Rope or Bridge? There are pros and cons to each. The rope, while allowing for one to wade across the river in relative safety, also serves as a highway for about one million ants who also have business on the other side of the river. The bridge, while free of ants, swings precariously nearly 20 feet above the river pouring through two huge rocks just below. If I have a choice, I vote for the rope and then just wade along underneath it, ignoring the rope, and run the risk of being swept down the river.Every time we hike from Emrang to Kemantian, we get to decide how to cross. If there has been lots of rain, we usually chose the bridge. The idea of hauling ourselves hand over hand on a rope while being dragged horizontally in the river by the current doesn’t sound all that exciting to either of us.
Rope or Bridge? There is no need to make a choice when facing a difficult situation with God! He is the rope that is anchored securely when we fear of being swept away by the current. He is also the bridge that carries us high and safe above the rushing river. No matter the trail, we are always safe with Him.
I peered in the plastic bottle and watched the large hairy spider crawl slowly around. He was nearly 4 inches in diameter and therefore didn’t have much room the peanut butter jar to maneuver. As I leaned in for a closer look, he glared at me and leaped at the side of the bottle toward my face. Knowing that there was no way for him to get out and that he was tightly enclosed in the bottle, I did what any normal person would do in such a situation: I squealed in fright and nearly dropped it on the floor! Spiders are not my favorite creatures to begin with and ones of this magnitude are very nearly at the top of my dislike list. There are not many things that make me scream, but very large spiders (or any large sort of bug for that matter), are one of those things! Fortunately I haven’t seen any more of that type around, but must knowing that they are out there gives one an uneasy feeling.
Imagine taking your clothes right out of the wash and putting them on still dripping cold water. That’s how I felt. Slithering down the trail with cleats digging into the mud, I struggled to maintain balance as my wet skirt slapped around my calves. The hike between Emrang and Kemantian is a good workout on dry days, but on wet ones you have the added factor of perpetually tense muscles as you brace against an unhindered slide down the slimy trail.Since we moved up to Emrang four days previously, we’d had an abundance of pouring rain and gusty winds. I am used to rain (being from Portland, OR) but as much as I enjoy it I have to admit that it can have somewhat of a dampening effect on things!
About two hours after we started, Shama, Brian, and I squelched into Kemantian on a Sabbath afternoon. Shama and I had just moved up to Emrang for good the Tuesday before, but we had to return to Kemantian to do some planning for camp-meeting coming up in just two weeks. Brian has been planning with the villagers for months for our arrival and they had built a beautiful bamboo house for us: complete with a grass roof and datag (slatted bamboo floors). Shama declares it her dream house, and while I am not sure I am in quite 100% agreement with that statement I am immensely impressed with the workmanship that went into the structure and will thoroughly enjoy residing in it for during the coming year. It is very well made and functional, yet compact and aesthetic at the same time.
The school where we will be teaching is about 1/8th of a mile up a hill from us and has one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen anywhere: mountains disappearing into mist behind it and the valley stretching all the way down to the ocean in front. It faces almost directly east and the sunrises are spectacular. Currently, there are only four students (all girls) attending. While I would love to see more of the village literate, I can’t help but be grateful for the smaller number of students to launch my teaching career upon!
Shama and I arrived in Emrang on a Tuesday morning and spent the rest of the day moving in and visiting with people. There was so much to be done that by the time we got around to bathing, it was completely dark. Each donning ‘tajung’ (a large, circular piece of cloth used for bathing), we slithered nearly an eighth a mile in the dark to the ‘shower’: a stream of water cascading out of a half bamboo pipe. Not only was it dark (and therefore getting cold), but it was raining as well. In combination these two things made for a rather hasty bathing process. I get goose bumps now just thinking about it! For those of you who might be tempted to think that it is never cold in a tropical rainforest, think again!
For the subsequent three days after our arrival we received an incredibly fast orientation to the school and clinic. Each night as I went to bed my mind reeled with the things learned that day. Having never had a days’ worth of teaching experience in my life, the thought of writing a lesson plan seems as nearly insurmountable as Everest! Not to mention that the lesson has to be taught in a language that I have had the privilege of learning for barely eight weeks.I am so thankful that we have a God that is able to do abundantly, exceedingly more than we could ever ask or think!
Looking at the people here only on the surface, one would miss the underlying tension they always feel about the spiritual world. It is even much more apparent in Emrang than it was in Kemantian. Near our house there are two windmill-type things that they place high in the tops of trees to ‘call the wind’ in hope that it will blow away the rain so that they can plant their crops. They also tie special beads and strings to themselves and their children in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. One Sunday morning in Kemantian, a man approached me and tried to sell me a little black stone for $100 (5,000 Pesos). We found out that he believed if you kept it in your backpack it would keep you from dying or being injured on the trail. These beliefs and many more surround the people of the mountains in a cloud of confusion and uncertainty. Only the love of Jesus can break the hold of the spirits upon them and give them the freedom they so desperately need.
Please continue to pray that God will open the minds and hearts of the people and that Shama and I can reflect Him in all that we do. If we can but show them a glimpse of the freedom that comes from knowing Christ then we have been used by Him. The hardest part of all is to become a vessel worthy to be filled with and used by Him.