I’m gonna be honest here for a minute and say that this week was exhausting. I actually don’t know why, but it was. The commute to language is now about an hour and I spent a large part of the week trying to figure out how to manage the transportation from the new house to where we do language. The traveling itself isn’t so bad, but it involves a lot of walking to different taxi stops which involves a lot of people staring at me, asking me for money, yelling out “firinge” or “you, you,” and basically just a constant reminder that I stand out here and have about zero privacy. At the end of the day, it can wear on you. Without a car, there is no such thing as running to the store just to grab something or driving somewhere to get away for a minute. So, aside from staying locked up in the house, there is little respite from constant interaction with a culture and a people that is not your own. It doesn’t mean that things here are not good, but at times it can really be draining.
As I walked home Friday, I noticed an unusually large amount of beggars on the roadside. As I wondered why, it dawned on me that it was almost 1:00 which is when all the Muslims go to the mosque on Fridays and we live on a road beside a huge mosque. Giving alms to the poor is part of the Muslim religion, so every beggar in town comes out and hangs out beside the mosques on Fridays. The sights that I saw were almost indescribable. After I passed about the 20th person with their hand out asking me for money, I took a different road home because I didn’t know what to do with all that I saw. One man could not use his legs and was dragging his body across the road using only his arms. Women with faces fully veiled, with 2-3 children playing around them were sitting all along each side of the road. As far as I could see down the road was an unending, overwhelming need. I encounter the poverty here every day and it is always disturbing, but that day was a little much. It made me realize again how different this is from America. You almost never see that kind of suffering or poverty in America. What of it that does exist is covered up in a special home for those with special needs or contained only in certain neighborhoods. If all else fails, and poverty or annoyances get too close we just all relocate our houses to a new subdivison where everything looks pretty and nice.
It hit me Friday how often I encounter extreme poverty, disease, and sickness here and how unbelievably overwhelming it is (and lets be real, I am not the one who is enduring the suffering, they are). We, as Americans, simply aren’t used to this kind of suffering. We like to think that everyone has rights and that we are all entitled to a certain quality of life and the reality is that that just isn’t true for most of the world. I think where our American mentality really hinders us is when it comes to being a disciple of Christ. So many believers in America truly believe that God would not ask of them certain things or that God should not allow certain things to happen to them or their family. After all, there is a standard and a limit to suffering and pain and discomfort in our society and how dare God cross that line. However, I’ve found in my reading of the Bible, that that is not at all the case. Christ point blankly says that those who follow him must be willing to give up everything – family, lands, houses, etc. And he never promises that following Him will provide a lifestyle of a certain standard or condition. He simply says follow me. While I have been here, I have realized how difficult it is for me to accept that I don’t have certain rights and standards. I think I had to leave most of those back in America. Those things don’t exist for most people here and they shouldn’t exist for us when it comes to our walk with Christ. Christ himself gave up his right to be God and became a servant here on earth, dying on a cross for our freedom. We should not be surprised when God asks us to lay down our rights and our standards of existence. It doesn’t mean it is easy or fun, but maybe we should quit claiming that certain things are off limits or that God would never ask us to endure such things. Christ endured the cross and he asks nothing less of us than to take up our cross and follow Him daily.
I think the daily sights got to me a little this week, as they should have. I might return to this topic later – I’m not sure it is one I can cover in one sitting and it certainly isn’t one that I have an answer to. It was just on my mind and probably will continue to be as I encounter a new culture and lifestyle every day.