Last week I was in Fair Havens for a conference. It was a really great conference and I hope to have some of the things I learned from there up on a post soon. The week before I left for the conference I went down to the village of Pure with Eormer. We had been invited by a friend to look in on the village and meet with the local mayor. It seems that the village has no water and they want us to help out. One of the many difficult lessons I am learning is to go where we are invited. It just seems that every time I force my way in somewhere we end up hitting a brick wall but when we pray and seek the Lord invitations come our way- seemingly out of nowhere- and we have a much better situation to share in.
As we arrived in the little village we were met by the Mayor and he seemed like a nice enough guy. It was obvious to me that this was a typical village situation here in Gondor: The Mayor was very secular and the villagers were very religious. I don't know why this seems to always be the case, it just is. We sat down and and drank tea and discussed the problem and the potential project together. It seems that this village has never had water but has always had to walk a couple of kilometers down the road to a neighboring village to get water. Now, I have been here long enough to know this is not the whole truth. The truth is that there is irrigation water that flows in a ditch along the edge of a nearby field and nine times out of ten the young girls going after water in the morning will take a short cut there and use that water rather than make the hike up the hill. This of course, results in a multitude of water born diseases and a very high infant mortality rate. One of my favorite sayings is 'Even though you know they are exaggerating to get your favor, the truth is worse!' So, what was the solution? The village up the hill had a big beautiful natural spring and we could tap that and pipe it down about three kilometers to this village. Sounds good, but again I have been around this block before. All natural springs in this country are holy places. There are often mullahs there offering prayer to pilgrims and very often they don't like their holy places messed up with a water project. So I asked, 'Is there anything special about the spring?' 'Oh Yes!' came the reply. 'The water is so holy that there are fish up in a pond around the spring and we can't eat them.' But of course, they will give permission for the water project, 'It is all sorted.' Maybe. So, the Mayor asks, 'What shall we do?' I said that we should pray and then go and see the spring. Instantly, Eomer and I saw the anxiety in his face. Pray? Secular mayor types don't know much about prayer even though in their culture they should do this every time they sit down, and get up from the table with guests. Eomer said, 'Strider speaks our language well. He can pray for us.' Relief washed over his face and I prayed. As I was praying God suddenly said to me, 'Don't end the prayer 'in Jesus name'. I usually do say this and it is never offensive since I am a westerner and they expect me to be a Christian. But I heard and obeyed. So, I ended my prayer with a phrase that many believers here in Gondor end their prayers with, 'in the full power of God's name, amen'. This phrase means the same as 'in Jesus name' for the believers but is not offensive to any Muslims present. I ended the prayer and we got up and left to go up to the spring.
I was amazed when we got to the spring. Here was a beautiful spot at the foot of a high mountain and water was pouring out of the base of the cliff and tumbling down in three different directions. Question number one for these kinds of projects was answered, 'Yes, there is enough water!' Question two: Will they let us cap some of this spring and pipe the water away. There was in fact, a mullah at the spring and he came over and offered us his encouragement. 'Yes, there is plenty of water and you will do no damage if you pipe some away. It will be a good deed for the village with no water.' That's good news. Then the Mullah offered to chant a surah of the Koran and pray for us. I never really know what to do when this happens. Everyone there knelt down but I just stood quietly and respectfully with my hands behind my back. I was thinking, 'Ok, when he prays will I raise my hands and say, 'Amen' with everyone else or will I not? Sometimes I do this out of respect but I always hate to amen a prayer that I usually do not understand- it is usually in at least half Arabic- and if I do understand it I usually do not agree with it- 'Lord, make us all rich' is a common refrain. So, as I stood there wondering what I should do the Mayor stepped in just as the surah of the Koran was finished and said, 'Hey, this guy is a God-fearer and he speaks well, let him pray.' I was shocked. This had never happened before. The mullah looked at me and nodded. I prayed for God to have mercy on the local villagers so that they could learn His ways and walk in His truths. Everyone said, 'Amen' and Eomer and I walked away. About 15 people heard me pray that prayer and it never would have happened had I not prayed sensitively in the Mayor's house. Eomer and I will go up again this next week to further the water project. But more important we will start telling the Story to see where God is at work and to determine why He wanted me to be recognized as an authoritative God-fearer on my first day there. I think it means God is moving in that village and He just might use Eomer and I to reap where we have not sown and gain a harvest for the Kingdom. Pray to that end for us.