This weekend was the halfway point (we made it!) and it was also our Outreach weekend. I have been
dreading holding my breath for this since I discovered we were required to do it on my first read through the Student Handbook in February. Outreach is the time when you go out to the bush-bush for 3 days and work with a village church. If you’ve seen the film “The Finger of God” it was exactly like that. If you haven’t seen that film you should see it. Our plan was to do Outreach separately – I would do one with Asher and Shawn would stay with Judah and Luciana and then later on Shawn could go on another Outreach. We were fine with that especially after talking to a family who split up their Outreach and the wife went first with their 11 month old – they said for sure separate. And that was our plan up until a couple weeks ago when another family (their kids are 8 and 5) came back from their village vacation and had a different experience. Well, the more we thought about it the righter it felt to take the whole family. Shawn and I have to split up on a lot of things already and the Outreach is such a big experience that it would be impossible to come back from it and fill the other person in. We really wanted to be able to share this together and even have the kids – especially Judah – be a part of it, too. We also felt like this was going to be a pivotal experience for us and that it would be one of those events that you look back on and can see the hand of God clearly. So that settled it. We’re all going. We had to borrow around to get enough camping stuff for the whole family since we only brought enough for one of us. On the Tuesday before Outreach Heidi Baker was speaking and she gave a lot of practical advice for going on Outreach. Things like, don’t wander around alone, a few men need to stay back and guard the tents, if your butt gets pinched you have permission to say “No!” Things like that. But the bit that stayed with me was, “Don’t be in a hurry.” It is my natural inclination to want to keep things moving or rather, skip to the end. But, I knew this experience was going to be about each individual moment and not just driving back to the base Saturday afternoon in triumph.
Outreach Day 1
Our village was only about a 2 hour BUMPY truck ride away. I think it was only about 55 kilometers away, but the “roads” made for slow travel. Asher, Luci, and I sat in the cab with Lydia from Norway and the driver. There were about 45 people –and luggage – crammed in the back of the truck including Shawn and Judah. When we got to the village we set up our tents in someone’s back yard and then set off to show the Jesus Film and pray for people. Luci, Asher, and I stayed back at the tent to sleep because they were exhausted and Shawn said it was crazy over where they were showing the film. Eventually, Judah came back to sleep and I listened to the movie and then to the preaching. Heidi Baker came on our Outreach so she did the preaching (and brought Starbucks coffee for the morning. Praise Jesus!). Three people who were deaf were healed, a lady with severe back pain was 100% better, and more things I can’t remember off hand. Not bad for a first night. Shawn crawled in bed at about 11:30 and we had the sweatiest night of sleep ever.
Outreach Day 2
The kids did so great in the tent. That was our first time to go camping and what a way to start! We were up nice and early (5 am) thanks to our proximity to the latrines and two escaped chickens running through our tent city. We had a lovely breakfast of the whitest bread ever with a little jam on it and some weak, but sugary, coffee. By about 8 am they had us line up according to country to meet the chief of the village and his wife. We stood in the hot sun singing songs led by the Mozambican Bible School students waiting for our audience with local royalty. We were all doing fine, until about 45 minutes into waiting. By then the kids were hot and tired and Asher wanted to eat and go to sleep so badly. I have never seen him so unhappy. I knew he knew I knew what he wanted, but he didn’t understand that we had to be introduced before I could go back to the tent. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry. We eventually had our turn and the chief’s wife was so pleased we brought our whole family with us. She said she was happy to have her nieces and nephews in for a visit. Asher went to sleep immediately after that (in the Ergo, thanks Mama Jeanne and Granny!) and we set off to do a little preaching and praying. By the time I got to the church – well, we did everything outside the church under a big tree – they had started to do the Good Samaritan skit we worked up. I didn’t know Judah was playing the part of the victim until I saw him being tossed up in the air. Later he told me that he got to ride on Mr. Nick (a big guy from Alabama) who was obviously playing the role of “donkey” and got punched in the head for real. Treasures in Heaven, Judah-man. You’re storing up treasures in Heaven. I was usually in the middle of a crowd of kids about 6 deep. Other moms would be around with their babies strapped to them, too, so we would coo about each others’ babies and then I would have to excuse myself to find Luci who was either being squeezed by a 6-deep circle of village kids or trying to find a place to go potty. Luci had become an expert latrine user by mid-morning. We then broke in to groups to wander about the village going house to house praying with people. My participation lasted two houses until Luci had to be taken back to use the latrine. Since we weren’t supposed to go out alone we had to stay back at the tent site until everyone else got back from praying. We did, however, walk out of our fenced area and Luci went across the way and sat down on a grass mat with an older man. She just sat there, so I figured I better go just sit there, too. [During this time, Judah was with one of the other guys on our team and Shawn who had been resting due to a serious sea urchin induced infection was also out praying with people.] Luci sat for a while and told the man that he had no boots. That was true, but his flip-flops were right next to him. He didn’t speak any English, but he seemed amused with Luci and how much she had to say. Asher just wanted to bust down the bamboo door. What if he actually had?!? A little later Luci moved over to where an older woman was sitting with two other ladies who were taking dried corn off the cob. Luci got right in there and started taking the corn off. By this time we had drawn quite the crowd. I was just sitting there trying to keep Asher from eating too much dirt and destroying their house. I probably said to myself, “Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry.” a hundred times before we finally got up to leave. I think we sat there for a half hour.
Then it was a quick lunch of rice and goat (rice that Judah and Luci both helped to sift and goat that Judah watched be cut up). Shawn said that he didn’t think he would ever want rice and goat again and I said that if I ever prepare a meal of rice and goat he had my permission to go out for dinner. After lunch we piled on the truck to go to another village to show the film and do it all again. When we pulled in to the village and Judah and Luci hopped out it was like they were different kids. This time they knew what they were doing and it was as if they owned the village. Luci was grabbing kids by the hand and pulling them around. Judah was immediately holding a bird a boy had found. I spend the next two hours following Luci around as she chased kids and they chased her back. It was crazy. I’m pretty sure those village kids got the best night of sleep ever. Soon it was time for some outstanding dancing by our team, a little Jesus Film, then wrapping up with praying for anyone and everyone.
Outreach Day 3
I had early wake-up call thanks to a village kid melting down at 4am and an ant party going on in our tent. The good news was Luci and Asher slept until about 5:45 and we had to wake Judah up. We packed up our tents and went to the church for a short service. Shawn and Judah did some of the preaching. Shawn was talking about how Jesus always made a way for the kids to come to him [in this village there were A LOT of kids around, but relatively few adults] and then Judah, who was stoked to use the microphone, shared some of the times God has talked to him. After that, we loaded up the truck and drove to one last village to encourage the pastor and his wife. I was soooo ready to get home, but “Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry.” was my mantra. It was a short stop in that village, but we spent some good time praying with and encouraging the pastor and his wife. The pastor is going to be attending the Bible School at Iris and will be away from home for about 3 months, so I prayed extra for his wife. Then we were back on the truck and heading home. Immediately upon our return, I filled up three tubs and dropped three kids in. Never in my life have I been so happy to scrub, scrub, scrub.
I’m not sure that I made a dramatic different in the lives of the people in the village, but for what it’s worth I was really proud of us that we made it through the whole ordeal. There are lots more stories to tell from Outreach and even more things that God is showing me, but I’m tired of typingJ
P.S. Asher took a few steps last week. That sweet boy is going to learn to walk in Africa.
Friends, we love you and miss you. Thank you for your support and prayers – we couldn’t be doing this without you.