Attitude is everything. How many times we’ve all heard it. I met a living example last night. This incredible couple, in their late seventies, live about eight hours from any form of civilization, in a very simple house with no electricity or running water. They live on the Jaurucu River and own only a canoe for transportation, hitching rides with others when needing to go into "the city". They’ve lived in this same area all their lives. Their kids have moved away and visit from time to time.
Our visit was the third time that our mission team has visited them. The first two were to deliver and follow up on a water filter for their home. We stopped in with some of the VCDC team and it was like their favorite people in the world were stopping in to see them. They invited us in, made coffee, and talked and talked and talked. Their conversation was full of joy, animation and gratitude. There was much laughter. It was obvious that they loved each other, loved life, loved this region, and loved our presence in their home.
What made their attitude so incredible was the setting. Not only are the conditions in which they live so simple and difficult, but the disabilities that their age and their health problems create do not lend to an atmosphere that would typically yield their joyful attitude. Neither have but a couple teeth (dentures haven’t "arrived" on the rivers yet), she has severe arthritis in multiple joints with marked swelling, to the point of not being able to even take a step without severe pain. Her one knee, in particular, was markedly swollen and was quite deformed from the many years of this arthritis. He had fallen off of their dock three years ago and broken his hip. He didn’t have it repaired because, though the surgery would be covered in their government health system, they couldn’t afford for him to be away from home for so long. His affected leg is essentially withered and any movement causes pain. He walks with the aid of a crude wooden crutch, tolerating pain with every movement. He has severe sciatica, likely from his markedly altered gait, which also causes pain with every movement.
They live day to day, without ability to store food. Today’s work yields today’s meal, whether fish, fruit, or meat. Rice and beans are their staple (typical among the river folks), mainly because this can be stored dry without going bad. If anyone has the right to gripe! They hurt with every movement, they have to work for every meal, and there is no hope for change.
Well, we sat and talked with them for about two hours. We talked about many things, laughed and mainly listened. I injected her knee and we left them some simple pain medicine. As a group, we prayed for both of them, individually and together. As we were leaving, they said that this was the most special day they’ve had in a very long time. They were so grateful and so humbly appreciated our presence, our encouragement and our praying for them. They are so obviously our brother and sister and their love for Jesus in the midst of their circumstances greatly encouraged all of us. They were a striking example of the beauty of humility and contentment with little. A striking example!
They then showed up for our service that night, paddling in their dugout canoe fifteen minutes in the dark with a dull flashlight and arriving early (arriving early never happens in the Amazon!). They were so full of joy and when asked by Kate, a member of the team, how she could pray for them, they went on and on about God’s goodness to them and what a beautiful day they’d had.
God’s Kingdom is a very different place. A place where such joy can be present in the midst of pain and very difficult circumstances, where one can have treasure in the midst of "trash", where gratitude and grace reign in darkness, where the power of the unseen triumphs the seen, and where love rules over bitterness.
We tend to think that God is glorified most by victory, healing, and happiness in His people. But I think that God is glorified most when people "witness" to His love while suffering and to His power while weak, trusting Him when they don’t understand, and joyfully worshipping Him when confronted with despairing darkness. A little Light continues today to be most visible in complete darkness. We are called to be light in the darkness rather than to change the darkness to light. This beautiful couple is light in a dark, religious, lost culture and the contrast is "glorifying".