Thursday, May 29, 2008

A whole village

"It takes a village..."--isn't that how the saying goes? The song? "...a whole village to raise a child." I've heard the African Children's Choir singing this song. Oh wait a second, I'm going to cue them up on my computer and listen while I write this (isn't technology great?). Such wisdom tells us we're all involved the growing up of our families. But think of real villages, the ones of this song, the ones featuring huts with no glass in their windows, or solid roofs. Remote villages where more life is lived under the sky than under roofs, and doors don't close with locks and bolts, if there are doors at all. Living in each other's front yards, so to speak.

Growing up their children is a community job in such places. Not done behind closed doors, in front of such things as TVs, video games, computers. Children in these villages have no such luxuries. In fact, without wells, these children don't even have schools. Funny, that, huh? But if a child has to walk miles a day to the nearest dirty well to collect buckets of water, there's no time for anything else. No school, no play, nothing. Just carrying water. Chattering together as they walk. Making up stories along the way. I can imagine that. I think there's always time for imagination, even when there's time for little else. Still, it takes a whole village for the water-gathering, too.

And it takes a whole village for the planting of food. Together. Sometimes folks have their own farms, but often villages have collective fields. They're in this life together. Family. And it's the women who do the planting, you know. It's not men's work. Tell that to the farmers you know in the states who work from dawn to midnight. African men see it differently. And the women do the water-work as well. Come to think of it, the women do most of the physical labor...as far as I can tell. But maybe I have it wrong. Anyway, whoever does it, it's done together. Not me and mine, only on my property, and good luck to you. And if someone new comes to the village? Welcome, join us, become part of us. We'll feed you from our little, and put up a house for you over there, if there isn't an empty one left by someone who went to the city. It takes a full village.

A village that one can become a part of. Born into, marry into, or wander into, I think. Or, in the case of my friends' church, adopt. I was thinking about how one village--their church--can become part of another village. A church is like a village, isn't it? And by adopting this specific village, Diagle, Senegal, this church is saying, "We're going to live our lives in the front yard with you." Plant with you, fetch water with you, help raise your children, sit in your doorways and eat with you. All the things it means to be a village together. Adoption--becoming as truly part of this people, as if they'd been born there. Not just the big, different, know-it-all Americans. Probably more like the just-born-little-brothers-and-sisters who have much to learn about what life is like in this place, with this new family, in this new home. It will take a whole village to raise this new child--this church--to know, become part of it. Giving on both sides. Adoption does involve both sides, doesn't it?

It's a breath-taking challenge, don't you think? Becoming part of someone--someones--so different than oneself. I am excited, from my tree-lined, rain drenched world, to see what becomes of all of them--the church and the Diaglers-- in the process. There is change in the wind. God is in it-- creating a whole village between them!

But it leads me to wonder what I/we can learn, even here from living life in the village. We come into our homes, shut the doors, and breathe a sigh of relief. Home, free, able to take off the cares of the day and relax. But what if we lived that way--that open, that honest, that true to God--in front of people. What if our public selves and our private selves had no distinctions? What if you lived a seamless life, so that everything you did--whether at home or at work, or at play, was about Christ? Always in the village. Isn't this what it means to "live lives worthy of the gospel and please Him in every way?"

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