Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Hardest Part

It is early Monday morning. I get up and go to the radio at 8 am to try to talk with someone in Hewa. No one comes up which is a good sign (in the jungle no news is good news). I walk back to the little apartment that has become our temporary home with beads of sweat already collecting on my 8:15 in the morning...every drop of perspiration reminds me that I am not in my village anymore. I am not walking into my home. I am not with my people.

I walk in to see my husband already at the computer working hard to gain the ear of those in the government or police force who will listen to our plea for help. He goes back and forth in conversation with a fellow missionary who is trying to help and our co-worker who is in the States. He tries to get as much background on the people and their histories as he can to give the police the most accurate and detailed report possible. Of course, their lives and stories are just a tightly entangled as the thick jungle canopy they live under. He spends all day sorting out people, relatives, past and present events. We both vent to each other (and anyone else who will listen) about our frustrations with this tragic and twisted situation.

The clock strikes four and the other missionary who has been helping us writes John Michael to tell him that he received a call from a Hewa person in town. This person reports that Wanapi (the murderer) has killed Kalefu, a man from our village. My heart falls all the way down my body, lands on my foot, and therefore cannot get blood to my head or my fingers. My head swoons, my fingers are numb, and my lungs can't seem to breathe with my heart so far away. It is a feeling I know all too well. And because I have had a lot of practice with it, I at least knew what to do this time. I quickly told my heart to get out of my foot and back where it belongs. It made the slow climb back up to my chest and began pumping blood to my brain again allowing me to think rationally.

Stop. Drop. And Roll. 

No that's not right. I wait one more minute, then I actually have the correct rational thoughts:

Stop. Don't Panic. 

This may not be true. You know how things go in the jungle. You hear lots of crazy stories, then find out later they are inaccurate or exaggerated. Wait until you hear from the village on the radio tonight. 

Calm, rational thinking. Unfortunately, my rational thinking also reminds me that every "rumor" we've heard about someone being dead has turned out to be true. But still, this is not confirmed so I will wait to be sad or panic. Radio time is at 6:40 pm. I can wait until then. What time is it now? 4:30 pm.

Never before has two hours and ten minutes seemed so long.

I have to keep busy. I wash a few dishes. The stragglers left over from lunch. I sweep the floor. I check the clock.


I begin dinner prep. I chop onions and green peppers. I saute chicken and make sour cream. Think about Kalefu's two wives and eight children. STOP. Don't go there yet. I check the clock.


I dry and put away the lunch dishes. I wash the dinner prep dishes. I check the clock.


I call my children in from outside, get them bathed, and dressed and feel envious of their innocent and carefree conversation. I smiled and nod over stories of friends, and games, and birds, and weird bugs. I am thankful that God created lovely things for His children to enjoy in such a dark and broken world. I check the clock.


My husband gives up and just goes down to wait the last twenty minutes by the radio "just to make sure I don't miss it." Like his brain would be merciful enough to let him forget. I assemble dinner plates for myself and my children and we sit down to eat. I let one of them pray. I let my heart be thankful for the things they are thankful for and... just for a minute... not question. I check the clock.


I can't believe it!!! Ten minutes late. I run down to the radio as my husband finishes his conversation with Yanis (one of our church leaders). He says that Kalefu is alive and in the village. Yanis is totally confused about this rumor we heard, but assures us that Kalefu is there and the raiders have not come yet.

Relief and joy wash over me and I praise God that for the first time since we moved into Hewa territory death was just a rumor. I make my husband tell me every bit of the conversation. I am thankful beyond any words or explanation. I walk back to the apartment. I don't check the clock anymore, and I only realize it an hour after my kids' normal bedtime (oops). My husband and I put them to bed and I followed soon after.

Even though it ended on a high note, the day has exhausted me, so I climb into bed and contemplate my time in missionary training. I scroll through the memories of my time preparing for this job and remember thinking that my duties, my actual "job" would be the hardest part of this life. You know, the language learning, homeschooling, discipling, teaching, translating, those things. They seemed so hard. And they still are, but they are not the hardest part.

The hardest part is the loving, the caring, the relationships you have with people who struggle everyday to just stay alive. Death is their shadow. Pain is their ever present companion. And being right there beside them through it all is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

There are certainly times I want to give up and go home. No...there are times I want to go back in time and never come in the first place. Because after having seen, heard, felt, tasted, even smelled their existence, I can't shake it from who I am now. Their world, their daily lives, their very souls, have penetrated my being so deep that there is no place that I can run that they will not be with me. And it will be that way from now until the day I die. No matter when or why God removes me from Hewa physically, we will be linked through the Holy Spirit eternally. When they hurt, I will feel it as if it were my own body just as I do now. And when they rejoice, I will rejoice with them whether I am right next to them, holding their hands or if I am 9,000 miles away.

And that is the hardest part. The hardest and most beautiful part.


  1. I'm so glad he's alive!! What a powerful testimony to the love of God you are, Jessi and John Michael. Still praying ...

  2. This brought to tears to my eyes. I am trying not to let any loose so that my 7 year old daughter won't ask me why I am crying.