by Pete Hypki
Andrew is one of the good guys. At least, out here, he is. Andrew is our neighbor to the south, and a father of 11 kids. He’s short, like most of the men out here, maybe 5’5,” and stout, with a thin graying moustache. Two weeks after we moved into the village back in 2011, he disappeared. Rumors trickled into the community about him being seen in one village or another. They all claimed he seemed scared, like he was running from something.
His wife went looking for him, finally consulting a medium down on the coast who pointed her in the right direction. She found him in a village on the coast working in the orchards, but they didn’t return as a family to the village until a few years later. Not until the threat on his life had ended. It turns out Andrew had run for his life – he’d intervened on behalf of someone being threatened, and earned a target on his back for doing so. Not wanting to bring danger to his wife or family, he fled. Later, the men who threatened him were killed in a separate incident, and Andrew returned, presumably having learned a lesson: Sometimes doing the right thing is costly.
Yesterday, Andrew’s wife was visiting with our teammate Rachel. She arrived just before a rainstorm hit; then, as people usually do here, she waited it out, about three hours before the storm subsided. As she visited, she told Rachel that she and her family want to believe like we do. She said they’d gotten rid of their santos – small, wooden figurines of saints that they believe protect their family from sickness and misfortune. She said her kids had read through the draft copy of Genesis that Rachel had given them three times already, cover to cover. She said they were all ready to leave behind their customs and believe what we did.
All except for Andrew. He’s learned before that doing the right thing doesn’t come cheap. Like the wise man who counts the cost before building a tower in Luke 14, Andrew is recognizing that the cost of following Christ will be steep. For him, it will be. Aside from the stigma conversion will bring his family, there’s a very real financial hit, because Andrew, like everyone in this village, provides for his family by growing and selling illegal drugs. He believes that if he chooses to follow Christ, he’ll have to quit growing drugs too. He believes the choice is Christ, or life.
In some sense, he is so right. Following Christ will cost him his life. It will require that he die to self, die to the old ways, die to dependence on a death-ridden system to provide for his family. But the new life that comes, is everlasting life. And I don’t believe it is only experienced when our bodies cease to breathe, but as soon as our hearts believe. There is grace and peace and rest and hope; and how we hope that Andrew believes, and how we pray that God reveals Himself – and that food on the table would be one of the smallest of ways.