I tripped on the rocky path and instinctively reached out my arms, taking hold of the stranger’s shoulders inches in front of me. I scanned the busting crowd form left to right . The shoppers were kept tightly together on the narrow dirt road, which was lined by untreated wooden shacks and aggressive vendors – a developing country’s version of a New York subway.
The feeling of stiff feathers brushing against my right arm caught my attention. I twisted as a rushed woman slid past me. In her hand she gripped the scrawny ankles of a limp chicken that dangled next to her hip.
She was driving through the human sea. The vendor she had left stood facing the mass of potential consumers. He suggested one of his offering straight out in front of him, arm stretching straight and stiff with pride. Behind him clucked several fidgeting chickens in metal cages. Above him hung a pair of bald, headless chicken bodies. They remained motionless above the vendor’s head, suspended by string tied to the shanty’s wooden frame.
Bony fingers dug into my left shoulder. Jumping, I turned to stand nearly nose-to-nose with a ratty-hair girl with a mud-pained face. Her eyes fixed to mine, and her lips tightened around a green plastic flue. She blew recklessly and forcefully, as if she were tightly squeezed and deflated. Her lanky fingers danced across the holes to an out-of-tune disharmony.
With shove from behind, I stumbled another inch forward and broke eye contact, only to be urgently approached by two female sales partners.
“Samaki!” The exclaimed excited. One woman gripped a flat, square wooden board. On top lay a freshly dismantled fish. She promptly lifted it up to my eyes so I could get a better look at product. The head of the creature’s remains stood propped up, eyes starring into mine and mouth gaping.
“Samaki!” Her partner urged with a side smile. She framed her small hands around the tray of fish slaughter salad like Vanna White. Gaining no results, she tapped her fingertip lightly against my sports watch and lifted her eyebrows. With a cunning smile, the woman turned to her friend, and they nodded like bobble heads in unison.
Their smiles grew wider and brighter as they “ooed” and “ahed,” pointing back and forth between my wrist wear and the unappetizing grocery item. We stepped side to side like synchronized ballroom dancers before I managed to continue around them.
From left and right husbands and wives bobbed homegrown potatoes in their hands. Their gibberish was speedy and desperate. Some shook plastic bags of dried rice, which jumped and and caught the ears of the buyers listening for the grainy rap. I took several minuscule steps close until appearing before a ledge lined with brown potatoes and a young man eager for a trade.
Earlier this semester I participated in the Global Missions Experience (GME) through Harding University. This was a week-long retreat at a near-by camp where hundreds of students, missionaries and mission-interested people gathered to learn more about world missions and grow in faith.
The highlight of the weekend was experiencing a developing-country market simulation where we were given a specific amount of paper money to purchase and barter for food then prepare it for ourselves. Luckily, the group I was a part of knew how to build a fire. We boiled rice, carrots and sliced potatoes, then shared one tomato between several of us. The meal was bland, but it was sprinkled with the taste of achievement.
A large part of the camp is used by Harding to train missionaries, and it has various living areas designed like several parts of the world like Africa, Asia, Central America and North America. Participants of the event were assigned either a region in the village or a camp cabin to stay in for the weekend. I was placed in the African refugee camp, farthest away from all of the retreat events. And we stayed in tents made of white tarp. And it was incredible.
I was blessed to learn and grow alongside some of my best friends and meet more mission-minded people. I was inspired by domestic and foreign missionaries, and I couldn’t help but feel nervous in the belief that one day I might be one, too.
The last night of GME my friends and I slept outside under the night sky. While gazing at the overwhelming mass of stars in the open field of the refugee camp, I felt an odd sense of belonging. I felt comfortable here. I absorbed every minute of inspirational classes, worship, and living in a tarp with no cell service. I felt at home, and I was overjoyed with an indescribable sense of peace and excitement.
It’s interesting how God plants desire for His will in our hearts. Since high school I have had a dream of serving abroad, but it wasn’t until this past year when God taught me about making disciples, which is what He calls everyone to do. The only thing in life that truly matters is Loving God and showing it by following His command of making disciples. If you truly love the Lord and love those around you, you would want nothing more desperately than for them to know the Gospel. It’s an everyday, lifelong task, and it should be all-consuming.
And it’s hard.
Some people are called to make disciples overseas, and some are meant to stay in their country, but all are called to reach out. And for me, I am excited about walking through overcrowded markets, eating bland rice, sleeping outside under the stars and living without cell service.
After all, “if those who want to go don’t, who will?”
For more information about GME and what it was like, click here.