Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The detail is what I cannot show to you in a photo.
The detail is what I cannot impart to you in a short-term visit.
The detail is what I cannot express to you in a story.
The detail is what makes the blur of this city – worth staying and worth praying and worth sharing.
The woman who confronts you with her very presence, with her hands outstretched and her face weathered. She stands knocking at the window and begging for coins. She embodies an experience, new and confusing, and I remember looking at her with fresh, wide eyes.
Now, I am not sure how to tell her story, how to describe her faded dress and her tired shuffle because she is more than any woman at any window. She is a real woman at my window – and I am burdened with the knowledge that I might be your only window to see her.
This one particular woman has 4 children at home (wherever that is) and her youngest is named Aisyah. Aisyah is a gorgeous 6 month old little girl with big round brown eyes. Aisyah stays most of the day strapped to her mum’s body, covered under the fabric to protect her from car fumes and the heat of sun. Her mother begs for money along with another older woman, who always limps from a sore foot and who laughs at my accent and my ‘fancy’ words. These two women call me, Adik (younger sibling) they think it’s crazy that I moved here from Australia, they are frightened to be caught out in the rain and they are in desperate need of a saviour.
I remember first seeing the children on the roadsides, the old woman, mothers with babies and the Grandmothers. Also there are the men who play guitar or those who sell newspapers. There are the disabled and the disfigured, who come to my window and ask me for coins. I remember seeing them with fresh eyes and feeling overwhelmed.
I remember considering their lives from a humanitarian perspective, a theological perspective, a child’s perspective, a mother’s perspective… and not knowing how to answer to this need on the other side of my tinted glass. I remember looking to my Hoosband to see what he did, and to teammates and to other people on the streets.
I am no more an expert now; though living here gives me the chance to begin seeing the details.
I get to see them every day, these same faces.
Every now and then, I have a moment longer to ask them how they are going; to find out that Aisyah has a fever and I have the chance to go back with some Panadol to share with her mum.
I can notice the kids playing and laughing on the grass by the trees – and I can recognise them as the same from the streets. They are all sharing the little milk drink I gave one of them. I get to notice that amid the traffic.
There, in the everyday, begins to be the details.
And when I loosen my death-grip on the steering wheel (to ease my white knuckles) I can look up from the hectic streets to see mountains.
Mountains that rise up and declare the glory of their creator, God, in this city.
There begins to be detail in these places and in this people.
I can see the details that make up the haze and I see beauty.
There begins ways to speak in to the detail – to what is beautiful in this city.
I see a constant tide of people just sitting around on wooden benches.
They sit together or a lone man will lay stretched out on the bamboo slats, by the side of the busy road. Seriously! There seems to always be a man on a bench or a woman with a baby or an older woman with a bag of groceries… just passing time, with nowhere to be. At all times of the day they sit together, in these eating-shacks with dirt floors, narrow wooden tables, plastic stool and canvas roofs… I get to see them.
There are the many vibrant colours of fading paint and I recognise the conversation of neighbours who are helping neighbours. These same men who are so content in their ‘sitting’ – leap eagerly in to action to help change a flat tyre (yep…that’d be mine) and they casually laugh with each other as they work in the hot sun to save this helpless white female… from herself.
There are layers of peeling paint on the wooden frame which friends lend to friends to help bring in extra income.
There is the local security guard who sits at his post – day in and day out – inexplicably joyous in his monotonous work. I have never driven past him without enjoying an enthusiastic wave to welcome me home.
There are countless groups of women who open their gatherings to my foreign-looking face and quickly invite me into their communities. They swiftly excuse all my (many) mistakes and they offer me no end of advice or help.
Yes, the streets are claustrophobic and cluttered – but these are details whizzing past. The abundance of patterns and textures and colours that overcrowd the fabric shop also overshadow the spot where woman gather to sit, laugh and chat. The men drink glasses of sweet, black coffee and watch the traffic go by. There is a little girl happily helping her younger brother to wash his hands and feet in a small plastic tub of water.
At the market, the various sellers gradually get used to the pale colour of my skin and I grow confident to navigate the narrow pathways. I grow comfortable with the dusty road and busy intersection and crowded market stalls. Here, the cries (and points) of ‘foriegner, foreigner!’ decrease as the cries of familiar people begin calling my name. There are the patient market-sellers who let my children practise local words without being mocked or overwhelmed.
Rows of Becaks (bicycle-ridden seats) stand waiting in the sun… behind them are men lounging in the shade and joking with their colleagues. It won’t matter how much money they make that day, they will come back and joke tomorrow… they will make fried banana for their friends in the evenings and would give the first serve of the best of the meal to me -if I choose to call in unannounced to their home.
The differences in the street that I live on now, from those which were home in Australia, are numerous.
The differences are wide and obvious as well as small and (at first glance) insignificant.
The stress of living this life, is often in the details.
In the difference between what locals here mean by saying ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables. The new meaning behind words like, ‘soon,’ ‘not far away’ and ‘good quality’. The new brands of toothpaste with weird ingredients, the lack of accurate food-labeling and the different safety standards.
The details and nuances of language or even just how to politely drink a drink.
The details that remind us we have travelled and set up home in a place where we are not at home.
The details can make the day long and the homesickness acute.
But the details are also where the blur gets vivid.
Where the sentence goes from being said right – to expressing what I wanted to say.
The details are where it gets real… where we meet the people of an ‘ unreached people group’.
The detail is real interesting and heart-breaking.
It is funny and beautiful, encouraging and uplifting.
It is details which make this beautiful city my home, and these people my friends.
It is also the details which keep me here.
The difference between a little g and the big G when writing the word, God.
The difference between those working towards a (basically) unobtainable salvation – and me having it provided as an act of grace and assured to me.
The difference between a god who made some creatures and the Creator who knew me in my mother’s womb.
The difference between a volatile god who rules capriciously and the unchangeable God of Love, who reigns with perfect wisdom and justice.
The details of a prophet who died in his sin, and the life of a perfect sacrificial lamb which was given freely for mine.
There is a difference between what my Muslim friend means when they think of heaven and what I mean.
A difference is in the detailed meaning of Sin
the meaning of forgiveness and atonement and prayer
And when I speak into this world,
with its details that frustrate me, enthrall me, interest me and delight me.
I ALWAYS speak with one detail on the tip of my tounge;
I speak truth.
I speak life.
Because I speak Jesus… who is the Only Way.
It is a detail, not to be missed.
or under appreciated