As we stood at the entrance of the village, our eyes traced the road that curved upward to the left. On each side stood houses with the same distinctive design. They were built on stilts with tightly thatched roofs. There were no windows as we would think of them -- instead of framed glass, the eaves created an overhang with an open space all the way around the house. They looked like drawings I have seen of Noah's ark.
Taking our first steps through the colorful pillars that marked the entrance to the village, we stopped to pray and to identify how we were feeling inside. Were we just nervous and anxious, or were we sensing the spiritual darkness and bondage that was the trademark of this people?
We began praying for discernment and sensitivity to the Spirit of God's leading. This was the first day of our "drops." If we were caught, we would be detained, our visas marked, and we would be shipped back to the U.S on the first available flight. Religious "propaganda" is absolutely forbidden in this country. Our minds also churned over the seriousness of being cut off from the rest of the team scattered throughout the countryside. It could be a couple of days before they figured out what happened.
We started up the gradual incline toward the back of the village; we would start there and distribute the gospel on the way back out. Once past the houses, we came upon acres and acres of terraced rice fields. We stopped and silently took in the simple beauty and the cleverly designed flow of water from one field to another. I also saw my first water buffalo up close and personal! I smiled when I realized his stall would be the first place I would make a drop.
At the back of the village we came across an equal amount of men and women -- about 20 -- working the fields. For the first time in my life I was seeing the unreached ethnic group we had been praying for and had traveled over 10000 miles to bring the message of Christ to.
I can't quite find the words to explain how I felt.
The women were strikingly beautiful, with tiny features -- most were no more than 5 feet tall. They wore leggings, but had bright colored cloth wrapped and draped around them. Many of them had their teeth capped in gold. They were lined up across the flooded fields transplanting rice into neat rows -- backbreaking work -- all the while looking altogether elegant and feminine. As I tried to take a picture, they turned and saw us. As if on cue, they all became playful, motioning us toward them. They were trying to get us to wade into the rice fields and help them plant. In fact, they taunted us! One of them would say something to the others and then they would all laugh.
The men stood silently -- expressionless -- off to our right, leaning on their hoes.
What a contrast between the sexes...