“We walk into her home – a small and simple concrete house that was built on the very edge of the lake. The reeds are high all around it and we had to take a narrow path down a dark, wet alley to get there. Stones and other random materials have been placed along the way so that people’s feet don’t sink into the mud. This lady and her family just recently got to move back after the rains came and caused severe flooding.
She sits on her couch feeding her newborn baby. Her older son and daughter move into their bedroom to give us room to sit down. We sit and chat with her, asking about her and her baby’s health and how life is now that she has been able to come home. She points up at a large crack running down one of the walls, from the roof. They are going to get that fixed, she says. I look up at it and instantly feel uneasy. I notice the gap between the roof and the walls and see the places where the rain comes in. Mold has begun to grow in several areas.
I gaze around the rest of the room. A sofa and two chairs with cracked legs make up the living room. A small tv is playing one of the Brazilian soap operas, propped up on a box. A low wall separates us from the kitchen that is scattered with utensils and dirty plastic plates. The two bedrooms have their doors open, allowing the breeze to flow through the house more easily on this hot day. Clothes and blankets are stuffed into closets and beds are pushed together to accommodate the growing family. Five people live here now, although there were eight when we first started to visit her.
She tells us that her son has been skipping school. If he doesn’t go, she won’t be able to receive the government’s financial help. One of our male volunteers goes to sit with the son and encourage him. Her daughter comes in and grabs a folder off a shelf to show their school report cards.
My eyes move back to where the folder had been and there I see an open Bible. Almost every sentence is underlined. Words are circled. The pages are well-loved. A lump forms in my throat as I fight back the tears because here, here, in the middle of poverty and hardship, is a testament of devotion to God. A Bible with the backdrop of a dirt-covered wall; a Bible in a house where the evidence of the enemy’s theft and destruction is so clear to see; a Bible that has been clung to and studied and meditated on. And I’m reminded of the promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt 5:6)
I walk away, challenged. The scene has offended, in the best of ways, my perspective of what it is to be a follower of Jesus in the midst of suffering. This world clashes with my own Western, comfortable experience of the gospel. What does it mean to live in poverty and be devoted to the Father? I don’t know. I wonder what she understands when she reads the words of scripture, that I cannot. It’s in this place and with these thoughts that I want to sit at her feet to learn and have her teach me – the missionary – how to love God more.”