By midday I was feeling uncomfortable and trying to work out why. I know God has me here in the jungle for a reason, but maybe it was not for what I imagined. (Again?!).
My body got fed up long before my mind did and I was wondering why I was feeling so awkward. Finally, I realised that the wooden benches and concrete or dirt floors were making me physically uncomfortable, but perhaps they just mirrored what was going on in my mind.
I feel like a foreigner again. Yes, I have been with the Shipibos many a time. There is nothing overtly ‘new’ about them, but yet I am still so foreign to their ways. I am still unaware of what is ‘normal’ behaviour or just an individual acting out of the accepted norm. And it is uncomfortable to feel like an outsider.
Is picking lice out of one another’s hair acceptable ‘normal’ behaviour or normally ‘done-in-private’ behaviour? Is a toddler walking around with no clothes on his bottom half a practicality for an un-toilet-trained tot or a result of Mum’s ability to keep up with the laundry (or did he escape before his mother could dress him properly)? Do the mothers mind me photographing their children? What do the giggles mean?
And reflecting with the ladies in group time, I find myself wanting to get to a point, to move the conversation in a certain direction, impatient and frustrated with the limitations of translation, trying to understand and empathize but wondering if that is even possible.
Talking with Mark this evening, I realise how driven I am by efficiency. My life in Lima has to be super efficient to get everything done and to give different people the time they need. Our week is so scheduled, even my ‘free’ time comes in one or two hour slots. Today we spent 8 hours in the village and I was only ‘being effective’ for 2.5 hours of that time leading group time. The other hours were spent chasing Kaleb around the village, taking photos, listening to the main sessions and hanging out with the Shipibo women and children. And yes, even as I write I know that those things matter too - I just am not used to jungle pace and jungle life, which is so contrary to my time-slot existence.
And in Lima our life is so scheduled and tight that I have to make every hour count. I have to take every opportunity and choose to engage with the children and our team whenever I can because it is so often now or never. We have chosen our priorities so as to maximise our potential, and sitting on a wooden bench getting a sore bum, seems such a...waste!
(Perhaps the other problem is that it gives me too much time to reflect!)
And yet as I do reflect I know that even in a foreign place surrounded by foreign people there are things I know to be true that I need to still practice: gratitude; chatting with God throughout the day; taking those moments I remember to pray; being present in the moment rather than allowing my mind to rush off. I need to remember that God’s presence and His ability to answer my prayers is the same, so my faith should be the same too. I need to remind myself that it is good to be part of a team, to slow down and that my value is not in what I do, but in who I am in Christ.
So, Jesus, I am sorry when I have believed it is all about me when it should be all about you. Thank you that you are the same here, there and everywhere. Help me to remember the foundational things. May tomorrow be all about You.