Sipping coffee out of my own mug with homemade dulce de leche. The best culinary discovery I’ve made recently is that a can of sweetened condensed milk can be laid sideways in boiling water for 2 hours and turns into caramel sauce! For this discovery alone I thank God every day! As I sip I’m willing the sun to slow its’ rise over the foothills, hoping for a few extra moments in our quiet kitchen before neighbors start arguing, monkeys start leaping onto the balcony… and my own little monkey awakes.
We have moved into our own “cottage” (everything is called a cottage up here), only ¼ finished, so we and our many things are packed into a kitchen and entryway. It’s a breathtaking view from the balcony, and it’s so nice to have our own kitchen after 6 weeks in one room, so we have been loving every minute of it.
Today our landlord says that the upstairs is almost ready. Apparently we—and everyone else in town including the man building our furniture— are waiting on the town’s only carpenter who “is having some trouble”. Our bedroom is complete besides handles on doors and curtain rods, but no one besides this MIA carpenter fellow can do it. Thus we continue to patiently reside day after day (7 weeks since our arrival) in our kitchen/entryway and my husband continues to enjoy cups of chai, jokes and shooting the breeze with the landlord, assistant, and numerous workers who are here throughout each day. Day by day I am seeing community that forms in every day life when a culture values relationship over task.
My favorite thing about our cottage is that even though we are 7500 ft high in the Himalayas, we are also snuggled into a bustling community of locals who have lived here for generations and largely do not speak English. Our door sits on the main walking path, the shortcut for going down to town or up to language school, shops, etc. Boys from the boys’ home ring the bell or shout out each day as they walk down to school. Friends from language school knock to say hi on their way up.
It is on the way everywhere, and there are constant interruptions… I mean–opportunities!
Yesterday our neighbors (5 families in our strip of apartments) were calling out to one another that the public restroom/bathing spot had run out of water. Our private tanks on the roof of our newly renovated apartment above sit full of water for us to bathe, cook, and drink. Immediately I felt uncomfortable at the glaring disparity.
At home we often lived at a similar level to the neighbors around us. Here we could be living equally among foreigners with a private gate, or we could be living equally among neighbors in the market with one room, limited water and concrete floors. Instead we are living more simply than in our home country, but in opulence compared to our neighbors. And even that middle ground feels uncomfortable.
As the blatant inequality disburbed my comfort level, I sat on the balcony debating whether to call down and empty our tanks into everyone’s bottles (and thus begin a daily tradition that would last until the next tenant comes), or to close my curtains and pretend we live in a different world (but we don’t have curtains yet, so that wasn’t an option).
In that moment I happened to be reading.
“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over and poured into your laps. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
I had to take a day to think on this, knowing that my actions have long-term consequences, remembering teachings on the evils of unsustainable charity, but realizing that “best practices” can also keep us from engaging at all.
Jesus isn’t challenging me to give money from afar. That’s easy.
He’s challenging me to give my life. To live openly and uncomfortably. To step into situations–often broken and unjust– where I do have something to give.
I am realizing that my neighbors know that I have more and they’re OK with that. So instead of avoiding or denying disparity, I can be OK with it too.
So I leaned over the balcony and asked my neighbor if there was water today. She said there was, and I told her to ask if she ever needs it in the future. I know that I opened a door to more requests. But Jesus will give me wisdom for each one. He will teach me how to give and give wisely.
I didn’t come to hide or to avoid.
Father God, teach me how to make the coming worthwhile. Teach me how to give myself to those around me just as you did for us.