Yesterday we went back to Magadini, the village I wrote about previously where we helped to build a house for a mama who is taking care of seven children. If you haven’t read that post yet go do so and then come back here.
Several of our friends work in this village at a home for girls who have been trafficked from a young age. It was just going to be an overnight trip for us which is so much less work. Planning for more than one night means more stuff, more food, more water, more headache. Turnaround trips make it easier.
We went out yesterday and we were happy to reconnect with the girls and the staff of the home. They are such precious people and so valued by Jesus. We were excited because today all the girls were going to be baptized. What may seem like a trite step we take in the States was a big deal to these girls. Women who have been prostitutes are not looked on favorably. They are viewed as the lowest of the low and no matter where they go or what they do in life they will still be viewed as scum. Especially from Christians. I have seen this firsthand here (more than once) and heard more than a fair share of stories. It’s not like the States where it’s cool and trendy to care for traffic victims or minister on the streets to prostitutes. Women of the night are off limits no matter how long they are saved or come to church.
So it was a big deal last week when one of the girls had a genuine encounter with Jesus. She had a vision of Him coming to her and wiping the tears from her cheeks and telling her she was clean. It was amazing. And today all 3 of them were to be baptized. Dead to sin, alive in Christ.
We made our way out to the same lake I wrote about before. Now it was fuller and all the grass surrounding it was green. The rainy season was doing it’s thing and everything was looking a little more cheery. We went to a different area of the lake this time where we could get to deeper water for baptisms. Once assembled on this massive half-wet, half-dry lake we sang to our Jesus. Songs of praise and worship in Swahili. Then the girls each came forward and shared a (very) brief testimony. After that they began the long walk into the water. It was a long walk because the lake doesn’t drop away very quickly so they followed the pastor off-shore a good 700 feet to where they could be dunked. It was such a beautiful moment watching from so far away with the wind whipping around us. We couldn’t hear anything and we could barely see their faces.
I did what I have been doing lately in moments where I feel the Lord’s presence. I close my eyes and try to picture what would be happening if Jesus Himself stood tangibly before us. I pictured Him singing with us as we sang to him and dancing a kind of silly jig. Then walking with the girls hand in hand, maybe arm around waste, through the water to meet with the pastor. Then when it came time to be baptized Jesus stood side by side with girls and was baptized with them, hand in hand. Then, when they were underwater, I pictured Him rolling over onto and into them, thunk! Right into their chest. Then when they came up out of the water I saw Jesus in their eye’s, smiling from ear to chocolate brown ear.
They came back to the shore dripping and beaming. We congratulated them. Sonja gave the girls hugs even though they were sopping. I shook their hands and said, “Hongera sana!” We took pictures and savored the moment. Dead to their old lives, alive forevermore. Cleaned once and for all by this dirty Tanzanian lake.
The plan was then to return to the home for a party with hot dogs and soda, a special treat here. We were waiting for our friend Lauren who was talking with a tall, powerfully built Maasai. There was something about him that made me think he was a chief. Maybe the way he stood or maybe the way he was dressed although I couldn’t tell you what in particular. Whatever they were discussing I could tell it was serious. Finally they were done and we were filled in. A women in the Maasai village next to the one we were in was involved in an abortion gone bad and she was bleeding. Badly. The chief was concerned that if we weren’t able to take her to a hospital within 45 minutes she wouldn’t make it.
So we hustled, changed plans, and threw all our gear into one truck making room for the lady and whoever else in the other. We were back to the house and out the door in less than 45 minutes. We put a tarp in the backseat of the Land Cruiser and covered it with a conga. We quickly drove over to the local clinic where they wheeled her out on a rickety old stretcher. They muscled her into the car quickly and I wasn’t able to get a good look at anything. Our friend drove the Land Cruiser with the lady (Monica, as her named turned out to be) and took off as fast as safely possible over bumpy, rutted, and washed out Tanzanian roads. We followed with a truck with the girls from the home and me in the back.
I was so quickly taken back to my time in Mozambique where we spent days riding in the back of trucks with no protection from the wind or sun. Driving to forgotten villages to share the gospel with signs and wonders. Now we were leaving a forgotten village to hopefully share the gospel with signs and wonders. Africa (as I have found so far) offers you many opportunities to practice crises management. Even when you’re not in charge. There is constant crises and you have to learn how to deal or fall apart. We have been lucky to avoid most of those kind of experiences save for the dead guy we prayed for and the day I spent in the local emergency room praying for over a dozen people who had been in a massive head-on collision. In those moments you can either freak out and spend all your time stressing and praying freaked out prayers to God or…you can chill. So, in the back of a blazing hot truck, over bumpy, inconvenient roads, I popped my headphones in and began to worship. I did my best to put Monica out of my mind for the moment and did my best to focus only on the Lords presence. As we cruised through more Maasai villages and dust swirled around me I just loved on the Lord and let His peace come. Then, I began to take authority over a spirit of death. From a place of peace and rest I exercised MY authority over sin, death, and the grave, and commanded it to leave. No shouting, no foot-stomping or demon cursing. My heart broke for the woman in the slowly disappearing car in front of me. A baby is such a precious thing, she must have been under such pressure from her husband or tribe or something to do such a thing. But it didn’t matter, Jesus was here now and He would fix it.
We hauled booty to a enormous sugar plantation about halfway between Moshi and Magadini. It is run by Germans so it is super nice and it’s a model manufacturing plant for third-world nations the earth over. They have their own schools, soccer fields, housing tracts, and yes, even a hospital. We were blessed to have clear roads where as the day before when we drove out we literally drove through a river. A rushing, frothing, can’t-see-the-road-because-of-the-river-covering-it river. Today, it was nearly dry.
We pulled up to the hospital and they were just taking the lady out of the car. She was completely out of it and in the hustle and bustle of moving her from the car to a gurney her shirt came up and her breast fell out. It was plump and looked like a pregnant women’s breast. All I could think about was that that was a breast that wouldn’t have a mouth suckle on it. The milk would dry up sooner than it should and it wouldn’t be needed.
They took her in to get hooked up to an IV and see if either of the local hospitals had blood to give her. We found out then that she had performed the abortion on herself and that part of the baby was still inside of her. That and she needed blood badly. Again, this is a horrible situation in any part of the world but here, when you realize all is hopeless without Jesus, things carry a heavier weight. The doctors come back and tell us they have blood they can give her. How they know her blood type in less than 10 minutes is beyond me, I say a quick prayer that whatever blood they give her will miraculously be correct.
So we leave Monica with the sugar plantation hospital and continue to pray against death, infection, and disease. I even pray that the baby will be restored in her womb and that she will give birth to a perfectly healthy child.
As we drive back to Moshi I grab little Joshua, the one year old little baby of one of the girls from the home. I sit him on my lap and let him pull on my finger and look out the window contentedly. I think back to the lake and how, mere minutes after surfacing as new creations, we find out there is a women who has destroyed a new creation with her own hands. In the joy there is pain, in the victory there is setback. I think back to the last post I wrote when we were at that same lake and I pondered being stuck between the rise and set. Life and death. Still dripping from the waters of redemption we find that someone else is dripping away as well. How do you balance the two?
The fact is you don’t. There is no balance between life and death. There is only life. Death isn’t an option in the Kingdom. It is physically impossible for death to inhabit where life dwells. And so, we bring life. We believe that life is always the answer. Death is always wrong.
I think all this and realize I am so grateful for the little chubby boy on my lap. So grateful that his mom wanted him. Even though she’ll never know his daddy and never know how much he paid for an hour with her, she kept him.
I am so grateful that we were in the right place at the right time. That the baptism was moved to Tuesday instead of on Sunday. That the flooded river that covered the road not 24 hours before had subsided. That the Maasai chief had the humility and wisdom to approach an American woman to ask for help. That we made good time on ridiculous roads. That a sugar plantation would have a hospital with blood for transfusions on hand. I am so grateful that we were able to help someone who made a devastating mistake. And I am so grateful that Jesus bridges the gap between the rise and set and between life and death. Without Him, we are truly hopeless.