Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: THE UGLY TOURIST (07/09/15)
- TITLE: Mbaya ya Utalii
By Hannah Gaudette
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Were our hearts so hardened we couldn't see love? Were our eyes so blind we couldn't accept hope? Were we too far gone to grab hold of a genuine faith?
The answer is yes. I was one of those people once. I was there when a young missionary came to our African village. We'd had bad experiences in the past with white people. A group of tourists had come once, saying they wanted to use the land for tourism. Our people at the village, well . . . let's just say the site-seers would think twice before coming back again.
All eyes turned upon the new stranger. Not out of curiosity, but rather out of fear and suspicion.
“They've sent another scout,” one man whispered.
The woman spent several weeks in the village as she tried to set up a school for the children. But when it was ready, no one would send their child. Parents strongly refused for the children to attend the school. But Gillian Henderson clearly wasn't done yet.
I watched every day as children flocked to her in the streets. She would sing with them, teach them, and help them with the daily grind of work. The more kindness she showed, the more apprehensive the people became.
Several warned her about the suspicion and rumors circulating, others asked her to leave, others threatened her. Still, she pressed forward.
One evening, outside her small hut on the edge of the village, I heard someone shouting over and over, “Mbaya ya utalii! Mbaya ya utalii!” Ugly tourist! Ugly tourist!
The next morning when Gillian gathered again with the children, I walked up to her, desperate to know why she was doing this.
She simply smiled and replied, “God has put me here to do His work in the lives of your people. I can't leave until He tells me to.”
A strange curiosity rose in me. “You really believe that?”
“With all of my heart.”
I hesitated, knowing full well I should get out of there before someone saw me talking to her. But I wanted to know – I needed to know. “Would you tell me about God?” I asked.
Her smile grew. For the next hour – and another hour a day for weeks – she poured out her knowledge and faith. Soon, I wasn't the only one listening. Four others asked for her words, and after a couple weeks, all five of us and several children gave our lives to Jesus.
That proclamation was the last straw.
We didn't see it coming; neither did Gillian. In the middle of the night, a wild commotion rose outside and I followed its source. The hut was on fire. A group of villagers had dragged Gillian out onto the street. Panic filled my heart.
Victory and rage burned in their eyes. They laughed with roaring, hideous fury. But all the while, Gillian's face showed an unyielding hope. I stayed back, frozen in place, and her eyes locked with mine. In them, I saw a clear message of resolute acceptance and forgiveness.
The group of ten villagers surrounded her as the hut burned to the ground and they tied her to a small tree. She struggled against them, but they only grew more hostile. Then people began hurling rotten food along with horrible insults. The fight in Gillian's eyes faded, but a visible confidence remained.
Finally, one man held a long torch near a small pile of hay at her feet. The cheers only intensified.
Many were shouting, “Mbaya ya utalii!”
I screamed for them to stop, but above the jeers of the crowd, Gillian called to me familiar words that she had taught us. “'For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'”
Not once did Gillian beg for her life. I was sure she knew she was going to a better place. And I knew in my heart that God was waiting for her at the gates of heaven.
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