October 8, 2007

It’s Simpler Than It Seems

On Friday, I attended for the first time a Bible study sporadically held at Itipini that is primarily for young teenage girls and mothers, roughly aged 12 to 16. I am a bit skeptical of what I can offer but the volunteer who leads it has been insistent I attend and I figured I should do at least one thing that is stereotypically associated with missionaries, though I can’t proselytize very well in Xhosa (or English, for that matter).

We read the story of the healing of Naaman (II Kings 5 or Ookumkani II in my Xhosa Bible or Izibhalo Ezingcwele). One part that struck me was Naaman’s disbelief that he could be healed by something as easy bathing seven times in the River Jordan. He expected a little more theatrics from Elisha.

It occurred to me as I was reading that I might be in a similar position. I thought this missionary business would involve a lot more hard work that would produce tangible accomplishments I could point to. But as I’ve been explaining, it’s quite a lot different. Who I am continues to matter more than what I do (even as I do more things more regularly). In a sense, it’s easier than I thought; all I have to do is be a loving and gracious person with the people I meet. (Perhaps I should add it is theoretically easier but practically harder; my fallen nature keeps getting in the way.)

On Friday, for instance, I made it a point to spend time with a young girl in the pre-school. She is about six, though looks much younger and frailer, no doubt partly due to her tuberculosis. On Thursday night, her father threw her, her siblings, and her mother out of their shack in a drunken rage. Her mother isn’t exactly an angel, either. She spends most of her time in downtown Mthatha, ignoring her three children and letting them take care of each other, which to judge by how dirty and hungry they always are, they can’t do all that well. It is rare that this young girl actually makes it the pre-school or to the clinic to take her TB medicine on her own.

So when Robert, the other male volunteer, and I saw her on Friday, we were delighted and though we didn’t explicitly talk about it, I think we both realized the importance of being a positive male presence in this young girl’s life at this particular moment. Of course, since I can’t speak with her, my attention mostly consisted of getting her to make faces with me, making sure she ate lunch, splashing her with water when it got hot, and letting her sit on my lap. And I think that’s all right. Sometimes God doesn’t need fiery displays to show Godself at work.


Arlie said...


In that II Kings 5 story about Naaman, I did a children's sermon 1 time on the vital link of the little servant girl telling Naaman's wife about the prophet that could help heal Naaman. Somehow we're all vital links to helping others heal.

Appreciate hearing of your good work at Itipini.