It’s remarkable how sound can be precise and how long it can stay with us. Even now, as I’m writing this, I can still recall it, sound placed in context. It was one of those mornings when it is hard to remember where you are. It was hot, my skin was sticky and my back ached from uneven, hard ground. It had to be early because it took me a long time to open my eyes.
It was the nails of little hands scratching my tent, accompanied by whispers and muffled bursts of laughter. Exactly the same as that of Polish girls when they talk about boys standing nearby. But Polish girls are still sleeping at this time. I opened my eyes, it was just before four o’clock. I was lying on my back, closed in the stuffy space in my tent, somewhere near Chiure, in Mozambique. There is a chance that in Poland, snow was falling.
The previous evening was a picture.
Two small hands, tense and stretched over the heads of others, were clearly trying to reach me. I leaned forward and allowed a girl who was a few years old to cover my face. She looked straight into my eyes and smiled. Stroking my cheeks, she repeated a word I did not know. I asked someone next to me what it meant and he said it meant I was pretty.
If it were a movie, music would play, and the retreating camera would reveal that we were at a crowded place. In that one moment there were many separate stories, but for the two of us it belonged only to us, as if we were completely alone. I flew to Mozambique to give, but I discovered very early that what is my strength in my country, sometimes is useless in other circumstances. This black girl closing my face in her hands, was teaching me love.
I did not take the right words with me. The Polish, English and even French ones, were not needed. Today I think that was very good. All we had was the language of time and you can not fool anyone with it.
The children accompanied us everywhere. Not just a few but some forty for sure. As I leaned my head out of the tent, the first thing I saw were smiling faces, waiting patiently for me to come out. When we were unpacking luggage they kept a close eye on us, on every movement. It was the same when we erected our tents and while we were resting or eating. And when it happened that we had to go somewhere, they put their hands in our own, one by one.
That night it was very dark. I like that in an African village night is really night and the sky is full of stars. There are no lanterns, no lights in the windows of the houses, you can not live at night. Flashlights set us on the road. It was crowded. It is so, when they come to the village to show a film.
Dust was everywhere. I discovered that where you can not bath for two days, and the toilet is a hole in the ground, a certain boundary emerges within you. Before you cross it, you keep trying to keep your hands and feet clean, draw dirt from behind your nails, get rid of the sand stuck on your sweaty body and comb your hair. You repeat these actions over and over and nothing changes except that you become busy with yourself. Closer to this border discord grows in you, accompanied by tension. Exhaustion appears and just before you reach the limit – helplessness. But freedom begins beyond it.
It is similar to before we decide to come to Him. When we are at places we have not chosen ourselves, facing circumstances that have come our way. We try to find equilibrium, focus on ourselves, until exhausted we admit that we can not manage. And then helplessness comes. This is the best state to be in when we come to God. Beyond it, there is freedom.
Sitting in a narrowly clenched capulane (a piece of material tied around the hips, which folds into a skirt reaching below knees) on hard ground, I enjoyed their presence.
One of the girls leaned her cheek against my shoulder. A younger one sat on my lap. Others were sitting next to my legs which were stretched out on the ground. Everybody had to touch me. One of the boys lay his head on my legs and fell asleep and one of the girls stroked my head.
Every few minutes I was forced to change position because my arms and legs grew numb. To do that I had to interrupt them. They moved slightly on this occasion and then again for a few minutes our focus turned to the film telling the story of Jesus Christ.
From time to time they turned their heads toward me, searching for my glances in the darkness. For this one moment they wanted my entire attention. One of the girl’s parents came to take her to eat supper. She wrapped her arms around my waist, stared at the ground, shook her head and refused to go with them. They stood over us for a few minutes, repeating the request until they finally left without her.
In that Mozambican village each of these children seemed to say stay with me, without using a single word.
The previous evening had been a picture.
I saw Jesus there. He was in the crowd of children waiting for the meeting. He was looking for my attention, when they were looking for my attention. He looked straight into my eyes like the little girl did and He was delighted in me. He taught me simple love through the long hugs and closeness I shared with those children. But first He waited until I stopped trying to take care of myself, until I gave up on trying to alter reality. He waited until I reached the limit and could give Him all my attention like Mary who needed only one thing – to sit at His feet. (Luke 10: 38-42)
No one can take this time away from us.