pushing back the darkness

I was reminded this evening of the trip I took with a team from our church to Peru a couple of years ago.  My teammate, Michelle, and I were assigned to a small church of primarily native Quechuan-speaking people in the mountains above Abancay, along with our Peruvian interpreter, Edith.

For five brief days, we hiked the mountain trails from one mud-brick home to another sharing the gospel with anyone willing to speak with us, frequently using three distinct languages to convey our message.  Surprisingly enough, lots of people were willing to speak with us, and to share their less-than-meager provisions to celebrate the opportunity. 

One particular afternoon, mid-week, we were dropped off, as usual, along the side of a narrow mountain road from which we veered immediately onto a small dirt path leading down a steep incline toward yet another mud-brick home visible across the meadow in the distance.

I was particularly tired and unsure of myself on that afternoon.  Though we had experienced inspired success, I could feel the gnawing weariness bringing doubt about our efforts, making me question the value of imposing ourselves into another family’s day, struggling as they would surely be beneath the weight of attempts to simply survive.

Pastor Jacob, our host-pastor for the week, stood at the trailhead and pointed down the path to the house in the distance, muttered something to Edith in Spanish, then took a right turn down a different path as Edith led us in the direction he had pointed.  I was perturbed by what seemed to be his “other priorities” and that added to my internal debate.

I lagged behind, partly as an expression of my rebellion and internal debate, and partly out of the need to heed nature’s call, and made a pit-stop at the facilities behind a giant tree a few paces off the trail as the ladies marched ahead toward the tiny home.

When I reluctantly arrived there a few minutes later to join them, they had successfully coaxed the lady of the house to the front door, along with a couple of tiny faces peering out form the threshold around their mother’s legs.  They stood there in the doorway, behind the horizontal board at the bottom which was common to many such homes to keep the guinea pigs from escaping – a local food source which could typically be found roaming the open range of the entire home.

She was a young woman, a bit disheveled and dressed, as all the locals were, in what were obviously second-hand, poorly-fitting, and heavily-stained clothing, as were her children.  She smiled, effusively, almost embarassingly, and so did the children, shyly and with obvious, cautious excitement at these strange visitors.

What stands out to me, though, more profoundly than any of that – yet in a phantom-like memory that makes me check myself to be sure I’m not making it up – is that she held in her hands a broom.

That seems like a minor detail, I’m sure, but it is peculiarly interesting to me because she lived in a home with a dirt floor.  When we interrupted her day, without advance notice, she had been caught engaged in the chore of sweeping her hard-packed dirt floor.

Obviously, that sight made an impression on me.  It seems entirely preposterous, from the perch of my comfy couch here in Middleville America, that I was ever in such a place, much less witnessing such conditions.  But, that woman’s simple act of home maintenance speaks volumes to me, especially in light of the beauty and hope clearly evident in the seemingly simple lives of the Peruvian people.

[Too much to share in one setting.  I just can’t get everything said in a manageable number of words, so . . . To Be Continued . . . ]

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