It was Christmas Eve and we were all climbing down the boat and making our way very carefully and quite treacherously up the steep, muddy hill to the home of an local family to celebrate the holidays. The temperature had cooled off to a pleasant 78 degrees and thankfully the rain had cleared out. I was carefully guarding each step because I was merely inches from slipping and falling into the muddy, murky water of the Amazon. It's not that I cared so much about getting wet as much as not letting Elliott get wet... oh, and the fact that it's very well known that you don't go in the water after nightfall.
As we finally reached the top of the hill, I turned to wait for Richard and suddenly I was face to face with one of the most beautiful displays of God's grandeur I think I've ever seen. It was a moonless, cloudless night and I could literally see thousands of stars mirrored over the Amazon River. I stood there with my mouth wide open. Richard joined me moments later and we both stood in awe. Words cannot describe and any attempt to take a photo would have been in vain. I wanted to stand there all night, but the family was waiting for us so we continued to their home and spent the evening talking (or trying to with such a language barrier), eating, and being together.
Around 11pm, Elliott had just about reached his limit of daily excitement so Richard and I made our way back down the slippery hill and back up onto the boat. I finally got Elliott situated for the night and climbed up onto the top bunk in the small room we were occupying and turned the little battery operated fan on above my head. I was already sweating again and the wind had all but ceased. By this time it was midnight. I remember thinking, "This has got to be the most unusual Christmas Eve of my entire life...."
Our time on this most recent trip was packed full of a lot of things: adventure, exhaustion, new contacts, sickness, open doors, frustrations, growing, learning, teaching, sweating, fishing, laughing, swimming, crying, writing, reading... the list goes on.
But one thing it was not full of was glamor.
Living in the jung|e is not glamorous. It's hot. It's rainy. Sometimes there is no wind, no fans, and it feels like you are sitting in a sauna. You take three showers a day just to keep your body cool. There are bugs that bite the fire out of you. Sometimes, there is not a drop of running water. Sometimes, there's nothing to eat. Sometimes, there is no where to be alone. Sometimes, there is nothing new or exciting for days at a time and you find yourself saying, "Hey, God.... You know I'm still down here, right?"
I think it's a lot like our Christmas Eve trek, though, . It took us a long time to descend the boat. It was tedious steadying our foot with each step. It took a lot of effort to keep balanced and we were all watching out for each other, trying to share the light from our flashlights as best we could. The climb up the hill was steep and our shoes were caked in mud making each step burdensome.
But when we got to the top of that hill, we got to see a glimpse--just a tiny glimpse--of the holy God we serve. We got to see for a brief moment all of His power and majesty and holiness and sovereignty. And at that moment, I would have hiked that hill over and over just to see it again. Now, it didn't last long and soon we were hurried on to the next part of our evening. Just a couple hours later we found ourselves climbing back down that hill and working our way back to the boat. The clouds had moved in so the stars were no longer in sight. But it was worth it all just to see that glimpse.
In the Jung|e, we learned that sometimes it's day after day of monotony. It's exhausting and sometimes you just want to be at "home" in the A/C watching "The Office" and eating a large pizza all by yourself. But it's in those brief moments when you meet that Indian family and you see in their faces the face of God and you know--you just know--that God has you there for a reason and that He sent His Son to die on the cross for that person your trying to reach. You can't speak their language and you don't know their culture, but all of the sudden every part of your being wants to learn it so you can just share with them the hope and the joy that is found in the God that you serve.
It's those glimpses at the "big picture" that make you say, "God, give me the heat. Give me those daggum little bugs that you can't see until they've already bitten you sixty times. Give me the monotony and give me the hunger. Go ahead and throw some sickness in there if you need to. But please, please let me just have one more chance to see Your face again and to share your name with these people."
Then, well, maybe it does become a little glamorous.
View from on the boat of our trek up the hill on Christmas Eve.
Precious little daughter of the Indian witch doctor whose chances of hearing about Jesus are slim right now.