Thoughts, prayers, projects and pictures; the chronicle of one simple life from Missouri to Mozambique and the places between.

Friday, April 14, 2017

All Things to All People: An Easter Reflection




I sit here and watch the storm coming. Dark clouds gather above the dancing swallows. Tree leaves quiver in anticipation. Thunder rumbles distantly.

Rain, here, is a sign of death: Houses flooding and rice crops washing away. Mud walls caving and killing people, and the persistent worry of a cholera outbreak.

But it's also a sign of hope: Relief from droughts, a welcome respite from scorching heat. Water in dried-up riverbeds and wells.

I sit here, and watch the falling drops splatter against the concrete, and I think about death and hope. Two such separate things, so closely linked in this, the place of extremes, where most of life seems to be either wonderful or terrible and there often isn't much in the way of a middle ground.

I live in the midst of this seeming paradox.  

In the space of a single day, I'll go from sipping cappuccino at a high-end café to walking the filthy pathways that thread between small houses with no electricity, no plumbing, that fill up with water at flood time. 

I'll step from my car filled with groceries and come face-to-face with a beggar. 

I'll have lunch in one friend's tiny, one-room home (again, with no plumbing) and supper at another friend's enormous house (nice, even by American standards), complete with a maid and a gardener. 

I've attended both a funeral and a wedding in a span of seven days. 

I live in a society that treats me with elaborate courtesy one minute and insults me in Sena the next.

I wrote down some thoughts a few days ago about the difficulty I find in describing this life to all of the people who aren't living it.

Extremes like these are hard to discuss fairly, rationally, sympathetically.

Extremes like these are my life. 

I sit, and listen to the thunder, and think of that other day, 2000 years ago, when skies darkened and rocks cracked and all nature mourned the death of the One who'd spoken it into being. A day of death and hope existing side-by-side.

I'm reminded of the other person who lived in extremes.

He healed beggars and dined with the wealthy. His friends came from every walk of life. And the way His society treated Him? "Hosanna!" one day and, "crucify Him!" the next. 

From a banquet table to a whipping post. From honor to a cross.

So this Good Friday, as rain patters and clouds pass overhead, I reflect on the One who came to open a way for all men to be saved. Rich and poor. Prostitute and Pharisee. 

Paul said, "I have become all things to all people, so that by all possible means I might save some."

Today, these words resonate with me like never before as I pray for the grace and strength to follow my Lord along this path...whether it leads to a mud hut or a mansion, hosannas or a cross.


Friday, March 10, 2017

That Time When I Took My Journal to a Café



Just a random stock photo, because I'm too chicken to take a bunch of obvious photos when everyone's watching me




March 8, 2017

I think I accidentally barged into men's hour. There are tables full of men - Somalis, Indians, Portuguese, Mozambican - and a group of them messing about with the ATM. Presumably they are restocking it (some are in uniform and the rest are looking impressive). There are two other women here, but they are with men...

Oh well, accidentally turning up in 'men only' groups is one of my specialties.

The original plan was to go to Riviera and pretend to be a character from Casablanca, but I was tired and footsore after hunting for a pair of shoes for Dino's wedding, so I succumbed, instead, to the nearest AC/bathroom combo.

So here I am.

The proprietor seems to be mostly toothless in front, and consequently, unintelligible. Well, to be fair, part of the problem is the absence of teeth and the other part if the presence of Portuguese ancestry. I think the Portuguese might be even harder to understand than the Brazilians, but it's a close thing.

Cigarette smoke hangs in the air.

One of the ATM guys is laughing uncontrollably.

The ice cream has melted and re-frozen one too many times.

The chá com leite is as comforting as always.

I feel like I'm being watched by everyone, though that's not strictly true. Some of the ATM guys are pretty focused on their job, and rasta dude in the corner is pretty focused on his lunch.

Oh! Here comes another woman! With a man, of course, but maybe we're on the same side...if anyone's paying attention to such things.

Anyway, I can always make companions of the flies. They seem predisposed to like me; buzzing hopefully 'round my teacup. As long as none of them fall in and drown...

Second round with the teabag. I guess I'll have to go soon. I still have to buy stuff for a birthday cake, track down media people, and probably a couple other things I'm currently forgetting.

But you know, since everyone's observing me, I might as well observe back.

The guy to my right is handsome in a comfortable way. The woman with him has her back turned to me, but she's probably attractive. Anyone who keeps up with their appearance is attractive, even if they don't possess the added bonus of being pretty, and she is well-dressed; conservative black and white skirt and blouse set, the effect being only mildly diminished by the flip-flops and the chipping nail polish.

The other girl, the empregada, is plainly beautiful, no doubts about that. Slender, smooth skin, lovely features. She trails between tables and up and down stairs in pursuit of a little boy - Indian probably - with enormous dark eyes and curly hair.

The people to my left are a mixed group. All middle-aged or older. All speaking Portuguese, though I doubt they're all Mozambican (Portuguese is probably their lingua franca). Then there's the older gentleman sitting alone. His face is austere in repose, but friendly when he laughs with the proprietor.

The Somalis have gone, the rasta has finished his lunch, ATM crew has finished whatever is was they were doing and have moved on. There remain only the proprietor and servers, watching music videos on TV, another group that I can't quite see without resorting to spy tactics, and two handsome guys at the far table. One is a lighter-skinned Mozambican, nicely, though not pretentiously, dressed. The other is probably Indian. Not talking much, just fiddling idly with phones or staring off into space. Oh, there they go. Sauntering off about their business.

Comfortably Handsome has begun telling a story. Can't catch the words, but the expressive gestures and the tone of his voice tell their own tale. Laughter ensues; comfortable, polite laughter.

Chá's about gone.

I should go see about those cake ingredients.

My friend, the sun, awaits.

Tchau for now.