Miriam thought, and not for the first time, how much easier it would have been to fly in from N'Djamena. Loaded with penned up animals, the stench and noise of the river-boat was almost too much to bear. What space there was left on deck being overcrowded with people, milling about just for a place to stand. No matter where she turned, it was like stepping into an alien world-- unknown faces speaking a language she could not understand. The ever constant stops at every ratty landing along the way, made time seem to crawl. The trip that could have taken an hour by plane, took several long, hot days on a river smelling of dead fish.
More an oversized barge, the 'Joshua Dane' leaked nearly as much oil into the river as it was leaking water into the ship. Her first fear was that the boat would sink before she reached her destination. But though it was old ship, it turned out to be safe enough for the three day trip to a small riverside town, only to get another boat to take her to a village on the north of Lake Chad. Miriam leaned against the rail reading her father's letter again, seeing the stress in every word. Getting word from her parents after five years of silence, only to hear of her mother's death, all she could think of was bringing her father home.
Having lived her life in the sheltered world of collages, Miriam saw little of strife. The poor remained in their parts of the cities, and she in her's, leaving others to care for the soup kitchens and mission houses. Her parents on the other hand, walking a world unseen by her except in their letters or the books she read, had taken that road in hopes of making a better world.
Miriam was not opposed to such ways of religious thinking, she just felt that all of mankind had the same right to chose their way of life, their own way of worshiping God. "Man lives his life as he chooses," she thought to herself while looking around her. "There is no reason for living so poorly."
"The poor you shall have with you always,"* a voice called out beside her, as though reading her mind. “Sorry to disturb you, ma’am. The Captain wanted me to let you know we would be arriving at Jimtilo Landing in about half an hour.”
“Thank you,” Miriam replied, somewhat shaken by the man’s words, she stopped him as he walked away. “What did you mean by what you said, the poor being with me?”
“I don’t mean to seem rude, ma’am,” the young man said quietly. “I have seen you the last few days, looking at these people like they were beneath you in some way.”
“I have nothing against these people,” shocked that he would say such a thing. “I don’t even know them. I just feel that Man should not have to live in such a... Well a...”
“Poor state?” the man answered. “Ma’am, sometime Man has no choice in the life they are given, only in how they deal with it. God gives us our life, and we live it the best we can. Sometimes the world around us isn’t as kind. . . Sorry to bother you, ma’am.”
Miriam watched as he walked away then stopped to lift a small child up for a better seat on a pen’s railing. A simple gesture, one even her own father had done, raising her up to sit on the family car for a clear view of a passing parade– and her heart ached.
Slowly she turned around once more, as if she truly saw things for the first time. Families traveling the river to get home, bringing animals and much needed supplies that would build them a new life. Clothes and bedding, all their worldly possessions, wrapped in bundles and sat on the deck or piled on top of crates.
She looked out at the landing from the rail of the Joshua Dane, buildings in such a sad need of repair. Most looked as if the mid-summer heat, rising like vapor in the sunlight off the churning water, would burn the tattered shacks in a gulf of flames. Saying a prayer against the vision, Miriam's heart reached out to the people she saw, understanding how her father had come to love them. They were God’s children, and soon, she would make her home among then.
Scriptural verse reference, Mat. 26:11 NKJ.
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