“You can put your things in here.”
Our host opens the dingy flap of a make shift tent to show where we will be staying. His smile is large and white against the black façade of his face. To say this man is dark would not do him justice. His skin is smooth and black like onyx. His body is in top form. All that covers him is a simple skirt made from what appears to have once been a terry cloth towel. It has been ordained with various seashells and rocks. His name is Okulambwa. He is the person in charge at this seaside village and to most he is known as “lo-greegree”. A greegree is a priest that makes and sells talismans to protect against evil. Since he no longer practices such archaic beliefs, he is called “lo-greegree” which means “not a greegree”.
“Thank you, Okulam…” I struggle with his name and his smiles widens against the broadness of his face.
“You may call me Ok.”
“Oh, okay. I mean okay Ok.” I can feel the blood rush to my face in embarrassment but Ok just smiles at me.
“Are you hungry?” Ok asks. I consider his question and wonder what we will eat. He motions for me to follow him.
He leads me towards a group of other half naked people standing in anticipation. Along the trek across the beach to them, I look out at the ocean. It is majestically blue and perfectly calm.
“My people do not know Him like I do. Maybe you can help?” Ok is talking to me but I am in a trance from the beauty all around me. To the right is the vast Atlantic ocean and to the left, a growth of jungle so dense it looks like a dark green barricade.
“I’m sorry Ok, what did you say?”
His laugh is hearty and he slaps me on the back. “I said my people do not know Him like I do. Maybe you can help?”
“Oh, yes.” I was nervous about this mission trip. I was separated from the rest in my group that came from the United States to this village in Angola. A telegraph I received tells me they will be here in two days but for now I am on my own.
As we step into the group of people, they spread out into a circle and sit down. They are all smiling at me and talking in whispers to each other.
“What are they saying?” I ask Ok.
“Some are saying that you are very pale. Others are saying that you are too heavy and look slow.”
Great. Even in the far reaches of earth, I am fat and dumb. I smile at Ok and take a seat next to him on a large piece of driftwood.
Soon a young girl in a towel dress comes over to me and sets down a seashell filled with some sort of crab looking thing and bananas. I can stand to lose a few pounds and it looks like this trip will do the trick.
“Thank you.” I smile at her as she backs up in a bow and then scampers away to take her seat next to an older woman.
“The food is called simkulkwa. It is very good. Please eat.” Ok instructs me as how to eat this dish with my hands. He breaks off a piece of the meat and puts it between two pieces of banana. His bites are small and deliberate.
I chuckle to myself as I think about people back home eating greasy food in some fast food joint wile I am sitting on the prettiest spot on earth eating funky crab and bananas. It is actually pretty good.
After we eat, Ok tells me it is time for a story. He asks if I want to tell one to the village.
“Do they understand English?” I ask and he nods.
In a place so full with the beauty of God, I begin with Genesis 1. I stand and use my hands and arms outstretched to the sky above as I illustrate all God has created. Ok and his people are mesmerized. By the time I finish, my face is drenched with sweat and tears.
Ok pats my back and tells me, “Everything is going to be okay. You did good. Thank you.”
That night I sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s story time.
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