I’ve been staring hard at the screen for the past several hours — the past few days, really — and I can’t think of anything to say. I’m looking through my camera at all the pictures I’ve taken over the past few weeks. I’m skimming through journal entries. I’m closing my eyes and trying to remember the sights, the sounds, the smells.
Well, I’d rather not remember the smells.
I held pee and poop in my hands on the first day of clinic. Our team travelled to the small town of Bethlehem to set up shop in a church that was previously burned down by the local Buddhists. A little ironic. The church had since been rebuilt, but it still looked like a shanty. It was small and dusty. The inside was dim and dirty. The church was cracked, bruised, and scarred. But the cement walls and newly thatched roof held up with so much dignity. We took our shoes off to go inside.
The lab was set up in a corner on a tiny table in the front of the church. I held the pee and poop in little white cups, but I could still feel the warmth through the plastic. This is when I thought, Oh, sh*t. Like, literally, sh*t. I felt a little overwhelmed and cowered in my tiny corner. I looked down at my feet. There was a drop of blood that had possibly dripped from a finger prick. I turned my soles upward so that I was standing on the sides of my feet. Deep breaths. Wait, that smells like poop. An older lady sat down in front of me, face lined and wrinkled, eyes melancholy and wise, waiting for some kind of lab result. A man brought in his stool sample covered by a banana leaf. Our team leader taught us to say, “There’s no shame in sickness.” I placed my feet back on the ground, the team trucked on, I dipped urinalysis strips into cups of pee and made my best guesses. I even got my own name tag with an official title.
That about sums up my first few days. No clue what I was doing, sporting a name tag with a false title, head down, running forward. I was hoping no one would find me out — I’m no doctor, I’m no evangelist. I am the world’s worst Christian. I’ve developed a stutter when I talk. I’m sure of it. I always feel like I’ll be found out, even when I’ve done nothing. Like, absolutely nothing. For instance, when we were waiting in line at Customs at the Hartsfield International airport, security asked me what I was holding in my duty free bag. It wasn’t a suspicious question, just a curious one. “It’s TEA! Just tea!” I exclaimed as I was just about to rip my bag open and fling tea everywhere. But he simply went on to ask me how much I paid for it and marveled at how cheap it was. That’s all he wanted to know, and yet I thought the feds were going to come and arrest me. I am so undeserving to be a servant of the Lord.
That truth sank in hard. I had this misconception that I’d witness the perfect Christian in Bangladesh — that out on the mission field, I’d see believers who gave everything to the Lord, living together and sharing everything with one another. Passionate, fiery, fearful and fearless. We strive to be, as believers who encounter grace that completely wrecks you. But there really wasn’t one person who had it down pat. The Bengali pastors and missionaries, the Christian Bawm tribe, our team, the leaders of our team, Stan, me — not one of us perfect. It was terribly frustrating at first seeing flaws and feeling all judge-y of people who I had set up to be mini gods. There was even a day that I got mad at Stan for something (aren’t you curious what it was!), and I thought — Really? I’m going to get in a spat with him here?
It doesn’t matter where you are or what condition you’re in. Jesus came to call the sinners, the sick — the cracked, bruised, and scarred church. He has compassion for the widows and orphans, and we’re all widows and orphans without the Groom and Father. He came to call us to him just as we are. When that truth clicks, it will wreck you. Chris Tomlin says in Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone):
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.
I never really understood that. I guess I never thought about the lyrics before. Adapted from the oldest hymn I know…and I’ve never thought twice about the lyrics. The knowledge of grace will change a person. It’s the reason why there is no shame in sickness. It’s the reason why someone would take off his shoes to enter a sinner’s broken-down, dirty, and bruised heart.