When we arrive to Mae Bear’s house, I am surprised by how many people are there already. I notice right away that people from at least three different villages are already here. We open the door and begin walking towards Mae Bear’s house. Many people start coming out and began to wai us (say ‘why’). To ‘wai’ is putting both hands together and touching the tip of your nose with both pointer fingers, although the point you touch on your face changes based off of the social status of the person you wai, but among the believers, pretty much everyone touches their nose to one another as a sign of respect.
We greet many people as we enter the big open space, taking off our shoes as is costume; you never enter someone’s space with shoes on. The area is covered by a modest tin roof, and the freshly set concrete feels cool on our bare feet. People are busy laying out grass mats all over the floor for the meeting that will shortly commence. It’s a gathering of many of the believers scattered in the surrounding villages.
Soon the big open space is full of many people, some new faces and some familiar faces. We begin the meeting with singing; many of the songs we sing are written by the people attending the meeting. They are songs written from the heart and in the local language of the people. The songs go on for 3 hours, only to be temporarily interrupted by people standing up to share one testimony after another of the goodness, faithfulness, generosity, power, and love of Jesus. The hours slip away, until it’s finally time to take communion. Slowly the basket of sticky rice is passed around until everyone has a small ball of sticky rice in their hands and a small dish of water in front of them. After communion, we continue to sing out to Jesus until an outpouring of the Holy Spirit fills the entire space and touches all of the people. As the atmosphere settles down and the music fades, many of the ladies begin to makes plates of food and set them up around the mats on the floor; it’s lunch time! After a meal of boiled lotus flowers, fish soup, papaya salad, boiled peanuts, rice, and lots of fresh fruit, the meeting comes to an end.
On our way out, one of the leaders mentions that a faithful friend has recently returned from the government hospital in the city, which almost always means that that person only has 24 hours left to live. We decide to go to her house and pray for her. The narrow village streets don’t have enough space to park, so we drive down to another place and park and make our way back to her home. We just had a meeting here only two weeks ago, but the atmosphere today is very different. As we approached her home, the somberness of the mourning family members is heavy. They welcome us quietly and invite us in to pray. She is very weak and sick, too sick to sit up on her own. Her breathing is shallow, and the inerrant shortness of her remaining hours is impossible to ignore. We pray, and after we cry out to the Lord for her, we begin to sing. I hear sobbing, and when I open my eyes I realize that the entire room, which was nearly empty when we started praying is full! Neighbors and nearby family members heard our songs. As we continue to sing more people begin to gather around and peer through the openings in her concrete walls to see what is going on. The Holy Spirit begins to touch all of the people as they are all sobbing and weeping in the presence of God. It’s right here, in this moment, that I realize that this is what this is all about. It’s about an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who lovingly leaves His place of power to embrace a life of sacrifice, torture, rejection, and hatred. It’s about a God who humbled Himself to the point of becoming human so that He could fully know us. It’s about the Messiah, who having all of the answers to life, cried over the death of His friend, who he knew would soon be raised from the dead.
God is our Dad, and He deeply and intimately walks through the most difficult things and the most wonderful things with us. He never leaves us, and He fills us with Himself to go and be the light and salt of the earth! Here we were, Americans with access to a comfortable life in the safety of our country, embracing a life of hardships and living within a culture of poverty and suffering so that we could cry with them in their sadness. People are tired of religion, but they are still waiting for genuineness. Religion is distant, cold, and rule-oriented, but Jesus, in us, is kindness, compassion, and a full expression of joyful love.
The singing got louder, and I could see people I didn’t recognize from every generation watch with amazement as the God of the universe came down and comforted them. The lady we came to visit eventually was able to sit up, welcome us into her home, and request the songs we sang! We weren’t there long, but when we left, we knew that the people had encountered a loving Father. On my way home, the only thing that I could think was that this is all worth it. Today was worth every sacrafice. Is not the Lamb who was slain worthy to receive the reward of His suffering?
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