Today I drove a rowdy vanload of our dorm kids home from school, bouncing mercilessly along the dusty roads of our cartier C*.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something truly wonderful. Not the usual waving hands of gorgeous brown children, clothes a mess and smiles to perfection. Neither was it the comforting nod from a neighbor working hard over a cookfire of spicy-smelling fried food.
I saw her – Hadiza. Such beauty! I slowed down to absorb the sight of her more carefully. It was like God was showing her to me again and beaming with pride over her! I simply had to take note!
Walking tall, with her traditional build (so she tells me proudly), wearing a colorful dress with ruffled details, her graceful head balancing a giant bowl of who-knows-what to bring home to her family in cartier Harabanda.
My friend. What makes her sparkle so?
This week Andy and I (along with a few helping friends – thank you forever doctor B!) faced sandmites head-on and went to battle! They are microscopic bugs so our battle-gear had to be specific…and African…so we rented a giant cauldron (who knew you could even do that!), filled it with water and set it atop a makeshift fire outside our house.
Here it is.
It took an hour to build the fire hot enough to boil the water, then load by load we boiled our clothes, linens, stuffed animals (well, not all of them!) and blankets. Stirring, stirring, sweating, sweating…
Isoufou, our happy-go-lucky day guard joined in and helped Andy survive the heat and labor of it all.
After each boiling load, it was my turn to take the burning hot clothes and wash them – I had to use tongs to get them into the washer so as not to burn my fingers! Then dry. Then fold….
Hadiza, this beauty, noticed me in the midst of our ridiculous endeavor – (it is a bit ridiculous isn’t it?) – and she asked me if I was okay? Her concerned eyes seeing right through my tin armor of so-called strength. I was completely discouraged and of course I can’t hide anything from anyone, but especially this woman of love.
I shrugged and tried to explain the cauldron. The mites. The excuses for my bad mood.
She smiled and listened. Beauty and grace while I was all grimy and grumpy. Then, another smile, even bigger, and her words came easily as usual, with a deep and airy voice, “You know Nikki, you have to give this thing to Jesus. It is for him to take care of and then you no worry.” (She speaks seven languages, yet the translation of thoughts often has this charming, jagged effect.)
She motioned her arms and hands, pretending to have a little box in her hand, stepped forward and gave it to an invisible someone next to me, “Like this, Nikki”.
She continued, “God… It was he who tell you and Andy to come to Africa to help the families here. And you said you would come and so you work hard. And then this happen and you are sad. But do not hold on to it, Nikki, give it to him!” A big smile came easily as she gave the imaginary box away again.
Perspective. This is where Hadiza lives. With her four children, two who are in university, and her husband.
She and her husband both work full time to support their family and they hope to move to a better home soon.
“Nikki,” she almost sang it to me like a heart-song that day, “God did not leave you here without his help. He know you have many problems when you come to Africa. So give it to him!” Again the gesture of handing the imaginary box to imaginary Jesus standing next to me.
But it is not pretend!
He is not pretend. He is not imaginary! He really is with me in everything.
And there it is again, like an old-fashioned record with a scratch, playing the same note again and again…this lesson I have to learn!
With Jesus. With Jesus. With Jesus.
Our whole life is wrapped up in this one thing and I wonder if I will ever really get it?
Hadiza’s got it.
A sparkle that comes from within and has nothing at all to do with circumstances good or bad. Muddy-floored houses, sandmites, boiling-clothes-in-a-cauldron exhaustion, m*l*m neighbors, flooding rivers, loneliness…
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?……For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 38-39
So, today our eyes met as I slowly drove past her, both of us waving joyously that we unexpectedly saw each other this way, (though we spend all day every day in the same dorm-house together.) She, on her way to catch a taxi for a ride to her little precious God-given home, and I, on my way to share a meal with a large dorm family, a meal that she joyfully prepared for us.
With Jesus. With Jesus. With Jesus.