Thoughts, so many thoughts, where do I start? Where do I go to clear my head? Habits are hard to start and hard to break, at least the good ones. The bad ones start easily enough but if the good ones gain momentum, they’ll soon come to crowd out the bad ones. So I try to clear my head with truth, yes, that is a good habit. Sometimes, the truth is hard to find, but I’ve found that that’s usually because I’m asking the wrong question. It’s similar to building a house. If I make a mistake following the blueprints, I might not catch it right away, but sooner or later, I’ll start to notice that things aren’t lining up in other areas of the project. Then I have to trace the error back to its source.
I have to get back to the source of things. There are some basic things in life that I have counted as true, and I am trying to grab onto those things like a drowning man tries to grab onto a life preserver. That I’m selfish and consistently judging myself against others, this I’m aware of. That God knows my every thought, yet poured out his grace on me, its as if I were standing beneath a bursting dam, the power of miles of pent up water unleashed over my selfishness, bringing my every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, this I’m also aware of. Yes, these are the basic things in life I’ve latched onto, my weakness and his grace. And this directly affects how I see now and eternity, an earthly country and a heavenly one, along with the love of a beautiful Savior and people and things and holding on and letting go, these are the things I have to have an idea about if I want to have a clear mind.
I’m sitting on the cold tiles on the porch in front of our house. I see six pairs of muddy little feet stomping in the water flowing down the dirt path weaving its way between the houses, so many houses. I hear the kids playing and I know that some of them come from good families who love them and teach them about life and how it should be lived in this place, and I know that some of them don’t, and I know that one of them is mine. Their feet are all muddy and I can’t see the rest of them because the gate is in the way but I see their feet through the criss-crossed welds underneath the large rust colored piece of iron attached to the gate. I think of how precious these kids are to God and how tough they are and how some of them don’t like getting cold baths at night to get all the dirt off and of how all of them love to be listened to and talked to and told stories to and watched while they do headstands and kungfu. I know that these kids are much more precious to God than a new car or a new boat and that what these kids need most isn’t new toys but someone to listen to them and to pay attention to them and to be there for them and for them to know it. I know that God is this way and as I sit here on the cold tiles I think I am very blessed to be sitting here and that at this moment I would rather be solving their disputes and comforting someone hit by a rock than be just about anywhere else in the world. The thinking of this thought comes from one of those basic things that says people are more important than things, and the thought is clear now but not always.
I get up from sitting there on the porch and walk to my neighbor’s house. I hear the wedding music but I know that the bride and the groom haven’t arrived yet. I know that but I hadn’t always known that and just that morning as I was sitting next to a wooden desk in the office visiting with a co-worker about some of the things God is teaching us my phone rang and it was Rachelle and she told me that the wedding was starting. I walked to the bus stop and got on the bus and as I was standing in the bus my phone rang again. Again it was Rachelle and she said she was at the wedding peeling onions but the bride and the groom were at the mosque or someplace and they wouldn’t be back until after 2. It is almost 2 now as I’m walking to my neighbors house and I walk past the house where the wedding is. I see some people sitting on a mat near the road and they greet me and I greet them and they ask if I’m coming to the wedding and I say I’m coming. Then I get to my neighbor’s house and I walk down inside and sit on their couch. I greet him and his wife and ask how their family is doing and they greet me and ask how my family is doing and then we talk some more. Then I ask him if he’ll help me fix the water line and he says okay. He gets up and goes and rummages around behind his couch and finds some straps of rubber cut from an inner tube. After he finds the rubber he grabs his machete and we go outside the house and he climbs a tree and his two little kids are really excited to see how he climbs the tree. Then he chops off a branch near the top and throws it down and hands me the machete and I trim the branch and his daughter brings the steel from a well worn shovel. We shove the branch into the steel of the shovel to use as a handle and we take it along with the strips of rubber to the place in front of our house where the water line leaks. We know the water line goes to our house because the Grandma next door says it does and she has lived here for a long time. We start to dig and then we find the leak and then we wrap it with the rubber but the pressure is very high and it springs another leak. We decide to try something else and he goes back to his house to search for a one inch diameter plastic pipe and I go to my house for some cardboard and matches. Soon we’re heating up the plastic pipe over a cardboard fire and we try to enlarge the ends but the plastic is too hard. Then I remember where some pipe is buried behind the house and we get the shovel and dig it out and then we heat it up and enlarge the ends and it works. Then we go back to the place of the leak and we cut the water line and water sprays everywhere before we kink the pipe to stop the flow. Now there is no water in our house and I know that the Grandma was right and that this water line does go to our house. Then we patch the water line with the pipe we expanded and the time is close to 4 and the kids are still muddy and they say that the bride and the groom haven’t come yet.
My neighbor and I walk back to our porch and sit down and wait for Rachelle to come and bring us a soda. She comes and we drink our sodas and talk about hunting. Then I get the guitar and he jams and the kids come and bang on buckets and I’d show you how good it sounds but the charge in my phone dies and the video disappears. Then we hear the drums and we know the bride and the groom are coming and we quickly get a basin of water and wash our feet. We send one of the kids behind the house to the place where we dug up the old pipe and she gets two broken plastic chairs to bring to my neighbor. He saw the chairs when we were digging up the pipe and I gave them to him and the two chairs together make one good chair. He takes the chair with him and I lock up the house.
I start heading towards the wedding wearing nice jeans and a colored shirt. I know it’s okay to wear to the wedding because when I was on the bus and Rachelle called to tell me the wedding would start after 2 it was 11 and I decided to go to greet some old neighbors. After we greeted each other and talked about the economy I walked back toward home and met some more friends on the way. We greeted each other they asked where I was going and I said to a wedding and they said okay. I then asked them what I should wear and they said its fine to wear jeans and a colored shirt.
Now I’m at the house where the wedding is and I’m standing with some of the guys that I know from the times we’ve sat telling stories under the tree. We’re standing there watching the bus which brought the wedding party trying to turn around on a narrow dirt street in between the cement houses. After what must have been a 15 point turn the bus is turned around and the car carrying the bride and the groom arrives. The wedding party is now singing and dancing and escorting the car as it pulls up to the house. The groom gets out of the car wearing a tan colored kanzu and brown barkeshare. The bride follows him wearing a blue lace dress with her hair all done up, and the wedding party escorts them into the house. I follow them towards the house, passing by an unfinished block building. Leaning up against the building is a wooden ladder supporting a wire running above our heads to a loud speaker attached to the trunk of a palm tree with strips of rubber inner tube. The speaker blares music, prayers, and announcements as the festivities go in, mixing in Swahili and Arabic. Just past the unfinished building lies a courtyard, and across from it sits the house. The ground in the courtyard is covered with worn blue tarps, and a newer tarp is stretched out overhead, fastened at the corners with rope and supported in the center by a tall wooden pole. I walk up to the corner of the house and lean against the wall encircling this side of the courtyard.
I’m standing there with a group of young guys and I look over and see Rachelle sitting with the ladies on the other side of the courtyard. In between us the children are gathering under the tarp, and everyone knows the food is coming. I’m happy that the food is coming because I haven’t eaten anything since I ate a bowl of beans along with a chapati at a small tin roofed café in the early morning. Someone comes out of the house with a pitcher of water and a 5 gallon bucket and people start to gather to wash their hands. I wash my hands and lean back up against the wall. Next someone else comes out with a tray full of plates of pilau. The guys gather around and everyone takes a plate. I watch as the others begin eating and I’m soon rolling the rice with my right hand and squeezing it into a ball in my fist. I eat the meat along with the rice and I see Micah sitting under the tarp with his friends, sharing a plate and hungrily shoveling his food down. I finish off my plate and look for the bucket of water to wash my hands in. Now that the food is eaten, most of the guys leave, and I’m still standing there.
Now my host for the day arrives. I know he’s my host because Rachelle told me he would be there and that he could help explain to me the proceedings. I’ve often sat with him next to the vegetable stand close to our house and he is a respected man on our street. Now I’m standing next to him along the wall and we’re waiting for the bride and the groom to come out of the house. I’m surprised I’m not tired because I sweated a lot when I dug up the water line in the African sun and I’ve been awake now since 5 when I went to the office to pray and drink coffee with my co-workers. The bride and the groom finally come out of the house and sit on the couch on the porch and the music resumes. The youth beat the drums again and the sound reverberates under the tarp and mixes with the voices of the singers. The music loosens and people sway, madiras and kanzus swooshing back and forth, hands clapping then arms waving in the air, a splash of colors as the brightly colored madiras stand out against the blue backdrop of the tarp in contrast to the cement walls and the sand in the courtyard. Everyone is having a good time and I see Rachelle and she sees me and I remember last week when the little old guy who is the father of the groom came to our house and invited us to the wedding. I wasn’t home that day but Rachelle was and she told me about it and the next day I remember sitting in an opening of the unfinished building visiting with the groom to be about different odd jobs he or I had done. I also remember the first time I had visited with him, we were sitting next to each other at a funeral at the house of the man I’m now standing next to against the wall at the wedding. Everyone continues to sing and to dance and to have a nice time and people come and wave their gifts around in front of the bride and the groom. The man I’m standing next to who is my host goes up and gives his gift, then comes back and I ask him how to give something and he explains how its done and I go and stick something in the groom’s hand. Now my host is free to go and he says goodbye and I’m left standing there as the sun fades and I’m thinking of back home and of different cultures and beautiful they are. I think of everything I’ve given up and everything I’ve gained and how everything I want to do is holding fast to Truth because he’s worth it all.
The bride and the groom get in the car, the music stops, and I walk home, making habits in my mind, praying for those I’ve shared life with. That truth would prevail, that the beautiful things in a culture be set free, that God get glory.