Saturday, July 9, 2011

On clean hands and dirty feet.

The missionary said that if the villagers name you, you accept the name. Not only does accepting their acceptance demonstrate humility, but for the missionaries also this helps preserve anonymity in the event of immigration raids on the village. A frequent thing. Just last week a teacher and a TA were taken into detention, which technically means 90 days in custody then deportation. But the police, of course, accepted bribes for their release.

Yesterday under the high noonday sun in a slumville--the poorest of our kampungs, a group of seven young girls of varying ages no older than nine or so were laughing and walking with me. I tried asking their (very long) names, shaking hands, telling them mine when the tallest among them took my hand and suddenly dropped to the ground and bending her forehead to my feet called me Maganda, which the other girls approved with nods and smiles, What, don't do that, I wanted to say, I froze. Quick what do I do, stoop down with her? Pull her up? But it was over before my shock was and so I did not carry through a response in time.

My shoes are disgusting. Maybe my name means Smelly or Poopy. I don't know, but I do know from that silly Urbana 09 song that Magdan in Arabic means glory maybe they're cognates somehow? This is a predominantly Muslim community after all. The only English they were saying to me was hello and thank you. Not a bad choice of first and only two words to learn in a language, I think.

I looked at their feet.
Some were crusty and dirty, bare and bleeding.
Would I wash them? Wouldn't He?

Lord, grant me a pure heart to love like you do. Give me clean hands for their dirty feet.


  1. i like this very much. also love you using words like "kampung" =)
    Maganda -- i like that too.