November 30, 2010
This post was written by Esther Byington who served her global internship in Africa. Thanks, Esther, for sharing your global internship experience!
Another night. Another village. By this time we had traveled through so many villages, bowed before multiple chiefs, interviewed hundreds of local people who didn’t have a Bible in their mother tongue. We were on a mission–to analyze the language of the Koro Wachi people, and the dozens of dialects within it, to determine whether or not a translation was necessary. I can’t remember what village we were in that night. I was just a young white lady in the middle of somewhere in Africa, trying to discover my part in God’s bigger plan.
After our work was completed for the day, we were ushered through the creaky aluminum gate into the compound of the local pastor. A cluster of tall papaya trees grew near the back. Goats and chickens settled down for the night while a kitten and puppy drew near to sniff out the newcomers. Small concrete and mud rooms surrounded us on three sides with a large open courtyard where the family gathered.
While the women took out the mammoth-sized mortar and pestle to begin pounding the yams, I slipped away with my toiletries to take a bucket bath in the outhouse. Those kind women, of course, insisted on heating the water for me first over the fire. As the water splashed over my dirty, tired body, I felt a sense of peace and renewal. Although I did not particularly like taking bucket baths and using squatty-potties, I had grown accustomed to it, and for some reason this night I felt quite content with the simplicity. I combed my hair and wrapped a “kanga” around my waist, and stepped outside to join the rest of the family for dinner.
The night air was perfect. The fire blazed, and oh, how those women laughed and sang as they pounded the yams with their strong arms until it became as smooth as butter! They were giving cheerfully of themselves to honor us. As I sat back in my plastic chair to watch the billions of stars twinkling brightly in the sky, I felt so small yet so loved. Even if no one knew where I was in the world, even myself, God knew and He was watching me. The yams were bland of course, but I ate the meal, thankful for their labor of love. Eventually they noticed my fatigue, and ushered me through the darkness into a small room that was filled with freshly harvested ginger root. The pungent odor filled my nostrils and cleared my head. I crawled under the mosquito net and glanced once out the little window before closing my eyes.
My prayers were different that night. I thanked God for a bath and toilet paper. I thanked Him for a bed and food. I thanked him for people who love other people and for God Himself. I will never forget that one night in Nigeria.