I live in Minas Tirith, the capitol city of Gondor here in Middle Earth. I didn't always. My life now is very different than the life I knew when I lived in Rohan. Today I drove over 150 miles over two mountain passes and forded a river to get to a village where we are doing a water project. When I lived in Edoras in Rohan I didn't have a car and I taught English as a second language at a language Institute. Yeah, I know, it doesn't show. Anyway, I like to tell stories on this blog which make a point about my relationship with God, or Church Planting, or Discipleship. Today I will tell a story about one day in Rohan and while I think it is a good story I don't think it has much point. But you can be the judge of that.
All the experts will tell you that after about six months in a foreign country you really hit culture shock hard. In Middle Earth most Westerners get culture shock after about six minutes but you get over it, you recover, and let's face it; you don't have the language or know-how to get a ticket home right then anyway and that is a good thing. So, after six months of being in Edoras I was missing a few things about home. On really bad days we would list food that we missed, or even just the names of restaurants that we would love to go to. We might be sitting around on mats on the floor drinking green tea and someone would say, 'Chilli's!' And then I might say, 'Arby's beef and cheddar!' That kind of thing. It's pretty sad. At that time we could get almost no imported Western things at all. It was in this mood that I set out one morning to go to a section of town called Central Station. I had been there before by taxi but I wanted to figure out how to get there by bus. I went down to the bus stop and I asked a driver what bus I should take to get to Central Station. He told me that his bus was going that way so I got on. We went right at first but then slowly I thought we were going too far west. We went a long ways and everything became less and less familiar. Finally, in the middle of a strange neighborhood that looked nothing like Central Station the driver stopped the bus and told me I was to get off here. I asked him where Central Station was and he told me. See that narrow alleyway to the right? Just go down there about a mile and you will find Central Station. I was pretty mad but as I didn't know any swear words in the local language I just said thank you and started walking.
I walked a long way. It was an interesting street with lots of buildings and shops I had not seen before. I was looking up at an interesting building when I walked straight into a pole that stuck up about two feet out of the middle of the sidewalk. It probably had a purpose at one time but today it just sat idle waiting patiently to destroy my knee. It hurt a lot. I choked back a cry of pain and hobbled off to one side of the road breathing hard and hoping nobody would notice. Nobody had noticed my foolish brush with inattentiveness so I lumbered on slowly taking deep breaths. I came to a small store and decided that a candy bar would ease my pain and I went in hoping to find a good western candy bar and maybe, with a lot of luck, a chair or a bench to sit on and eat it. Upon entering the doorway I was transported. I stood with mouth wide open and eyes bugging out of my head at the scrumptious array of product before me. Shelves and shelves of Cambell's Soup, Spice packets of every kind, breakfast cereal, breakfast cereal, more and more glorious breakfast cereal, cake mixes, jars and cans and jams, and what was that on the bottom to the right? A large bottle of Pace Picante sauce which had only expired two years previously! Had I passed out? Did I die? No, I was conscious and the proof was that everything there was water damaged. Some container must have fallen off a ship somewhere and the contents salvage and sold by weight. Everything was sold by weight and it was all dirt cheap! I bought a few things and then hurried to our team meeting which was just about to take place all the way back across town. I entered the meeting slightly late and with great gusto proudly proclaimed my magnificent find. I announced that our ship had sunk three times but by golly it had finally come in! Everyone was very excited and we all ran off to the store to purchase as much as we could carry. Well, everyone was excited except our team leader who had been in the middle of a some profound point when I came in. He just said that he hoped we could one day be as excited about church planting as we were about Lucky Charms. His wife told him to grab his wallet and get moving.
Two weeks later the store was gone. No, we didn't buy everything. The whole lot was packed up and taken away for someone else. We have a saying in Middle Earth that if you want something then you buy it when you see it. No bargain shopping here. Tomorrow it will be gone never to be seen again. Life is like that here. Impermanence is the fabric in which we live.