Brad and I crossed the river and started back in the direction from which we had come. Soon we made a right turn through a densely settled village. The atmosphere of this village was different; it seemed that we were invisible. The people we passed gave no indication they recognized our presence. We continued on and turned left as the trail took an upward slope.
We heard the temple before we saw it.
From a higher elevation somewhere out in front of us came an eerie sound -- rhythmic chanting syncopated by drum beats. The effect was chilling. We worked our way toward the sound. After a few minutes, we turned a corner and found its origin. Directly above us loomed an ornate temple. To the right, we could see a group of young men circling a giant drum. As if in a trance, they struck the drum in unison and chanted a prayer.
We were at the foot of a long set of stairs. We stopped and conferred with each other and God as to whether we should proceed up to the temple. God gave us a green light. We started up the stairs at a pace which conveyed respect; our ascent never drew a glance or turn of the head from any of the devotees.
Soon we had to make another decision: would we enter the temple or stay outside? Once again, we conferred with one another and with God. Once again, we sensed that we should proceed.
Inside the temple, the walls were painted with scenes intended to tell a story. I remember many scenes of water, horses, warriors, and violence. Toward the front stood an altar decorated with flags and colorful displays.
For the first time on our mission, I felt incredibly distressed by what I saw. A mixture of sadness and indignation settled over me. I scanned the murals one more time, prayed against all the temple stood for, tucked the gospel among the prayer flags on the altar, turned, and walked away.
It seemed like so little against such darkness.