The other patrons in this spot must think I’m a straight lunatic.
My facial expressions incessantly alter as I gaze into my computer screen. I gaze like a momma deer in the Shenandoah Mountains. There’s no doubt that a few noises have accompanied these expressions as each picture slides before my eyes. I simply can’t help it. Every photo brings new and greater emotion. The memories which these photographs hold touch the deepest parts of my soul.
The adventure encapsulated in each image continues to reel. Each one plays in my brain and I’m there once again. I’m winding at unruly speeds through the mountains in Nepal, preparing to say goodbye to my teammates because at any moment, I foresee being in heaven. My feet are trampling rapidly on red dirt roads lined with thousands of green banana trees overlooking Rwandan countryside. I’m lost in Bangalore in a tuk tuk without a friendly soul to aid in navigation. It’s past dark and all I want is to be within the safety of the compound. I can see the tip of Everest. I’m submerged in the Nile, anticipating heaven all over again. I’m wandering through Dracula’s castle. I’m being chased after by a crazy lady in Uganda for a mile. I’m drinking my fifth tin cup of chai. I’m eating mangosteen. I’m eating pigeon. I’m eating liver. I’m eating something I can’t identify.
The events in the snapshots range from from elated happiness to heightened fear and to somber tears. They take me back to the precise places. I can see the faces. I can smell the street fires, bodily waste, and spices. I can feel the weight of my 65 liter pack and the surrounding spiritual heaviness. The anger arises, for the injustice burdens my spirit yet again from this high-rise table against the coffee shop window in the western world. I sense the entrapment of the youth, widowed, street merchants, and stray dogs. I look into their eyes as I look into this screen.
The cycling scenes continue. They’ve actually never stopped. I see them everyday. Not a day creeps by that I don’t reflect on each and every nation. This extraordinary excursion to far-off places has already been lived, but it lives on in this brain every single day.
I can hardly deny these seemingly dubious occurrences. Friends, they happened. And I’m reminded tonight…tonight as I sit down to write on this anniversary.
And even with so many varied memories and recollections, there always seems to be one memory which is in my limelight. Tonight, the forefront is occupied by a particular scene taking place in November of 2011. It was another warm, Nepal afternoon in a surrounding village. I can’t tell you where I was located. It was somewhere in the southern region along the border of India. My team and I had traveled quite a distance to get there from our base town of Haripur. Right now, I’m going back to the rickety shack and my eyes begin to swell. I’m there. Dirt, brown skin, bare feet, crowds, goats, and six white, young Americans.
Before I delve into the story, let me describe where I am today. It’s late July of 2013. I look out the coffee shop window for the hundredth time. This time, there is angst. My eyes follow a gentleman in about his sixties whose left arm is linked into the arm of a younger, stalwart man. He’s edging along sluggishly with little hope of making it across the intersection before the light turns. My medical switch (if I have one) turns on and I try to evaluate why he’s moving so slowly. A lot goes through my head before I catch the problem. One of his legs is clearly shorter than the other. His left sneaker has a distinctly higher sole…by no less than six inches.
And so, it was autumn in Nepal. The women’s vibrantly colored, flowing clothing made the blue sky even bluer. After the pastor explained why we were there and what were doing, a man from the recently flocked crowd urgently rushed toward us, his young daughter cradled in his bony arms. My team and I were shifting our heads back and forth, awaiting an explanation as the man and the pastor conversed. Soon, the pastor nodded his head and helped the girl wobble up to a make-shift wooden platform. As she plopped down, I saw the situation. One of her legs was noticeably shorter than the other. Immediately, we were asked to pray. Wes, KayLynn, Christian, Stephanie, Kacie, and I each placed a hand on her leg and simultaneously spoke out in a chorus of petition. This was a first for us…praying for healing so boldly during ministry. We had no other option. This was why we came, after all – to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons. Then, I remember sweet Kacie praying a valiant prayer. What happened next was both astonishing and slightly predictable. We watched as the delighted little village girl arose and walked, unhindered down the wide, dusty path. The pastor called her back up to the platform. I was still taking it all in when I looked down at her petite, outstretched legs. If I needed any more confirmation of the miracle it was right in front of me. Her legs were of identical length.
Indubitably, I think of that specific miracle, here on this night in northern Virginia because of that gentleman.
And of course, I wonder. I wonder why things are different here. I wonder why they’re colorless in comparison.
And then I think deeper into how I’m living my life. It’s a simple question that if I’m honest, I often never fully answer. God is still here. He never changes. He can move.
I’m here too. I’m here in this charming, yuppie little city of Alexandria. I live a few miles away from Washington where people are climbing their ladders of success. I run in the morning. I work long days. And like tonight, I sip coffee in the evenings in places like this, dreaming and planning for what will come next.
Transitions. We all have them. They seem to make up our lives. On this evening, I’m urged to do something, anything. I’m urged to pray more, to increasingly listen, to walk closer. And even more than these constituents, I’m urged to do more.
There are people all around. So, while we’re waiting for the next big thing, let’s do something. And let’s not fret about what that big thing thing may be. Who knows? That very thing might be a dream waiting to unfold right in front of us.
As I sit here in yet another coffee shop on a rainy evening in the comfort of my new hometown, I come to terms with this concept again. I watch the cars, busses, and taxis pass by on the wet streets alongside brick sidewalks lined with chic storefronts.
I want in, here in America. I want to do things and stop the incessant dreaming. I don’t want to stop dreaming altogether, but it mustn’t override the miracles that can happen.
Maybe one day, I’ll consider my time in Virginia the greatest adventure . . . greater than any near-death experience under fierce rapids in Africa.
It’s scary…going out on a limb for the things of God, for advancing His kingdom where we are. But His perfect love is promised to diminish every last ounce of our fear. Let’s take each day, one day at a time. Let’s see what’s around us. Let’s stop dreaming and live His promises for us, for others . . . today.
Let’s see His power at work, here by His Spirit.
*Photos by Stephanie May