It had been a hard four days. Our trek started at 5:00 am with a bus ride that took us as far as the road would go. We then off-loaded, picked up our gear and hiked an hour or so more over some challenging terrain, part of which included crossing a river in a dugout canoe. The canoe wobbled so much from side to side I was convinced we would tip. Only by the mercy of God we did stayed afloat!
Once we reached the small village of two-hundred and fifty Shaur Indians we were greeted kindly by those who had extended the invite. We divided and began the process to set up our work sites. It was determined the pharmacy would be set up in the back end of the community dining hall. The doctors would take the stage in the open space set aside for formal gatherings. The construction guys moved off to the location designated for the new tabernacle and began to lay out their plan.
Once the pharmacy was set up we scoped out a place to hang our hammocks and set up our sleeping quarters. Most of the missionaries landed in one large two story house. When I say house I use the term loosely. It was more like a barn. There were no doors, no windows, no bathroom, no furniture. It was a wooden structure without any outside walls on the back half and only a few on the front. But we were thankful to have a place under roof to hang our gear.
Over the next few days we served seven different villages and saw over three hundred people with needs from basic complaints to life threatening conditions. Our diet consisted of rice, boiled plantains, frog soup, live grub worms, flying ants and chicha, a traditional drink made from ground yucca. There was no sanitation, no running water and barely any electricity. We worked all day and then had three hour services in the evening, mostly in Shuar. We were sleep deprived, stretched and stressed. I felt the tilt.
I say all this to lay a foundation of the conditions we were asked to endure. Not by man, but by God. At times I felt I couldn't do any more. I was loving it-yet, with each passing day my flesh was rising and my spirit shrinking. At times I was hypersensitive. I felt alone. I felt grouchy. I felt annoyed. But mostly I felt self-pity.
Why? Because I felt I was overlooked - ignored by those younger yet less experienced. I felt my voice wasn't heard. I grew weary and shrunk into a pit of "woe is me". The very last day when I couldn't contain my flesh any longer- I melted. In one swift move the enemy kicked me in the gut and I walked away licking my wounds. Tears filled my eyes and I prayed. I asked God to help me rise above my selfishness and embrace the moment.
Then the Lord did something. Something so profound. So beautiful that all my misery melted away. We had all gathered to dedicate the new tabernacle. The children had come to sing. The congregation came to worship. And in the mist of my hurt the Lord hugged me. I felt His arms move around me and He cocooned me in His comfort. He whispered I see you. I hear you. What you do is noticed by me.
The Chief in his full customary attire and the pastor of the village in his tribal head dress stepped to the front. At their sides stood several villagers. Each bearing a gift in hand. They then began to call people forward to stand as honored guests. They called forward the two doctors, a young missionary woman who had taught English and then me. In total seven of us were recognized for our service. I stood there dazed as a young girl walked toward me and placed in my hand a precious piece of pottery handmade by one of the village women. All the hurt from the week swelled up in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. I stood there in the mist of that Shuar village, among those beautiful people, humbled beyond description.
What is my take away? This: He is the God who sees me. Hears me. Loves me. Helps me. And in His time will honor me. Our sacrifice, though over looked so often by those around us, is never missed by His eye.
I have already served ten years on foreign soil, and it's most likely I will serve another ten should He want it. But I do dare to say nothing before this and possible nothing yet to come will be more precious to me then this priceless handmade pot and the lesson it brought to my weary soul.