After church on a Sunday before Christmas, I lingered in the sanctuary between hardwood pews in the Oxford Church of Christ. I wiggled my beige, hose-covered toes inside my new black pumps, unaccustomed how slick and cold they felt after two years in dusty flip-flops.
The drizzly winter drips on the windowpanes seemed to cool some dry hurt seared in me by countless days in the equatorial sun. The sweet chorus of saints in the audience punctuated with the silver, quivering voice of my grandmother soothed a deep lonely hole in my heart worn deep by the thousand moments when I had felt to alone. The sight of my one year-old daughter sound asleep on the pew in an evergreen corduroy dress and dainty white leather shoes warmed something dead tired inside.
One of my grandmother’s dear friends approached me. She was one member of a small Bible class that my grandmother has attended for over 40 years. The group of women has met to share and pray over one another and one another’s family members through every stage of their lives from young motherhood to great grand motherhood, and for the past two years they have been following this blog. Many of them do not have internet, so my grandmother prints out each post as it is written, photocopies it, and hands it out for the ladies to take home. “But not until after Bible class; they must read it at home,” she says.
“I know you don’t remember me,” my grandmother’s friend said, “But I pray for you everyday.” She said it quickly, offhandedly, as if trying not to draw attention to herself, and then she changed the subject, but I could see in her face that she really meant what she had said.
My mind flashed to the moment of the wreck—I turned my head left to see a 50-passenger bus hurtling straight for my husband like a demon flying out of hell. The steel bulbar exploded in ribbons, leaving the entire car and every passenger in it perfectly untouched. I pray for you, she had said.
I recalled a common scene from our everyday life: Ross sitting in a group of Muslim God-seekers. They are normal people like us, but they have not yet experienced or heard the Word of God. They hear the story of Noah and drink it in like thirsty men. “This story means,” they interpret through the power of the Holy Spirit “that we like Noah, should learn not just how to cease wrongdoing, but how to please God.” Every day, she had said.
I remembered when I was sick at four in the morning. Ross was away, visiting a costal island to share the Word of God. I was so dizzy with some arboviral fever that I was afraid I would pass out leaving no one to take care of Addie. She cried out. I climbed under her mosquito net and curled in the crib with her until morning. As I lay there, I thought about whether life in Mtwara was worth it, whether the Bible was true, and was I crazy to believe it? I pray for you.
She had curly, white hair and a dark shawl draped over her shoulders. Her hand was cool and soft. I knew she was a saint, but she would never have allowed it to be said. “You don’t know what that meant to us.” I replied, meaning every word.