By Margot Gladding*
Silk rugs on the floor. Beautiful carved furniture everywhere. Little girls in pretty, pink, sequined dresses playing games and laughing. It sounds modern. Even upper class. You almost think you’re back at home in the US, at any one of your daughter’s friends birthday parties.
And then the lights go out. And the surprising thing is, no one screams.
No one gets angry. Everyone stops what they’re doing, the hostess says, “I’m getting the light,” and she brings out a flashlight that she uses as a candle to light the living room so the festivities can continue at a more subdued pace, since the candlelight makes it hard to see.
It’s like they’ve done this before — many times. And they have. Almost every night this time of year, when it’s hot and the water levels go down, the electricity goes off several times a day for a few minutes at a time, until either the city electricity comes back on or the neighborhood generator gets turned on.
And life goes on, as we learn to just continue with what we’re doing. As I sat there observing, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, wondering how many little American girls at that kind of party would respond so calmly to the lights going out.
It could have been any two neighborhood friends sitting on the front porch, watching the toddlers play. But this was me and a neighbor who is a member of the majority family here, sitting, talking and sharing stories.
She’s so much like me — two daughters, one toddler. Well-educated housewife with a working husband. She’s fluent in English, curious about life, has lived in the US, wears western clothes.
I thought she might already know. I had just shared the story of when our Dad came to earth as a baby. She had so many questions. Why did he come as a baby? Why to those particular parents? What was special about them? And then we moved on to talk more about his life.
At some point, I mentioned when he died and came back to life. She looked at me, incredulous. She said, “I knew he died, but I didn’t know he came back to life! Really? He did that? He’s alive right now? Where is he?”
It was my turn to feel incredulous. I thought she knew. I assumed, because she seemed to know so much about him already. Then she hit me in the heart with her words — “Then why do you people talk to him in front of the cross? He’s not there! Why remember his death, when you could remember his life!”
I was able to share with her that I don’t talk to him in front of the cross — that I talk to my living Friend, who is constantly interceding for me. She said, “You mean he’s with you all the time?”
I said, “Yes, he is with everyone who has chosen to follow him. He can be with you too.”
She didn’t know. She had no idea. Really? Is this possible? We think that the unreached are in the jungle, cut off from the world — we have a stereotype of them that my friend Shawl Patel* doesn’t fit.
But, actually, the unreached surround me, living in beautiful homes with silk rugs and carved furniture — millions of people who see crosses everywhere and don’t actually know the story…millions upon millions.
Margot Gladding is a representative with International Mission Board, serving in South Asia.