We all sit perched atop the cement railing, still warm from the dying sun whose light catches in the shimmering palm leaves of the thousand trees which spread out in a panoramic backdrop behind us. Right next to me sits Mama R, a lady who remembers my sisters and I very well, but who I can never recall seeing before. Her face, gently drawn into numerous weary creases, surrounds the wells of brown in her sad, sad eyes as she recounts the sicknesses and deaths in their dwindling family these last few days. I ask her, do you know why God allows us to suffer such pain? Those eyes look into mine and she answers, “no.” Thirstily she drinks up the intensely serious conversation between Mama M. (my skinny friend), Anna, Joanna, and I. For my skinny friend cannot get over the fact that her life is sinful, so very, very sinful…. as I listen and ponder how to respond, and pray, I wonder…how would I be, if I lived her life? If I was married to a soldier at fourteen and believed that he had killed my first baby with witchcraft?? If I was watching my body waste away and wondering where I would get the money to pay for the needed medicine? If I was swamped with dreadful thoughts (“oh it’s sin, sin that I think”, she moans) as I lay helplessly on my mattress, watching the IV slowly drip, drip, drip into my hand? How do I answer her? How can I tell her about Jesus, the answer to all of it? …… her voice, which has been running constantly, turns into a question and cuts across my busy thoughts and prayers.
She looks at me, her bony arms waving dramatically, and says, “My husband is a soldier. He goes away often, and comes back. I don’t know where he’s been, and he hands me some money. “Go cook with it”, he says, and we are starving. I don’t know where that money comes from, but I know he could have taken it from someone by force. Will God forgive me for that sin? Is it sin?” the breeze sighs through the drooping palm fronds, plays with the wisps of dark hair that have escaped her tight plaits, and rushes on to caress Mama R’s weary cheek.
“Can’t you ask your husband where the money comes from?” I ask. She begins telling me a lengthy example story, from which I gather that her husband lies, and she could ask but she doesn’t trust his response. “And what do you do when you’re starving?” she continues, “you just take it and use it…I don’t know. My husband knows God and all, but he sure doesn’t act like it.”
“Then he doesn’t know God.” The talk goes running on and on, each person picking it up to add a bit, till hours have passed, and still we talk. There is so much to say, about the mysterious death to self and life in Christ which comes with salvation, about repentance and grace, about not walking in our sin any longer and strength. There are so many questions, people walking by stop to listen. Ladies on the beds listen. The doctors pause, balancing a checklist, to see what we so earnestly are talking about….the three of us young girls planting seeds of truth in hope that somewhere in those hurting hearts they will take root and grow through God’s grace. Pray that they will grow!