Sunday, November 12, 2006

A story of spilt milk

Every week, my incredible, amazing, beautiful wife, Felicity, goes out to a slum area where there is a very large African refugee community. She and the other three or four in the team distribute clothes and food to some individuals and families, squat down on the rough concrete floors and love them, counsel them, pray for them, share the good news with them and become their friends. Here is what happened last week...

"For two weeks we hadn't got down to the bottom of our milk box supply in the little slum house where we store the food that we give out to the refugee families in our area. The room is in a villagy type street, ground floor, no windows, rough brick; definitely no frills, but it's our team's HQ and we're really fond of it. A flu epidemic, travel and overseas visitors had affected the different members of our small team and none of us had got to the bottom of the pile of milk cartons that normally get shifted out pretty quickly. Others had however.

Small things, some very small and jumpy, others slightly larger and furry. Rats, mice, cockroaches, fleas jumping a foot high, indescribable mini-beasts that scamper with long long feelers and millions of teeming ants had got in under the milk cartons and eaten their way in. The milk had run out of the holed cartons, congealed, and all these creatures where having a feast. We unsuspectingly lifted up the bottom box of milk cartons, interrupting the party, and caused a blind panic of leaping fleas, snapping, scurrying, furry things and various other unidentifiable bugs to scramble away beneath our feet and up my legs.

The smell was appalling. The whole scene was overwhelmingly disgusting. And then we had to clean it up.

While we cleaned up we found some uneaten cartons that were covered with little bobbily things. So I happily started wiping them off until I realised they were maggots. You know that thing you do when you're a kid and you are forced to eat rice-pudding or whatever is your most-hated food? And the bile rises in your throat and you want to be sick? Well I nearly did that, but forced it down cos I didn't want to lose face in front of my African friends (or add to the mess!!).

Well we gamely sorted out the sheep from the goats, the untouched un-maggoty milk cartons from the bad ones that sank below the line of despair and cleaned up the good ones as best we could, seeing as we had to borrow water in an oil can as we have none in our house. And then one of the guys picked up the rotten, dripping cardboard boxes filled with the cartons of congealed, maggoty super-revolting milk and took them outside to where there was a rubbish heap on the other side of the road. We knew that other rats and roaches; maybe a stray dog or two would enjoy them later on, hopefully much later on...

Fifteen minutes later we noticed a young woman; slim, beautiful, haunted-looking on top of the heap, eagerly collecting up the cartons and stuffing them into a large cracked paint bucket, "No no!" we cried", "Please don't take these, they are bad and dirty. Here, have some good milk, leave those ones - they will make you sick! Look, see, they are not clean..." Laughing she pushed us away, happily gathering up the maggoty milk, oblivious as she waded barefoot, ankle deep through the rubbish. Soon she was joined by an old, old, thin bent-over little lady.

And here's what makes us First-Worlders feel so ashamed of how much we have, and how much we waste; the milk that we had felt wasn't good enough for our poorest-of-the-poor, on-the-bread-line refugee friends, was an amazing find, pure gold in the eyes of these two women."


familyjames5 said... the pic of the maggots Mark

but....very poignant and humbling end to the tale.

great blog. good to catch up on how you guys are doing

the james bunch x

Desire of all Nations said...

My Dear Brother, For years I have taught that when you hand out food or supplies to someone in need you hold it in two hand and present it to them with you head bowed and you back bent. The only thing that puts us on teh giving line vs. the receiving line is the Grace of God. Well done my friend. Spoken as a man of God. I miss you brother.