Let me stop for a moment and tell you about the Liberian hand shake. Normally, they grab the hand in a regular handshake like we would do, next grab the thumb part with the whole hand (both people do all of these things) then back to the regular handshake then the middle finger and thumb slide down to meet and snap. This is the full handshake and I think (I’m not sure but it seemed to me) they normally don’t do it that way with the women. The abbreviated handshake is the normal handshake then the middle finger and thumb slide down to the other person’s middle finger and it ends in a snap. Sometimes it doesn’t snap but when both people have really sweaty hands they can get a very loud and satisfying snap! The idea is to sweat as much as possible in your hands! LOL! All the women and men shook my hand with the abbreviated handshake and not once did anyone do the other with me…which was fine with me. What really got me, though, was that most white people I shook hands with didn’t do it so my hand seemed to not know what to do next! Hahaha! Kind of embarrassing but you get over it!
Back to the welcoming committee again! The people surrounded us and they were thrusting their hands right in front of us and the question became, whose hand do you grab so I was seriously watching the hands and trying to get to all of them. We did get to all hands that were waiting to shake ours at some point but it took time. They were all singing praises to God during this time and throwing rice around…if I’m not mistaken, I believe one or two of the women threw little pebbles in the air. It was an exciting time and it was a confusing time because I really didn’t know what to expect or how to respond. I just stood close beside Mark and kept a smile pasted on my face!
Pastor Philemon told us after a time that the people wanted us to start walking towards the village…this was fine with me because I didn’t know what else to do. A man carrying a little boy walked beside me throughout the trip towards the village. I smiled several times at the little boy but he hid his face, probably frightened of the strange looking person standing beside him. During the time of walking into the village and seeing how excited everyone was, absolutely astounded me and it did bring tears to my eyes; although, I was able to keep from crying and did keep a smile pasted on my face. The people were joyful…they sang praises and threw rice and continued this all the way into the village. We were introduced to several of the main people as we were walking but I couldn’t keep them all straight and didn’t try. At this point, I began thinking about how there was joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. Granted this isn’t the same situation but how can so many people be joyful over 3 people they have never met? What joy and abundant expressions of joy came forth from these people of Duaita! What overabundance of love was shown to us even at that time we met them. Jesus told His disciples, “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.” The villagers did not expect anything from us other than that we would teach them the Word of God and so they were thrilled and excited over the fact that we were willing to do what Jesus commanded His disciples to do. I find it sad that so many people are unwilling to go beyond the scope of their comfort zone, all the while insisting that there are so many people to be reached here in America. A lot of them don’t really make the effort to reach anyone here but the excuse is still there.
As we walked with the villagers, my heart was humbled over their evident love for us. Eventually we made it to the open air meeting place, after having walked underneath a couple of trees made into an arch. There were two trees, one on either side of the road, that they had tied together with vines and beautiful flowers. I have to admit that I was so caught up in the moment that I never even thought to take any kind of pictures. Mark did get a picture later after the flowers had died but we do have a video of it because at least Jerry had enough sense to take a video of our walk to the open air pavilion. The people continued singing praises to the Lord until we ended up sitting down. The original open air pavilion had been extended by the people for a ways as they were hoping that many people would show up for the time of welcome. They had special seats for Mark, myself and Jerry and the way we ended up sitting down was that Jerry was closest to the people, then Mark, then myself.
The presentation began with the choir singing songs. These were similar to the ones sung at Pastor Togba’s house except there were two ladies doing the main singing while the rest of the choir sang the background music. I was still fascinated and stared at them! Hehehe! The only thing is, I don’t think my mouth was open! It continued on with someone praying (someone interpreted throughout the presentation), someone sharing something about us showing up and eventually Pastor Sam stood up.
He began talking about purity and how the hearts of the people were pure towards us and they wanted to show us that they were by giving us a kola nut that represented purity in Africa. The nuts are a kind of tan colour on the outside and I understand they are white on the inside. I never looked to see so I am not sure. Anyway, he continued on by saying that they were offering us one from the pureness of their hearts. He did tell us we only had to take one bite of it and not to worry about eating the whole thing. Pastor Sam gave The Pilgrim one first as he was closest. He didn’t show any expression or anything so I figured it was ok. They gave Mark the second one and Mark just examined it while we were listening to Pastor Sam continue to share. I was the last one to get it and I still figured it would be fine as even Pastor Sam said to show us that there was nothing wrong with it, he also would have one. He began eating on his and actually finished it off. I put the one I received into my mouth and ended up getting about a quarter of it. What a surprise and shock to me! It was extremely bitter!
The next few thoughts went through my mind within seconds but it will take some time to explain what I thought. The first thing that popped into my mind was, ‘Don’t let them see you make any kind of face because you will probably offend them and you don’t want to do that after all they have done for you.’ The next thing was (all the while keeping my face straight), ‘I don’t think I’ve tasted anything this bitter before…ok, maybe it tastes a little like the middle of a peach seed but I don’t remember those being as bitter as this is! I wonder what they mean by purity of this nut. I will have to ask Mark about this.’ Part of the reason I thought that last bit was because I wasn’t completely understanding all that had been said. I know Pastor Sam said more but between not being completely acclimated to the way they spoke English and thinking instead of listening, left me wondering what I had missed in all that had been said. I decided to listen a little closer in case I missed more. My mind did wonder about the taste a little bit but thankfully the heavens opened and the rain began to pour! The chief was about to say something but they dismissed us (due to the rain) until the evening so we could rest some and be better prepared. I was relieved due to the long drive and the heat of earlier in the day. As we walked up to the mission house, I mentioned to Mark that the rain felt so good! He agreed with me!