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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quite Alone in the World

"It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted. The charm of adventure sweetens the sensation, the glow of pride warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me became predominant..."

So says Jane Eyre, as she arrives in Millcote, on her way to Thornfield, thinking that someone would be there to meet her, but finding that not to be the case, at least for a few frightful moments.

Good literature powerfully resonates in part because the characters have feelings or experiences that we all recognize. Oh, how I recognized this feeling!

As a young girl of twenty-one, I embarked on a journey alone, traveling from the middle of America to Nairobi, Kenya in order to spend the summer with my parents and sister, who lived in Nairobi at the time. Although they called Africa their home, I was an American college student headed off on my first trip to the continent. All was well and I had an uneventful trip over the ocean and reunited with my family in Kenya, never really feeling quite alone, even as I braved a long layover at Heathrow.

After a time in Nairobi, my family arranged for me to take a trip to visit some missionaries who lived in a very remote part of Zaire. I would travel on an MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) flight into the jungle, spend a week or so with a few different missionaries in the village, then travel back to Kenya with several missionary families who were scheduled to come to Nairobi for meetings. I was eager for the adventure.

On the flight to Zaire, I sat next to the pilot in the small prop plane, and peered out the window at the terrain below. We first made a stop in Bunia, where I went through customs--which was essentially a pathetic building next to a small airstrip, at least in my memory. African men with machine guns slung over their shoulders seemed to be everywhere I had no inkling that in a few years a terrible and horrible civil war would devastate Zaire (now Congo) and that very place would not be safe at all. Before long I was back in the plane, next to the missionary-pilot, and on my way again. The jungle below us seemed endless, and I was surprised to see wisps of smoke curling up from countless spots across the greenness, each one a signal that there were people living there at that spot, cooking their food or burning their brush.

The pilot taking me to my destination in the jungle was only dropping me off. He had other stops to make and I don't remember details now, but he probably would be back in Kenya that night. As we neared the village, he talked on the radio, but I couldn't hear even his side of the conversation. Then he turned and told me the news.

 As nearly as he could tell, there wasn't anyone expecting me at the tiny airport in Isiro where we were about to land. He didn't know where the family was that I was visiting, but word on the radio was that there was no one at the airport to receive his passenger--me! In spite of this, the pilot had to continue on with his itinerary. 

And this is the moment that sticks with me stronger than almost anything else in my week-long visit. 

"Cut adrift from any connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has just quitted." 

We landed and the pilot walked me into the small airport building. Details are lost to me now, but another American showed up for me and took me to the home of the missionaries who were my hosts. Thankfully, the moment of being cut adrift was just that, only a moment. The pilot took off again, and a gracious woman welcomed me and took me to the home of the family I was visiting. 

Probably everyone who reads Jane Eyre has their own moment of recognition when they read that passage. This was mine.

(Photo found in Google Earth, taken about ten years after I was there.)

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