Friday, August 12, 2011

The Next Day

We stand together on this end of things—at the airport in the small city that is our home on the tiny island next to the massive jungle-island of Borneo. My son, Evan, crouches next to his new older ”brother,” Chris, pointing and chattering in a mixture of his two languages about the planes. My 1-year-old ,Renea, lays her head on the pastor’s shoulder, snuggling in his arms.

The three pilots—including my husband—pre-flight the three MAF airplanes that will be taking off from this civilized Indonesian city with roads and stores and hotels and hospitals to land on dirt airstrips in the remote Borneo interior. The pastor and his family, who stayed with us in our house last night, will ride in a Cessna 206to go to a small town, then take a car on dirt roads, then a boat to get to their village where they serve the poorest people in the region of remote tribes.

A week ago, they came to Tarakan—where I live—to seek medical care for their dying mother. We moved them out of the tiny shack where they were renting a room to stay in our house.

I woke up early today tired after a late night. They joined us last night for our weekly MAF dinner at a nearby restaurant and prayer time in an MAF home with our team. We invited them to sit while we—some 20 of us westerners—surrounded them. My husband spoke his heart to God about their needs, their struggles and His promises. He used English so he could pray without searching for words. This couple didn’t understand his language, but they wept. So, we cried, too.

Earlier in the day, I took them to the local beach—their first time ever to an ocean beach. Their 12-year-old son caught crabs for my boy, who laughed and counted the tiny critters skittering in his bucket and kept asking for more. We ate pineapple and searched for seashells and felt the wind and listened to the waves. And what I had thought was hard—this taking-in of a family of a different culture—became a gift that gave and encouraged and taught and changed.

Sure, there was some cultural awkwardness. They seemed confused by the shower. They were overwhelmed by the restaurant. I worried my tea wasn’t sweet enough or the fried rice-breakfast was too bland. And I was embarrassed by the nice stuff in my house, knowing they have so little.

This morning as we wait for their flight, I watch the pilots work—all in a normal day for them—following the same checklists every day. The faces of the other passengers are unfamiliar to me. They live in other small villages that will spray mud on the clean, white planes.

But this family I know. They ate my food. They shared their stories. We admired their courage.

Later, Chris waves from the airplane window and my son waves back. The plane zooms off the paved runway to enter the jungle. I drive home and put the sheets in the washing machine, glad I accepted the gift.

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