Friday, July 23, 2010
Talk of the Town
I head to the local arboretum, not as an avid botanist, but as a girl in a fishbowl. There is not a person in the towns of Ranomafana, Ifanadiana, Kelilalina, or Morafeno who has not heard of us – an untold number of villages, as well. As the average Malagasy does not have enough money to get into the park and there are few tourists around, I figure it would be a good place to get alone with God.
Handing the equivalent of fifty cents to the responsible of the park, he says, “You’re living in Kelilalina, aren’t you? Renting the house of Madame Lilia’s while the other family is gone? I’ve seen you driving around in their truck. You’re that girl, right?” Yup, that’s me, mister. Would I like the guided tour? No, but thanks for showing me the chameleon anyway.
Wandering through the trees, I take breaks on benches along the way to journal. I come to a stone gazebo with a thatch roof surrounded by lush, green grass and plants galore. Settling in and clicking my pen to “on,” the point is an inch away from the page when I see him.
Back stooped with years of hard labor, holey straw hat perched on his wizened head, a spade in hand: the gardener. “Hello sir,” I smile at him. Shocked at the Malagasy greeting, he pipes up, “You know my language?” I am studying it, yes. “You must be the girl who played soccer with the kids in the field at Ranomafana a few weeks ago!” No, that was my friend Heather, I reply. “Then you are the one who was watching on the side practicing your Malagasy with people.” Yes, that was me. “It’s SO good that you are learning Malagasy,” he says excitedly. “I will help you learn by telling you a story!”
Did he ever! Quizzing me to make sure I understand everything he says, he spends the next forty-five minutes telling me of Abraham’s wanderings all the way to Jesus’ birth. He relates a tale that any story-er would have been proud of. Hand motions, inflection, passion. Eyes twinkling, his face grins as he draws his finger across the scraggly beard on his neck. “Sliced the throats of the infant boys, the Egyptians did!”
Chatting with him after this impressive display of knowledge, I realize that, for all the stories this man knows, He doesn’t know God. He laughed when I told him that I was here praying. Pointing upwards he said, “But God is so far away!” Oh, my new friend, He is not!
“…He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
Acts 17:26-27 (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-8, Isaiah 50:7-9)
I met two strangers today. Both knew many things about me. It appears that whatever I do outside my own home will be the talk of the town! And pray that the Malagasy would come to know that not only do they desperately need His salvation, but they, too, can talk with God.