I haven’t slept much in the last few days. At least since sometime last week, I feel like I’ve been in this caffeine-induced haze that hasn’t left much room for rest. It’s the best kind of restless I could imagine, but restlessness is just a fast track to exhaustion. As I walked home tonight after a run for some stress-related groceries (chocolate and Diet Coke), my eyes started to well up. I miss home. I thought of saying goodbye to my mom, my brother at the airport, hugging my sisters and littlest brother, kissing their little cheeks as I tried to hold back tears. Goodbyes make me weepy. I miss them, I thought.
Saturday night, one of my friends here and I went out. Just to see a movie at a local church, maybe go into town after. The Bible Society here in Norway was celebrating its 200 year anniversary so they were reading the Bible out into the main shopping street here in Kristiansand. The movie ended around 10, so we headed downtown to go support the reading and maybe talk to some people. It was quiet, just one or two people standing around the mic. So my friend and I started to walk down the street. We make it about two blocks and all of the sudden, my friend turns around and starts to talk to this woman standing on the corner in front of one of the convenience stores on the corner . Her name was Marisa* and we found out she was from Nigeria, and had been in Norway for a little while. She thought it was too cold, and went to church every week when she was home, in France, we found out. My friend offered to grab her some food, or a coffee. Within a few minutes, a drunk guy wandered up and approached me and my friend. My friend and this man talked quickly in Norwegian and I watched Marisa wander back and forth in the street. My friend finishes talking to this guy, and we start to walk back in the direction of her car.
“Those are the prostitutes here. Did you know that?” she said.
I began to piece together in my head the conversation we had just had with this woman, the young guys that had walked by shouting something gross. There’s just a posture and a tone you come to recognize no matter the language. It made sense now.
“I was wondering, but I had no idea.”
We walked a little further up the block, then turned back around and approached another woman named Elena*, also from Nigeria. We talked to her about Africa, and told her we might be going to the Congo in January (more details there, coming soon). She told us we needed to go to “her country”, to Nigeria. Her and I talked in broken Spanish, she had lived in Spain for 15 or 20 years. Just a sentence or two. I mentioned how my friend had been talking about a trip to Spain, for the beach. She told us how warm it was, that we would love it. Norway was too cold. We asked if we could pray for her, and asked if there was anything specific:
“A long life—and happiness.”
She ducked us into a nearby side street and I prayed for joy, and peace, and a long life full of joy. My friend asked her again if she wanted something, she had told us “no” a couple of times, but my friend joyfully insisted.
“Well, if you wanted to come by later, I love chicken nuggets.”
We laughed with her there in the middle of this street, about Spain and Norway, and chicken nuggets.
We talked with one more girl, she looked younger than the rest to me. Her name was Mary* and she didn’t look more than my or my friends age. She had gorgeous, long braided hair pulled back in a wrap. As we chatted, we also found out she was from Nigeria and had only been here two weeks. She was less chatty than the other two women we had talked to. We asked her if she wanted anything and when she said no, we walked away. On our way back through, we met the brother of one of the women we had talked to. He only spoke in Norwegian, so him and Kristin chatted about the Congo, and malaria, and she invited him to the same prayer house we had invited the women to. Pretty soon they crowded around us insisting that he should go, he smoked too much, he needed to get himself clean, it wasn’t holy to smoke. We laughed and joked and told them we’d be right back.
My friend and I went to the McDonald’s down the street and next thing I know, she’s ordered 2 bags full of french fries, cheeseburgers, and some chicken nuggets for Elena. We brought them back to them and she opened the bag right up and laughed and began to eat. It was about midnight when we finally headed home. I didn’t sleep hardly at all that night.
Why do I talk about this in connection with missing my family? Because they’re the reason this matters too. I imagined these women as little girls, I wondered if the had a favorite toy, or a blanket they slept with, maybe a hedgie (like my littlest brother) or something that they snuggled with as they fell asleep. A mom, a dad, a big brother. Baby feet. They had teeny tiny little baby toes once. I wonder if they had a mom, or a big sister that marveled over them, at the tiny little toes and fingernails. It was one of those moments where the clarity of your very calling comes into focus. I do this for them.
I thought I was just here to study the bible. And I am. But the very breath of the bible is freedom, is a people called out from slavery, to bless and be blessed. To bring humanity back to the very God that made them to know, and be known, to love and be loved. To the loving father, standing on the porch, calling his children back to safety, back home. A God among the nations, calling us to meet him there, calling us to radical, risky love.
I do this to learn the way God’s heart beats for his children that aren’t yet home because his heart hasn’t changed towards us. Ever. Not in all of history. His heart is come close, come close, come close, come home.
I do this so my little brothers and sisters can live in a world that is one step closer to justice, one step back toward Eden. I do this so every little one like them can snuggle up with their “hedgies” and “blankies” and sleep sound, no fear. So every woman can know she is beloved, and equal, and valuable, and bound for amazing things. So we ask God and we devour what he says, because like it has and it will for all of eternity, it changes everything. It drives hearts to reckless love, reckless redemption, reckless rescue. It drives us to adopt, to foster, to heal the sick, to set the captives free, to go to the nations and proclaim the good news: there’s room for you. There is always room at the table for you, and there’s always enough.
It drives us to buy some chicken nuggets.
*names changed out of respect to privacy