So lately I’ve found myself on edge. I feel like I’m being stalked…by mosquitoes. Although I’m sure they’re acting purely instinctually, it seems a bit more intentional at times. In a room full of people, I will be bitten tenfold. Right now, I feel like I’m in the middle of an all-out war against these blood suckers. They are out in full force here. It’s so bad that I’ve mostly stopped counting the bites. And I’ve even tried using the very poisonous spray packed full of DEET. And then some days, I never put on any spray and never get bitten. It would seem that on those days when they are conducting tactical maneuvers, I don’t have a chance. For example, one day, five minutes after spraying I watched a mosquito fly around and look for a spot that was less coated. He proceeded to find a spot under my arm behind my elbow. I also get bitten through clothing…my left back hip is a favorite spot. Our house is also camouflage heaven for bugs since the dark green tile hides everything.
So I promise this is going somewhere other than me just being a open blood bar for mosquitoes… one more quick point…
The problem is that there’s more to most mosquitoes than just the resulting pink calamine lotion drizzled haphazardly over a treasure map of itchy bite marks. Mosquitoes love to carry fun, tropical diseases. Where there’s not malaria, chikigunya or dengue fever could be lurking underneath damp clothing or trying to eat old banana chunks off of Finns high chair. I’m scared out of my wits sometimes. The likelihood of me getting one of these diseases seems inevitable, it’s only a matter of time. Unless I douse myself in DEET everyday and wear body armor, I’m vulnerable.
But the truth is, I can’t live like that. I can’t live looking over my shoulder, wondering if my peripheral just registered the flight pattern of a mosquito or if it was just one of those floaty things in my eyes. And then I realized paranoia of sickness and the unknown was keeping me in chains. And then the thoughts unfolded a little more…
I began to wonder if that same tightness of breath, the frantic swinging of the electric racket, the endless sprays and creams, and the perpetual thought of whether or not this bite was “the one” had parallel emotions to that of an animist. I began to wonder if that’s what it’s like to exist daily in a world where the spirits rule and reign and you must play the game of avoiding, pleasing, or battling with them. That must be what it’s like to feel hunted and haunted.
We live in a decent sized city, lots of modern mixed with plenty of old cultural traditions. As our ability to understand language increases, a whole other world starts to rise to the surface. I have begun to realize that the spirit world is indeed a very intricate part of people’s lives, much more so that I initially thought. Religious affiliation only seems to play a partial role.
Someone recently explained that tradition says that when a baby is Finn’s age and cries unexpectedly or intensely (which he just started doing), it’s because the child is now able to sense if something is going on in the neighborhood and possibly see things that we can’t see, like spirits. Not gonna lie, it creeped me out just a little. I recall being told that the umbilical cord stump was able to calm Finn if he needed a friend while we traveled (probably being connected to the plasenta who was the twin believed to have given his life for Finn). Children are supposedly brought inside around the hour of dusk when spirits are known to become active. There’s also the sound of a particular bird that means that a spirit is near and someone will soon die. Or if Finn’s teeth had come in early, that meant the placenta wasn’t buried deep enough.
Usually, I’m tempted to snicker and wonder how in the world those things worked their way into the child development books. But really these hint toward the worldview underneath–the true beliefs that are entrenched in the hearts of the people. Fear is real. These are not just a bunch of shocking, juicy details that are fun to stumble upon or share on a blog. It’s a reality. I must become a diligent student of culture if I am to begin to understand the world around me through different eyes. If I am ever to be an effective minister, I must take notice, even in the here and now, before we head to our final ministry destination.
Our Exaulted Teacher once again reminded me that He is more than able to use even the smallest blood-sucking creature to prompt all sorts of thoughts toward diligence, ministry, and the importance of ministering at the heart level.