress. I saw two creepy crawlies on the window ledge too that looked like small cockroaches but not quite. I was told there was also what my colleague recognized as the bug that caused the Nairobi Eye. I closed my windows shut again.

My bedroom for the next 8 days.

After breakfast of bread, cheese, tea and occasional eggs everyday, we left the staff house and did our work up a hill. We came back no earlier than 7pm. After dinner of bread, cheese, tea and occasional canned food or plantains, I went to my room.

Now what? Too early to sleep and nothing to do. I was grateful to have a laptop. I journaled the events of the day and did my official reports till I became sleepy.

I brought a couple of books to read in addition to the Holy Bible. One was Paul Young's The Shack, a fictional book that I had been trying to read for a long time, and Grace Walk by Steve McVey.

As you might recall, I started reading from Isaiah 40 back in Freetown. The chapters after that repeatedly gave me assurances of God's protection, power, greatness, and compassion... Verses were jumping off the pages and coming alive.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)

I found The Shack compelling and riveting. I don't want to give away the plot but encourage you to read it and judge for yourself. This book gave me fresh insights into God and pain and tragedies in life. I cried buckets. Good grief.

The book showed me how much more about God there is to know, how He is way greater than religion and the box we have put Him in. It stirred in me a desire for the intimacy He wants with me. Papa...

And so in my dark and humid sorry-looking room, I spent many sweet moments listening to and talking with the God of the universe. Sometimes I ranted and cried for the pain I had seen and tasted in my own life and dear ones' lives, and then cried some more realizing that He was and is in the midst of all of that bringing hope and redemption to the ugliness and messiness of life. Sometimes I was just awed by the great unconditional love He has for me, and that there was nothing I can do so that He will love me more. Overwhelming!

The Christian life is an impossible life, so the saying goes. There is no way I can live it but to let Christ live it out in and through me, which is what He wants to do in the first place.

In my previous entries, I wrote a series called Pampered. This time I wanted to experience the intimate pampering, so to speak, that I can have as a child of the Heavenly Father.

Here in this "shack" I experienced many moments with a loving yet sovereign God who gave His Son for me. I would not have been in a better place.


(Next, Traveling mercies)

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