Today will go down in my personal history as one of those days that blew me away.
I have trained myself to keep my expectations low when traveling with small children. It seems terrible to admit that out loud, but it is true. I want to be realistic about the fact that no matter where I roam, I am still a wife and a Mom. Those two things are almost full time ministries...so anything that happens on top of that is gravy.
I confess that a by-product I didn't fully realize until today is that I am often so concerned with what my husband and children are getting out of a situation that I don't really pray God will move my heart too. Especially on a trip like this where accommodation, creativity, humility and flexibility are a must.
So, maybe that's why from start to finish today has knocked my socks off. All five of us have been indelibly marked by our first 8 hours in the community. Our one hour drive over muddy, bumpy, washed our roads was intimidating...but it foretold of just how 'off the beaten path' we were traveling. We had been informed that our children would be the first North Americans many in this community had ever seen. When our bus rumbled into the village they were lining the way, waiting for us.
And we were celebrities/oddities for our entire stay. The children followed us everywhere...from the outhouse to the pillar (a community area for washing laundry seen below) everything we did was interesting.When I pulled out bubbles EVERYONE was enthralled until the crowd control challenges led me to put them away. Grown men and women giggled uncontrollably as they took their turns attempting to blow them. The children also thoroughly enjoyed learning to play musical chairs and making sunglasses during our Bible School time.
But the greatest hit--without question--was my camera. It occurred to me that many of these people had never really seen themselves. The children were completely enthralled and the mothers all brought their babies to me for photos. By the end of the afternoon I had a nickname "Foto!" The little boys, especially, would shout "Foto! Foto! Foto!" at me and pose as I walked by--but then they would rush me in order to see the image on the back of my camera.
How adorable are those faces?
We spent two hours hiking (and it was indeed a steep muddy trek) to visit three of the homes where the water filters were being installed.
The average annual income in this village PER FAMILY is about $300. It was like going back in time...no televisions, no phones, no refrigerators, no central heating and air. Seeing the way these people live--dirt floors, cooking over an open flame, chickens walking in and out of their homes, being fattened by corn so they can one day provide food for the family--it was undoubtably a eye opening experience for all of us.
The people were so gracious, so kind and so appreciative.
I was humbled beyond words by their gifts of corn--a week or more's wages. As much as I wanted to beg them to keep it, I had been coached on how offensive this would be. They wanted to give. I needed to graciously accept. And so, hiking down from the homes I earned my second nickname, Corn Princess.
I have much, much more to write, but it is dinner time. I will save the rest for another day.