To walk half a mile with no shoes…
Yesterday I went with Brianna into town so she could eat lunch with some girls from the states. They are so sweet and we are so grateful we have had a chance to get to know them. After lunch we took a boda boda to WEND AFRICA, where Brianna and Tyler are currently interning. I picked up my new backpack made by a woman who was abducted and forced to become a child soldier during the war. The backpack is as beautiful as she is and as her story of healing is. I decided to walk home from there…and this is where thisstory begins.
As I turned the corner, there sat an elderly woman, in a rubbage heap (picture to the bottom left), legs stretched out, wearing an black dirt stained, sports coat, and a tattered black skirt, with the stitching unraveling. Her hair was cut short and she had a choca wrap on her head and atop the wrap was a ring of twisted filth covered, plastic bags (caviares). I didn’t know what to think, what to say, which would be nothing since I speak very little of the local language. I just felt like I was suppose to do something. I walked on, praying, and asking God what I should be doing, what was his plan. As I was going to pass the Boda Boda station, I thought of taking the Boda home but realised that I need the time to walk and pray. So I traveled the red dirt road, passing so many Acholi people, smiling, thinking and praying I went.
All I knew is that I felt I should offer to take this beautiful lady to lunch. So I walked in and thought about praying again, but I found myself walking into the kitchen to tell Eunice, our house helper, about my thoughts. Then next thing I know we are packing up and heading out the door to see who this woman is, whether or not she is “mad”, as Eunice would put it, and if she was up for lunch.
As we walked up to the lady, I just climbed the front part of the rubbish heap and squatted down. Eunice proceeded to talk to her and we were able to listen to her story. She has children that are no longer interested in taking care of her. She lives in a hut by herself, some distance from the rubbish heap. She seems in her right mind, mostly. She only mentions of the idea that she feels like a demon or devil has fallen upon her and it tells her to take care of her children and to pick garbage up and bring it home. Other than this she held a normal conversation. The whites of her eyes are stained yellow as I look into them, wishing I could understand her, wishing I knew her story. We listened and then we offered to take her to dinner. She accepted.
There are now many people looking on as we continue to talk to her. There are some housed directly behind us, everyone there has stopped there washing, sweeping and gathering to see wh
at we were doing. A group of school kids, in their pink and blue uniforms have gathered around to listen to this strange thing unfold. People driving by, slow down and stare at this strange sight. I am not sure if they are wondering why we would keep company with such a “mad”, filthy lady sitting in a rubbish heap, or if they were more inquisitive over this “Muzungu” (white person), helping a woman like this. Here, white people are known to have a lot of money. Everyone knows we live a much more luxurious life style than most any of them could ever dream of. We know it, they know, everyone knows it. This creates some barriers that are rather difficult to overcome.
Regardless of the audience, that wasn’t my mission, I cradled her right arm and helped her to her feet, after getting approval to leave her treasured finds, layed neatly in a dish drying tray, behind. She, barefoot, straightened her clothes, and brushed them as clean as you can, for not being washed, for what was probably weeks, maybe months. She walks slowly along side of me. I have so many thoughts running through my mind, but more than anything i just want to grab her hand, and swing it through the air and just walk with her through life. I can’t explain the love I felt for her as we walked along.
Just a bit down the road, I knew what I was being called to do, so I stopped the woman, bent down and removed my shoes. I motioned for her to put them on. She smiled in disbelief, but allowed me to help her dirty, calloused, cut up feet and toes, find their way, into my flip flops. My heart overflowed knowing she was able to find some small rest for her feet as she walked. I don’t think anyone that was watching knew what to think or say. For I didn’t even know myself. I just knew God was moving His love for her through me and my heart overflowed. I just kept wrapping my hands around her back and rubbed a few circles then continued to walk. I just kept looking at her, smiling, wondering what God was up to.
A short distance later, we could hear the music playing from one of the local shops. The next thing I know, she begins dancing and so I join her. My heart was full of laughter. We walked to a local shop and I bought her a pair of flip flops and once again bent over, as she accepted the gift. I removed my sandals one by one and replaced them with her new red ones. Her delight melted my heart. We were now off to lunch. The sidewalk in front of the store has a for high step off the one side. I gently cradle her arm in mine as I prepare her to step down. What happened next, well lets just say, I got the surprise. As I thought I was going to be helping her down, she bent her knees, and jumped off the edge, landing sturdily on her feet. I realized, I momentarily had held my breath and now am relieved to see her firmly back on the ground. I erupted in laughter to see such life come back to this sweet lady.
Down through narrow paths between town buildings we walked, seven school girls in their dressed uniforms, Eunice, This sweet lady and I. We made quite the sight as we walked. So many onlookers but my focus was on this lady, whom God had compelled my to walk along side of this day. Each time she hears music she dances, she waves and greets people as she strolls along the dirt roads.
These sweet school girls, who showed us the way to a local restaurant, where we sat and ate together, sweet potatoes and beans for me, okra and posh for Eunice and goat and posh for this precious lady. She ate but not until Eunice and I were willing to eat along side her. See, Eunice and I had already eaten but she would no eat unless we ate, it just isn’t culturally appropriate. So Eunice and I, obliged, and ordered ourselves some lunch. The diner was quaint, all wood made, with 3 tables. It was so hot, as there were no windows. I just prayed and asked God to help us to enjoy the meal and to relieve us of the heat. I enjoyed the meal and God did remove my sensing of the heat and we were able to eat and enjoy the company. (Restaurant and staff photo above)
The owner and workers of the shop were surprised to see a Muzungu at their shop, for no white person had ever stopped in there. I ate with my hands like everyone else and after dinner she asked me, “Do you not eat with forks?” I replied, “yes, but we have also lea
rned to eat with our hands, which is much nicer sometimes.” She laughed at my response. I left her a tip and thanked her for her wonderful food and service. I had sat and watched her count the coins, the profit she had made from her lunch session. There couldn’t have been more than four or five dollars to be split between five of them. That would be less than one dollar for each of them. So I let them keep the change so that they would have a little extra to spread amongst them.
The three of us hopped onto boda bodas and traveled across town and out to a near by market, about 5 minutes from my house. They pulled in front of her hut and we entered in with her. I can’t explain the smell or sight and the feeling that came upon me, accept for my stomach was so tight as I tried to take in the smell and sight before me. She had garbage piled on every wall, and it filled in towards the middle of her hut floor. Plastice bottles, glass liquor bottles, plastic bags, old food containers, two reed mats that she must sleep on at night along with rotten food and dishes with food remaining on them, rotting for, I would guess, months. She rolled out a reed mat and asked us to join her so I sat down. I entered with out my shoes, as is custom here, you never wear your shoes inside any house. But after seeing the condition of the home, I went out and retrieved my flip flops and then sat down to join in the conversation. I have never felt so much joy sitting in the midst of rubbish talking to such a beautiful person, even though all I could do is look into her eyes and wonder of her story. Oh how I wish I could speak the language, but I know God can and what He is speaking to her will far out weigh any words I could ever speak.
After she shared some of her story we made plans to return on Monday to help clean up her hut and to see if there would be some way we could help her out. We bid her goodbye and I gave her a hug. I prayed for Gods healing over her mind through out the day and trust that God will rid her of any evil that has been attaching itself to her. We will see her free and restored to a sound mind, for Gods glory.
What a beautiful journey this will be! When God is up to something, you know it will be life changing! I am so excited to see what lies ahead. Can’t wait Monday.
Such a blessing to be the hands and feet of Jesus!