“This isn't open for discussion, Suze. It's decided. These people asked us to come and that's what we're here for, planting churches--even if it means climbing this mountain every week.” Bob glanced over at his daughter then shifted into granny-low for another steep grade as they wound up the mountain.
Susan huddled against the door, arms crossed tightly across her stomach. I hate being the odd-ball. Everyone stares at me and all the ladies touch my hair. Having blond hair is such a pain. I wish it was black like everyone else's here; then I wouldn't stick out so much... I wish...
Just then they rounded a curve and the village came into view. It was tucked into a fold of the mountain, clinging there, like gray ivy. Susan's arms tightened even more as her anxiety grew. I hope they don't make fun of me.
“You know, Suze, it's as simple as a smile.”
Susan turned her blue eyes to her mother. “It might be that simple in the States, Mom, but here I stick out like a sore thumb.”
Her mom gave her a squeeze. “Then let's pray you find a special friend here.”
That'd be nice, God. I could use a friend, and a special friend would be even better.
Bob maneuvered the truck through the narrow cobblestoned streets and parked beside a mud wall with broken glass shards embedded in its top. A stooped old man shuffled out the gate with an equally aged lady just a step behind him. Their faces radiated joy as tears trickled into the crevices on their faces. “We've prayed for this for almost 20 years. Welcome to our home. Please, come and join us.”
With shuffling steps they were escorted to a living room where people sat on vinyl furnishings. Susan nervously glanced around as she trailed after her parents. On the far side of the room a girl her age sat on a sofa, smiling at her, and she patted the space beside her when their eyes met. Maybe she'll ignore my hair. Susan followed her parents as they circled the room, greeting each person, as was customary, and she didn't even mind when an older lady pulled her down for a kiss on the cheek and a pat on her hair before allowing her to move on to the smiling girl.
“Buenos dias. Me llamo Susana,” Susan said with a smile for the girl, just as she'd said to everyone. Her heart was beating so fast it took her a moment to realize the eyes she was looking into were a deep blue.
“Buenos dias. I'm Marta. Sit here beside me.” Marta gently tugged Susan's hand, giggling. “I'm so glad you have blue eyes, too,” she whispered. “Abuelita assured me you wouldn't think I'm strange because of my eyes.”
“People think you're strange?” Susan whispered back, surprised.
“Si, because I'm a Christian and I have blue eyes they've even called me a witch.” Marta's eyes clouded briefly, but then cleared. “But I can tell that you don't think I'm strange. You understand.”
The girls shared a smile as the old man raised his hands, waiting. Marta leaned close once again. “My grandfather, Cristobal,” she said with a fond smile toward the old man.
“Gracias,” Cristobal said through tears. “My family has prayed for many years and today God has answered. Each week we will meet here, at this same hour, for a time of teaching and worship with our brothers and sisters. Bring your neighbors and friends; they are always welcome in my home.” Cristobal held out a hand to Bob. “Hermano Roberto, please, come and lead us.” The men clasped hands, then embraced, as they exchanged places.
Bob stepped forward with a smile. “In the days after Jesus ascended into heaven the Christians met in small groups, much like this one. Being here with you is an honor as well as an answer to our prayers--thank you for asking us to join you. Our God is a great God, answering the prayers of His children.”
Marta reached over and squeezed Susan's hand. Maybe Mom is right. Maybe it is as simple as a smile.
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