Having been raised as the daughter of missionary parents, I have had the privilege of visiting some small Andean churches in the mountain hamlets of Peru. One such occasion left a profound impact on me and I still remember it to this day. The church had a dirt floor and adobe walls. A beautiful vase of lilies from one of the local villagers adorned the front of the church. The congregants were simple folk, peasants and farmers. They were dressed in typical Andean garb; men in their ponchos, women in their long skirts with their babies nestled piggy-back on their shoulders. The preaching was simple, and the music, although lacking any great talent or appeal, was enjoyed with great gusto, love and sincerity of heart. Almost everyone had walked some miles over rugged roads or stony trails to attend the meeting.
At the end of the church service I found myself outside where I casually entered into conversation with an elderly campesino, a peasant farmer. I don’t remember any particular details of what we shared, but I do recall standing there, watching him as he walked away into the misty distance of a mountain trail. I will never forget the feeling I experienced of having stood in the presence of greatness. It certainly had nothing to do with the man’s educational status, fine clothing or great wealth. I do remember his sweetness of soul, his gentle spirit, his contentment with his lot in life, his calm demeanor and his peaceful countenance. I remember his dusty, sandaled feet, and I am reminded of the root meaning of the word “humble” – hummus; earth, clay. His feet were covered in hummus and he was cloaked in humility. No wonder I have never forgotten him.
In the Holy Scriptures we read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. They were caked in hummus, as well, but in the very loving act of washing from the Master’s hands, the dirt and filth were transformed to a spiritual hummus of the heart. From that day on, anyone near them would sense a presence of greatness, not of their own, but of having been in the presence of the humble Son of God.
In retrospect, looking back on my life as a missionary kid, I realize how fortunate, how privileged, my family and I were to share some of those dusty Andean trails with the beautiful people of Peru. They were not foreigners to us, nor did they look on us as such. We called them brothers and sisters, hermanos and hermanas. They were family. Even in their poverty or lack, they were genuinely hospitable and loved sharing their food.
As I read and reread, peruse and study the rough drafts of my book, over and over, I pray to God that I will do justice in telling the story of these beautiful, humble people, and how they so profoundly impacted my life, and the lives of my family.
He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8