When I began writing this blog, the Lord urged me to share my personal lessons not just general interest missionary stories. I must confess that at times I felt less inclined to write of things so personal, so revealing, so very private. But the writers who have meant the most in my life have been those who, with transparency and honesty, have written of their flaws, faults, and failures. It helps to see these women as “real people” when they freely share their human-ness. Many of my posts are written to show how the Lord uses every-day circumstances to reveal my own weaknesses and deceitfulness of heart. This is is a story in which the “scum of my heart” is brought to the surface (thank you Isobel Kuhn for this wonderful phrase!). Thankfully, this same incident also allowed the Lord to skillfully skim away that scum and replace it with his own heart of love.
Though this happened sometime in 2012, I have no specific journal entry; this lesson has just stuck with me implanting itself deeply.
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Stephen is one of those people who is just about laying on his pillow and is already asleep. He laughs at me and says that he’s just all business when it comes to sleeping — and it’s true. Unfortunately sleeping has never been an easy thing for me. It takes me a long time to fall asleep and then I waken easily or I’m tormented with crazy dreams should I actually be asleep. So when I’ve finally settled into a good snooze-zone, I want to stay there!
Sierra Leone presents many and varied challenges to sleeping. It might be Bondo Society season with its weeks of pounding, driving, around the clock drum beating — yes, weeks. There’s the mosques which sometimes will compete for volume and duration of their broadcasts. The “entertainment” bars add their own spin on noise pollution with all-night music at top volume. Perhaps the Pentecostal church is having a healing revival. Challenges for sure. Or it might be … The Brothel, as was the case this night.
On the corner where the north and east boundaries of the mission property meet, there’s a shabby stick-and-mud built house. Through the years it’s been in various states of disrepair yet has never quite been fully completed, making it look as dumpy outside as it is dreary inside. The scattered trash and tattered laundry add to the disheveled effect. We call this house “The Brothel” because, well, that’s just what it is — a house of ill repute — with several women calling it home. Ladies of “the trade” regularly cycle in and out along with their children. It’s a sad place.
Fights break out at The Brothel on a regular basis. There’s nothing quite like the shrill, blood curdling wail of a woman who believes she’s been wronged in this department. She’ll take to the trail slowly walking up and down the hill just wailing for all she’s worth, calling attention to the wrong doings of the man. She’s also calling for other women to join her in her wailing, badgering protests to this ill-fated soul. And join they do! They’re going to lend their support to this wounded sister. The man hardly stands a chance and I find myself secretly feeling sorry for him in a strange sort of way.
But really, truth be told, I’m feeling sorry for myself. I was asleep until this couple couldn’t agree on a price.
Now I find myself really, really not liking any of these people.
Can’t they take their dispute somewhere else! The women are all wailing. The man is yelling. The children are crying. Our dogs are barking. Stephen, bless him, is snoring.
And I’m stewing.
Then, another sound drifts in. An unexpected, calming sound. But it’s not in through the window, it’s in my heart. It’s a song.
“Far above the noise of life, there’s a voice that is gently calling . . .”
Oh, Father, the shame is mine, you’re right! My tears come quickly as I think about all the sheer noise of life in this place. They can’t hear your Gentle Voice for all the noise.
“Leave behind your cares and strife, come to me, I will give you rest . . .”
Strife. There’s so much strife and noise and clamor and chaos, yet there’s no rest because they can’t hear. Not just at The Brothel but the whole town, yea, the country.
“Bring your grief, and bring your cares, bring your heartaches, and bring your sorrow. Do you hear the voice of Jesus, gently calling, ‘Come unto me.’”
No, they don’t hear! They can’t hear that precious Gentle Voice.
I begin to pray, as I ought to have been doing in the first place. This lesson really stung but I needed it so see the great love of the Savior. I don’t know what it’s like to be so poor that you’ll sell the only thing you have left just to house and feed your kids. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother who will force you, at shockingly young ages, into something you really don’t want to do. My tears mingle with prayer and sweet calm in my heart. I’ll take a nap later.
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It’s funny how things can slowly change almost without our noticing. The Brothel is no better looking than it was when this story occurred. In fact, it might even be worse just from age. But the litter is cleaned up. The yard is now a well kept garden. And happily it’s no longer The Brothel. It’s just the house on the northeast corner. A nice distinction I think. And now the residents are a family. The mother and children attend The Bible Mission Church and the father is Muslim. They’ve become helpful friends who assist with security on our least visible portion of fence line. Perhaps one day this young father will respond to the Gospel message. The Gentle Voice is being heard and is making a difference, a little at a time. Through prayer and love.