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I’m writing on the last plane home from Mozambique, Africa. I have been intentionally putting off writing about the “bush-bush” outreach, a couple of days away that were part of our missions trip to the Iris base, out of fear.

The same fear I had going there.

If you don’t commemorate a place in time, has it happened then? You can trick your mind into believing things or forgetting things or keep it from grabbing on to the deep things wrought by experiences because they are so visceral, you don’t know if you can handle going there again, even if just in your mind, or handle processing it, or you’re afraid to. 

12346409_1624487891146005_44104453250959842_nThe bush outreach is the most out of my comfort zone I have ever been. It wasn’t one thing in particular that made it so stretching, it was a hundred things cumulated to bewilder my understanding and emotions. I close myself off when inserted into uncharted territory. I suppose I subconsciously think it will keep me safe and protected but it doesn’t make me a very good traveling companion for my husband—seriously though, we were in flipping Africa, Mozambique, not Monaco or London and this, my first trip across the Big Pond. When confronted with the unfamiliar, I recoil as if faced by a swaying cobra.

For some reason, my mind had conjured up this picture of bush outreach in a mountainous area with some forest around, but two and a half hours from Pemba, the Makua tribe was just as hot, dusty red and scorched as the Iris base. I wondered if the people were aware of their poverty; have they seen other cultures and ways of life? Their lives seemed incredibly and terrifyingly simple…always the quest for food, subsistence. I think that’s part of the discomfort for me; not that they don’t have vision, but that their vision is reduced, downsized in that kind of environment to growing food and babies and keeping the flies off as much as possible.
 
We built tents in the pastor’s back yard, a sea of nylon in the dry dust. The pastor’s painted mud hut shading all of us and villagers from the nails of the sun. The ground absorbs the heat, holds it at the ready for when you decide to go to bed (usually early because the heat has made everything a chore during the day and you are spent). Your tent becomes a convection oven, holding the heat radiating up from the ground, making sleep difficult as you try to find any kind of physical comfort while marinating in your own sweat.
 
The people… the people smile and grab your hand, share their food and their babies. The children follow you around, grasping your skirts, hands and your water, will climb into your lap and bring you back to the scorching earth and reality of this third world culture that is so jarring to me.
 
Lunch was pasta with red cheesy sauce and tuna from cans, cooked over a fire in a massive pot—good, I ate it with a pen, we didn’t bring utensils and they eat with their hands, washed in bowls of water beforehand. Dinner was rice and beans and the cooked carcasses of the two goats they brought in bleating and tied up while we were eating lunch. I didn’t get to try the goat as I had collapsed in my tent from exhaustion before the Jesus film had ended. 
 
12341427_1624940874434040_2952780680177948014_nAfter we had set up our tents we split into five groups and went around the village, led by the village mommas who love Jesus, to homes to pray for the sick. Again, such discomfort. I abhor going into someone’s space that is so foreign to mine, in language, thought, custom and inserting myself. I’m a relational junkie so evangelism is very hard for me, it feels so stripping and vulnerable, for both people involved. I haven’t paid the price of time in your life to earn your hurts and fears and what lays you low in the dust. I have nothing to give you but smiles, hand shakes and my Jesus—how do I convey Jesus to someone so foreign, so unknown. Two hours of invasion, praying while some of the people around us laugh and point about what we are doing—that translates across cultures and I thought about the mocking and ridicule I experienced growing up in my neighborhood of West Park View. It didn’t stop my love for them or my desire to show them Jesus, but again I felt powerless to change their view-to convince-to reassure.
 
That night, under a blanket of stars, we showed them the Jesus film and I sat in the dust, littles in my lap and all around, vying for a piece of me, some attention, and soaking up my affection. After an hour and a half, I had to stand and stretch my aching back. I went to find JT and lean on him-sometimes exhaustion and nakedness break down your defenses and you pursue love right. JT knew I was done and walked me and a friend “home,” back to our tent where we attempted to wet wipe the dirt and dust that blackened our feet, stuck on by sunscreen, bug spray and sweat.
 
We were in the dust with these sweet people, smiling and gesturing and sharing—it was so incredibly hard for me physically, emotionally and mentally. But we gave and they gave and though I was never comfortable and ached to leave the whole time, Dad spoke the why into my heart, why going down into the dust is so important. The gold—gold is found in the dust; our hearts were similar, even if that’s where any similarity ended. I don’t know that I will ever be among the Makua again but there are so many others called and going and loving, and I will remember that in the dust we are all the same.
 
The next morning we packed up, sweating, tired-had breakfast and packed our dust covered belongings into the camion and bus. My favorite part of the bush outreach, even though still scared and uncomfortable, was honoring the chiefs of the village. We brought capilana’s to tie around their shoulders and knelt at their feet, shook their hands and introduced ourselves. Honor is a language that translates without words. There is a joy in sitting, placing yourself at someone’s feet, acknowledging and affirming who Dad created them to be.
 
12313902_1624461891148605_4155180763615364612_nThe ride back was such a relief and I am immeasurably thankful we only stayed one night as opposed to the originally planned two. Honestly, I feared my grace would run out before our time there did. It’s not often you crawl into a low hut to pee, poop and yes, even change tampons (that is real guys), while squatting precariously over a 5×5 inch hole in the ground. That takes grit and determination if I do say so myself!
 
We got back to base and I showered, the last shower I would have at the Iris base unbeknownst to me. The water went out several times our week there, we used the latrines available, I washed clothes in a bucket and ate beans and rice with baked whole fish, we walked to restaurants in the dust, we taught and we received, we groaned at night when the heat kept us sticky and awake. We woke up early because the sun rises at 3:45am there and so does the heat. We sat on floors with kids and friends and split tears and fears on those those floors and all the while I kept hearing Dad say, “There is gold in this dust. Do you see it? Can you find it?” 
 
Maybe you have found yourself in the dust, put there by Dad or like me, you have walked into it because it was my turn and I knew it-uncomfortable, anxious, uncertain. You may not speak the language of the dust, or have anything in common but the dust, but Dad is waiting, in the dust with you, to point out the gold.
 
The same stars the Makua see at night and Dad brought my attention to during my cuddle in the dust watching the Jesus film with so many littles from their village, are the same stars I see from my village in Raleigh, NC. We share that gold, the Makua and I, and you and I, we share at the table of dust where we find the gold of heaven, the gold of honor and the gold of our Heavenly Daddy’s love.
 
There is no more dust under my freshly scrubbed fingernails, but it has gone past my skin and settled in the cracks and crevices of my heart. After all, that’s where it belongs, your dust and mine, and I’m grateful for those who choose to go there with me. 
 
My friend, I bless you and invite you to find the gold in the dust with me. The journey is so much better together.
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