The motor’s whir fills the air. Your hair blows with the blast of air. You can’t decide if it muffles your hearing or if the wind rushing briskly past your ears is the cause.
Either way, you like it.
Water spray sprinkles your nose and cheeks as your body bounces up and down with the motion of the motorized canoe. The cool mist feels comfortable. It’s muggy out here, with air hanging heavily.
You don’t care.
Fish jump in the air, falling back down to the muddy waters. Suddenly, a battalion of the swimmers flies in spawning madness. There must be 20 or 30 fillets in the air at once, let alone the number swarming under the surface. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole, but with fish and long, humming canoes. One hurdles past your hand, nearly landing in your lap. Your eyes grow big. These are teeth-clad, man-eating piranhas.
But you manage safely.
There’s a riverbank ahead. Beyond it is home. On the shores await the thin, little legs of Ever and his friends. They’re eager to help the team come ashore. Their fingers grasp no toys, only patience and humility.
You watch, intrigued.
Make-shift showers offer a weak spray of cold water under the dark, bold sky. It feels good to your sweaty body. Who needs a sparkling clean, modern-day shower?
A hole in the ground proclaims toilet status. A small stack of bricks flanks the sides of this tropical, on-the-fringes-of-the-Amazon toilet. They offer a difference – just four bricks.
It’s the little pleasures, you decide.
A tin roof, covered in palm thatch, and half walls without doors or windows await while hammocks hang. Many homes in the community mock similar. This space – the one they’re building and ordaining a medical clinic, isn’t showy. It’s smaller than most American garages, modest but enough, especially when compared to the alternative of nothing.
Simple seems sufficient.
Mosquitoes swarm at 5PM. Kamikaze-style moths attack at 7. And turkeys perched in branches nearby roar gobbles to a crescendo, then muffle quiet. They repeat their sonata until 2AM. You cup your ears, thankful for the mosquito netting hugging your hanging bed. It’s a lifesaver this time around, bullet-proof protection against the pestilence shooting and buzzing in the night. But it does nothing to quiet the roar of turkeys.
Their smiles come, one by one. Children play soccer on a field of weeds, its long strands violently but lovingly cut just minutes before. The men don’t need lawnmowers – not even a push version. They have machetes donning sharp blades that’ll cut a field in record time.
They have nothing. Their humility and contentedness offer much.
After the 10-day mission trip, you attempt a life called normal back on American soil. How could those few days breathe such culture shock to life?
You sit in front of a glowing computer screen in your comfortable work chair. A nice wooden workstation hugs your space, a sparkling showroom has your back. This is work. It’s nice. Very nice. But it overwhelms.
You think of the youth and elderly back on the rivers near the Amazon – the ones who have nothing but seem to have everything – and you want to throw up. Their contentedness seems well-hidden on American soil.
Your thoughts swing to the Christmas season. It’s in full rush. But your feet resist the step across store thresholds. It’s too much. The love of things has sickened your spirit. In the midst of this hustle and bustle, you wonder where is Jesus?
There will be no shopping – not this year. It’s the first Christmas ever.
Your mind is on things above, the work of Jesus.
That was 1996.
Venezuela – near the Colombian border.
Now here I sit 20 years later, still on American soil, considering Suzie Eller’s writing prompt this week: It’s Just Stuff. After my trip to Venezuela, stuff – “things”, lost their value.
But the status of things has slipped up a notch or two with time. I hold them nearer and dearer, but this week I find myself questioning their value once again.
Maybe that’s you?
You’ve set “stuff” down, only to pick up its importance again. Maybe it’s on a pedestal threatening to knock off One – an idol beyond intent. Maybe it’s time to question how important stuff really is – and if our minds are focused habitually on things above.
I’m questioning in prayer. Feel free to come alongside me and press in closer to the God who fulfills our every need. After all, “stuff” isn’t going to heaven.
Lord, do earthly things have a hold on my heart? Forgive me. Show me Your truth. I long to focus on things above – in relationships, with financial stewardship, with ministry and generosity, even with the places I seemingly don’t want to be. They are Yours. I’m yours. Show me the righteous way, Lord, as I set down “stuff”. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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