Yesterday I was with three volunteers, working in a squatter community called Oasis. Believe me when I tell you it is a misnomer to call this place Oasis. Oasis is built right on top of a garbage dump. It smells. Because of the lack of sanitary conditions, it smells even worse than the landfill covered with sand and dirt that it is. I am not looking forward to next summer (January through March down here); the flies, already swarming, will be plague-like in their presence. That's another story.
Before the Bible study I spoke with two ladies. They both asked me to visit their "house" after the study. They called it a house; we would not even call it a shack. These are huts. I was in more than one of them in the past few weeks. The majority have dirt floors; the walls are made of woven straw mats. Or cardboard. Or plywood if they can get a little money together. Some have tin roofs; most are plastic, like you may use in construction. I have to duck to stand up inside any of them; their ceilings are only about 6 feet. They are illuminated with single light bulbs. I was headed into these after the study.
The study was good. The pastor was very encouraging for the small crowd who had gathered. After the study finished, before I could join the ladies who asked for a home visit, a lady approached me. She had a question, one that led to eternal life for her. Ana asked how she could belong to our group. I opened The Book and preached Jesus. She readily identified with her need for salvation and, with tears in her eyes, she prayed to receive the Lord. As I began her immediate follow-up, a leader from the next group of squatters came up to me, drunk and belligerent. He wanted to know what had these people done to merit my personal attention. I made him repeat himself, and afterwards told him what he needed (not wanted) to hear: God loves them; that is why we are there.
I asked him to let me continue my conversation with Ana, our new believer; but he kept interrupting. If it could get worse, I didn't believe it. And maybe things did not get worse. Maybe it was just one of those days.
I was sipping the hot chocolate they served to me while I was speaking with Luis and Ana, alternating between the two in the time I could divert Luis away from us. As I got to the bottom of the cup, I looked down. The styrofoam cup was full of little black spots. I put on my glasses and saw that those spots had even smaller legs. They were bugs! How appropriate! I had a 6 foot tall bug standing before me, interrupting my witness to this new believer. Now I had no telling how many swimming around inside my stomach.
I finally dispensed with Luis and made arrangements for Ana's discipleship. Now it was time to visit the two ladies' homes. I entered these homes with a little reluctance. They know I live better than they do; it's embarrassing for them for The Gringo to visit. But I was there at their request. We prayed, we talked, and we tried to listen to the Holy Spirit. We tried to encourage these broken women to walk with the Lord Jesus, to let him have first place in their lives.
By now it was dark. You don't want to spend much time in Oasis after dark. It's not safe. And it had been dark for close to an hour. We finally got away, bugs and all. But we all left a part of our heart in Oasis.
And so went another day at a not-so-typical Oasis, somewhere in South America.