A pastor friend of mine just re-posted an entry on his blog about a trip we took four years ago to three Asian countries. We were backpacking through villages, leaving traces of the Gospel and praying for those people we encountered - and many others we will never see.
His post recounts the last leg of our journey, when a six-hour trip turned into 13 after an out-of-season rainstorm flooded the country, turning dusty mountain roads into red-clay mush.
We caught one of the last buses out of town after having lost contact with our American team leaders. When we came to a place where the deluge had overtaken the road, we crossed a torrent of water on a makeshift bamboo bridge, and everyone on our bus crammed into another one on the other side of the river that was almost full already.
On another occasion, we waited an hour for workers to use a tiny chainsaw to cut a massive tree out of our path. Further down the road, we twice had to get out as the driver made impossible turns on mountain ledges, spinning the wheels of the dilapidated school bus that carried us to this country's border. At one point, the water was three- to five-feet deep, and we all applauded as our intrepid driver plowed through, getting us one step closer to home. We had a plane to catch to the U.S., and there was no telling if we'd make it.
I spent about half the journey standing up, holding a bar for support, or sitting on my pack or a bag of produce in the middle aisle. The rest of the time, I shared about one cubic foot with a native woman and her baby. With all the canvas bags of garlic-y crops scattered about and a bus filled to twice its capacity with hot, disgruntled patrons, it's amazing that I ever got to sit, even more amazing that the kids behind me were the only ones losing their lunch.
My friend mentions that at the end of this hellish ride we spent Easter Sunday at the border between two countries, one open to the Gospel, one militantly opposed to it. Did I mention that we had spent three hours the day before detained at the border of another country?
We were talking the other day about how life-changing it was to celebrate the risen Christ in a land where worshiping him is not permitted, where believers don't have the same privilege that we enjoyed in as we sat partaking Easter Communion in that river town. We broke bread from a local shop and sipped mango juice as wine.
"People just can't understand what that was like when you explain it to them," I told him the other day about the impact of the trip.
"You know," he replied, "People in this country just don't get that there are times when you are the Kingdom of God. You're it."
For that reason, the bus ride was worth it, even with all the obstacles along the way. In a way, it was like God leading us in a dramatic crescendo to the resounding final note on our journey. The roadblocks, he seemed to be showing us, were the reason we were there.
Before our trip even began, before we knew all the transportation trouble we'd face, our team had a name. It was the Roadmakers.
See my original blog posts from that trip here.