Today is my last day in North Africa. I have quickly grown to love the country where I am. The people here are relaxed, warm, and open. They offer exuberant welcome and have a playful twinkle in their eyes. They like to dance and eat together and drink mint tea. Tonight we went to my friend H’s house, an ordinary apartment that he decked out with an eccentric collection of cowboy props and regal furniture. He had us pose with antique gowns and jewelry. He wanted to show how he honors us, as a memory of our time.
I accidentally left my boots at H’s house. You see, I bought new boots today. Real camel leather, fresh from the tannery. I am close to broke right now, but my parents had given me money for my birthday (which is tomorrow), and as I walked through the tannery, I realized that a pair of sturdy boots would serve me better than the fraying thrift-store boots I have been wearing. After showing off my new heels to the delight of both my American and North African friends, I forgot the old ones in a plastic bag under the table. My friend S found them, and H and S showed up at my hotel with them, even though I told them I didn’t really need them anymore. I felt like Cinderella a little as they gave me a good, warm second goodbye–until next time.
This morning we talked about how Jesus invites us to want better things. We each come with desires that we know, but the Lord graciously invites us to learn better. We learn to like vegetables more than Taco Bell; we learn to want shoes that will last instead of ones that will fall apart by next year. So, too, we learn to want the flourishing of our neighbors more than we want our own comfort; we learn to want God’s glory rather than our own. This week, I learned to want the flourishing of a new place. I learned the generosity of new friends. I learned to want humor and dramatic hellos and house-church. I will thank God every time I remember this place and this people, and pray for them to become an even bigger blessing tomorrow than they are today. I want that very much.