Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When the World Weeps - Part 2

Just yesterday, the news reported a tsunami hit the areas around American Samoa in the Pacific. Tsunami warnings were posted for all of the Western coast of the USA. When disasters strike places that are truly "worlds away" from our American lifestyle, it's hard to know how to pray effectively. Let me share a snapshot of a visit to my friend's house. I hope it will help you know how to pray, when pictures tell the story of tragedies in far away places. This "series" will have 4 parts; I hope you'll leave a comment and let me know your thoughts along the way. As the news proved once again yesterday, we never know what the next day may bring.

I walked past the block wall with its barbed wire accessory, stepping over open drainage canals, into the shade of corrugated metal roofing. Eyes glanced up from work, and they giggled at the sight of me, the outsider. Dogs accompanied me into the compound, my eyes adjusting from the tropical sun, and I saw many people working in the heavy air. Some were family members who worked and lived there; others were from the village clustered around the canal and narrow dirt road. Making my way through the building and into the courtyard, the odor of sour dairy products met me, rising from countless cheese squares on ground tarps, drying in the intense sun. From the coolness of a small cinder block house came my friend, baby in arms. Welcomed with a kiss and an embrace, I entered the dark room, arranged with plastic chairs alongside a few heavy narra wood pieces. After months of friendship, it was my maiden invitation to the family home, part of the compound of tile, blocks, and bamboo buildings.

Pia invited me to join her on the unforgiving bench, and my eyes began to adjust to dim light filtered through screenless windows. Other resident family members greeted me. Pia showed me a yellowed photo of her mother, whom she had not seen for years, living on another island. Her hands full of baby, I offered to step up into the kitchen to retrieve water from a single pipe over a cement basin. Plastic ware and a single gas burner, a luxury item, lined the thigh-high counter. Only a metal rice pot nearly resembled my cookware. Open windows looked out on the squares dehydrating in the sun, soon to be wrapped for the market by giggling workers.

Since I inquired about the baby’s crib, my friend took me to a small room where I saw the family’s worldly belongings lining the tiny room. A bed occupied most of the floor, with a crib snugly between it and the wall. All four of the family slept there, framed by their collection of clothing and possessions, including a prized guitar. This was a private space most guests were not shown.

The two of us chattered over common things between us: marriage, children, relatives, cooking, God, and dreams. She offered me some of the family made snacks, sun cured and peeled from courtyard tarps. I held the barely dressed baby as we talked, sharing our burdens and blessings. We had reason to praise together, reflecting on the tuberculosis of her toddler, treated in the last year. We gave thanks for a safe delivery in the public hospital filled with watching crowds, but little drinking water. As the two of us bowed to pray, we enjoyed sweet fellowship between women bound by grace. She had never seen a world like I came from, but I received a glimpse of hers that day. It penetrated my senses, changing the way I needed to pray for my friend and all women who live in her world.

I want to invite you back tomorrow, for some of the thoughts I've sifted out of my time in the Philippines, thoughts about how to really pray for those in need right now ... far away.

2 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

namartinez0503 said...

Thank you Julie for the reminder that even when I feel I have many needs, I still live in abundance. This helps to keep my priorities straight and not to take for granted the many blessings that God chooses to give me. One of the girls in my tax class has family in the phillipines whose lives have been spared but they have lost all possessions. Please pray for Teresa.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I often feel so crippled by my ignorance of these people and places that really are so far away (perhaps even farther away in concept and reality than they are geographically). It is things like this post that help make them real.