There is no such thing as privacy in Amacuapa, Honduras.
I recall the time I tried to find it anyway. I was with a group from Raleigh, North Carolina, who had come down to open a medical clinic in the small village of the Agalta Valley in Olancho. I went as a translator and as a backup group manager in case Sam, their fearless leader, was called home to his wife, who was very ill. Given my experience and "family" there, Sam felt it would make everyone feel confident that they could continue with the work in case he had to bolt. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, but it did. He was called home to be with her while we stayed in Honduras, praying for her, and continuing the project plans. It was a long week.
Each morning, trying to get a few moments to myself and to unwind through exercise and prayer, I would hike up the hill right outside of the village, a mini-mountain-really-a-hill they called “Big Ugly Rock Mountain." Every 5:30 a.m. I sat on that big ugly rock that overlooks three communities in the Agalta Valley and, from this overlook, read a few chapters from Greg Taylor’s book, called High Places (I thought it was appropriate).
Greg also co-authored my book, How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missionsand has released quite a fantastic piece about a mutual doctor friend, Amanda Madrid called Lay Down Your Guns (a story from around this very part of the ''wild west'' mountain jungles) where Amanda Madrid found her calling as a medical doctor to poor farmers. The area where she works is in a region where, well, if the title of the book about her doesn't scare you, any knowledge of the things that go on in that district would. Yes, you get it. The reason I continue to find reasons to return there? I'll save that for another post.
Anyway, I didn’t get off so early that particular day in the wild west. There were questions to answer, vehicles to arrange, schedules to amend, questions to answer, money to distribute, trips into town to plan ... I'll stop before I start quoting Prince Humperdink from The Princess Bride. I promised myself I would take the time to climb anyway after everyone got off before I worked on the receipts. So, at 10:30 a.m. I took off up the hill. “Ah, solace,” I thought to myself. It was then that I heard them.
“Inchi, Inchi, Inchi!” four giggles came from behind me. Inchi, the general Honduran-child-pronunciation of Angie, is usually a welcome greeting. Today I just wanted to be by myself! GAH! But there they were ... my four little girlfriends, stair-step sisters all under eight years old. They were clamoring through the barbed wire fence to meet me. My eyes started to roll, and I felt a sigh coming on. Then, I felt something else ... two little hands shoving themselves into my own, a third grabbing my water, and the fourth capturing my book. “We want to help you climb!” they said in Spanish. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled. The stress I wanted to relieve at the top of the hill instantly melted away at the bottom. I was going to have some help to climb. Who doesn’t need that?
So off we went, the five of us, two pulling me up that very steep hill, making sure not to let go of the Gringa because she might fall! I kept it to myself that they were making me nearly lose my balance and I stepped gently to avoid toppling gracelessly down like Jack OR Jill in the old nursery rhyme. Careful not to break my crown, I climbed lightly with my giggling companions up to the big ugly rock.
Crowding all of their little bottoms around my big one, we sat down, and they pointed out every house in the village, telling me who lives in each one. I told them my hiking story about a Vulture and some Soup and mentioned it didn’t have an ending. So they gave me one. Then, the little girl who had my book turned it over and pointed to Greg’s picture. She said, “Who is this Gringo? What is this book about? Is it a story? Will you read it to us?” I told them Greg was a friend who lived in Africa for several years, a place very far away. I said them he was telling a story about the people who lived there. I told them I couldn’t read it to them because it was in English but that I would try to explain it. The Vulture and the Soup didn't go over very well, so who knows how I would try to describe this big English book?
“It's a book about people,” I said. “It is about people who do the right things, people who do the wrong things, and people who do the wrong things by trying to do the right things! This story teaches you about people who live somewhere very far away, but it also teaches you that God is there with them as well as us. It is about the fact that God is everywhere, teaching people how to love him - in ways you would never expect.”
God alone led him; there was not a foreign god in sight. God lifted him onto the hilltops, so he could feast on the crops in the fields. He fed him honey from the rock and oil from granite crags. Deuteronomy 32:13
“What is it called?” the oldest girl said.
“It’s called High Places,” I answered.
“Like this big ugly rock?”
As we climbed down the hill, I realized that I had indeed NOT told them the story. How would I have explained to these little ones the plight of Tenwa, who hated his father and regularly fought to understand his place in his tribe? How would I have shared the story of William and Jessica Bell, missionaries to a place they considered heathen, their trials and their different relationships with God? How would I tell the story of how their friendship with Tenwa intertwined his trouble and their perspectives, resulting in a drastic change in both? Could I talk about finding redemption on a termite hill, learning more about God from a diary than a prayer book, about death and truth and learning how to mourn? The story is just beautiful. But too much for these girls to wrap their wee minds around.
What they can understand is a straightforward message and one that YOU already know: God is everywhere. God is working. God is real. God is in control. God wants you to love Him. High places aren’t just big ugly rocks; they are places in your heart – places where you meet God. These are biblical messages that are found throughout Greg’s story of the Soga in Uganda and also the powerful truths found in his book about Dr. Amanda. I invite you to read these stories. If you have forgotten about the high place where you once met God, I'll bet High Places helps you remember it, and Lay Down Your Guns might just help you find it again.
“No east or west. No north or south. Yet no other ground was more sacred to him than this cliff where his true father blessed him.” (High Places, pg. 247)
I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
As I approached our hut, my little friends gave me back my water and my book. I turned to watch them run back to their adobe refuge, giggling and repeating my name, “Inchi, Inchi…” I smiled when I saw the backdrop of the hill with the big ugly rock. They are right; it is an ugly rock. But that morning, it was a beautiful boulder. It was a high place – a place where my true Father blessed me as I met Him there again through giggles, girls, and the guidance of wee hands.
I would love for you to share below about a place or a moment in your life where God showed up unanticipated! I'll bet you have one...