Wednesday, September 30, 2015
A few weeks ago four of us white ladies and a Filippina translator sat in a tiny dark kitchen of a tiny concrete house. The beautiful young mother in front of us was apologizing for not having snacks for us. "Pobre kaayo ko." (I am very poor.) and indeed, there on the floor lay a pile of cassava-the food of the very poor. She did not even have rice but maiz or the corn imitation of rice and a few three inch long dried fish for herself and her 7 children for supper.
However, as we listened to her it became clear that the money situation was not uppermost on her mind. There were harder, more important trials. Her husband had left and gone to the city with another woman. When he comes back sometimes he brings food but he also brings fighting and an STD that our hostess does not have money to get medicine for. She is afraid her children might catch it as she is still nursing the youngest and does not know enough about STDs to know if they can spread other ways. But the hardest trial by far is tsismis. Gossip. The entire village knows and they will not come close for fear of catching it. When she comes home late from her hand washing laundry business in the city the gossip just gets worse. So our dear Ate lives in that dark little house, afraid to walk down the street for the looks she will get.
She and her eldest son, who looks older than he is for all that is on his shoulders, both want to learn more about God because they have noticed that is the only way they have found peace. Because of the tsismis, though, and because her husband destroys any Bibles he finds, they cannot go to church or even learn in their home. And she asks, "Ngano man?" Why is it? Her faith is wobbling. What do I tell her? What would you tell her? I do not know.
Later my dear new Filippina friend and I lay on the floor of our bamboo house-on-stilts waiting for lunch to be served. She told me her story of how she became a Christian and some of the rejection that pierced her heart afterwards. I can still see her face and hear her tone of voice, "I love my family. I asked God, 'Do I have to hate my family just to follow you?' Even now, when I think that I will be in heaven and my family will be in hell, oh! my heart is hurt. I am still praying for them."
My mind kept turning. How does this girl still have all that bubbly joy and sense of humor and passion for God and drive to get the message out when her father yelled that she was no longer his and her mother fights and asks, "Don't you love me?" I see that she sacrifices much for them, yet more for the gospel. I see that she always wears the thin necklace that was the last gift her father gave her before he died and she does not really know if he was a Christian. I see that she loves everyone she comes across with the love of a true friend. She loves to joke about everything funny and make up new words for existing songs and laugh at our poor attempts at Visayan. What is her secret?
The next day we visit the house of a girl who knows a surprising amount about Christianity for being in this unreached village. She loves her Bible and asks many questions. We share the gospel and ask if she has decided to follow Jesus and only Jesus. Then the fear comes out. She knows several people who became Christians and she watched the trials begin. Her husband is not a Christian. She knows about the social persecution and she tells of one man who was struck by lightning and killed just after he got saved. She is too afraid to choose Jesus. What do we tell her?
We meet the young widow of the man who was killed by lightning. She sits quietly in a hammock and smiles sadly at us. She has three tiny children and is a Christian but her elderly parents who she is now living with are not. I also start to wonder why. What do I tell them? I know the frustration of not having questions answered. I know the pain and fear that can tear at your soul, though perhaps not on as deep a level as these ladies.
At the next house the gossip story surfaces again. This lady's husband is home and actually supportive which is rare. The couple wants to go to church but everyone there knows secrets about their lives and they are afraid of what people will say. I strain to understand any Visayan I can. My Filippina friend who had shared her story earlier is saying something. I catch the words "Mga mata.... Jesus.... mga mata.... mga tawo." And I suddenly understand. I could kick myself for not remembering. It is the story of Peter drowning in the waves.
Drowning in fear. Shame. Grief. Loneliness. Things that wrench your heart and tear your soul. Unreasonable. Unfair. Always there. Can anything get a person through weeks and years of this? Is it possible to flourish? But this is what Jesus went through for us. The cross was unfair, shameful, and lonely. When we look at God we can see his love, wisdom, holiness and power and we can trust Him. If we look at the waves like Peter did, all logical sense tells us that it is not possible to walk on them. But when we look at God we see He is so big, so much bigger than we can comprehend and when we know that we belong to Him something happens to us and suddenly we find ourselves dancing on the waves.
In the words of my friend, "We are only human and sometimes we forget but that is the way."
Wise men and philosophers, elders and professionals in suits and everyone on Facebook is looking. King Solomon, Dr. so and so, explorers and prophets down through the ages. They are all looking for the secret to life. Many articles have been written claiming they know it but many contradict each other. This past month I, a 19 year old girl from nowhere, discovered the truth in the mountains of the Philippines from people the world will never hear about.