Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"That Lady is Not Jesus"

"What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make His way home?"

There is a woman in Samoa, some would call her crazy, others, perhaps, just eccentric. I don't know if the fact that she wears her sunglasses upside down is any indication of her mental stability. Let's face it, what one day made people believe in prophets is what has sent some people to the looney bin in recent history. Give it a shot, tell people you've been talking to God. See how they respond. Anyway, this woman, if you've seen her once, you won't soon forget her. After one particular center day during training, Mika and I took the same bus back to Tafitoala. Next to him sat supine-sunglasses herself. When I saw her sit next to him, I knew he'd be in for a good ride. When we arrived in Tafitoala, Mika said she mostly said semi-crazy things, until, completely lucidly, she turned to him, mumble gone, and asked, "Do you think Jesus could still be alive today? Walking around?" I don't know what his response was, but that one question resonated with Mika. The next day in our language class, he told the story to our teacher, Lumafale. Now keep in mind, Samoa is a very religious country and Fale is no exception. Her response was, "That woman is not Jesus." She then went on to tell us psuedo-Iesu's story. This woman was once in love with a palagi (a non-Samoan person/ a white person). They were engaged to be married, but one day, out of the blue, he just up and left, went back to Australia, New Zealand, America, wherever he was from. After that, this woman who was apparently incredibly smart too, starting slipping. (Another version of the story I heard was that she got a scholarship to go to school in New Zealand and when she came back, well, by then she'd forgotten which which part of the sunglasses is designed to rest upon your nose.) Fast forward to our last day in the training village, the Tafitoala five plus Fale are in a taxi van on our way to Apia after saying our tearful goodbyes to our host families (our wonderful host families who truly did become second families to us), as we turned onto Cross Island Road, there she was, standing on the corner. Like she was wishing us luck on this next leg of our adventure.

That lady probably isn't Jesus. But then again, maybe she is. Who can really say? (Well, I'm sure the pope would have something to say about it.) During the week following Tafitoala and before we were sworn in as volunteers, one of our training sessions in Apia was about religion and culture in Samoa, something we'd seen and experienced for over two months at that point. A faife'au (pastor) gave the presentation. He definitely had his moments where I think most of us looked at him like, "Did you really just say that?" For instance, he said something, I forget exactly what, "makes it so easy for Muslims to be terrorists." He seemed to immediately realize he'd said something we weren't OK with because then he back-tracked and said, "I hope no one here is Muslim" which really meant, "Shit, I hope I didn't just offend anyone" but what sounded more like, "I hope none of you are Muslims because that's a bad religion to be." (And here again, I should probably mention that these are my observations and opinions and not those of the Peace Corps.Coincidentally enough, I'm writing this from the computer of a faife'au.) The  point I'm trying to get to in all of this is that this faife'au also said, "You can't just walk off the street and preach. You have to go to school." Is that right? Then how did the prophets of the Bible do it? I'm pretty sure they didn't go to any theological school. Maybe preachers who go to school just learn the motions; maybe the "crazy" people preaching on the street are the ones we should listen to.

"If God had a face what would it look like? And would you want to see it if seeing meant that you would have to believe?"

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