Every day was unique. Monday we learned skills on Christian women who gushed gratitude. Tuesday we felt permeated with the depths of Sara's sadness, and our aching hands and backs needed lots of stretching and a little ibuprofen from the hours of rubbing and leaning. Wednesday nobody came, so we treated Heather, Abigail and 10 yr. old Lutinia to a spa treatment before heading off in different directions for our longest walks of the week. We learned the next day that the group of ladies who was scheduled to come Wednesday had ended up at a funeral instead of a spa. Thursday was a particularly busy day at the salon, but I, Lin, was laid up in bed suffering with Montezuma's Revenge. Ugh. Spa staff positions had to be shifted around, so Kate took over the facials, and Heather and Fatinia both stepped in to manage shoulder massages while Tonya carried on with her gift of foot washing and pedicures. Rumor has it that there were some squabbles and tensions brewing in the Jesus Spa that day when Wednesday's women began showing up expecting to get their pampering a day later. But with a full crowd of Thursday clients, and one of the missionary workers down and out for the afternoon, there simply weren't enough hands to go around for a double load. Although I couldn't be present to work that afternoon, I spent most of the three hours in prayer for all the women involved, both on the giving and receiving ends. When I wasn't praying I was taking care of less pleasant business, with a minimum of inconvenience thanks to someone's kindness in bringing me two extra buckets of water for flushing.
And now Friday was here but the water supply was not. Oh, dear. All the good water had been pulled from the well by the construction guys making load after load of cement to pour a foundation, and all that was left down in those dark depths was salty river water full of dirt. Kate could have gone into a tailspin, but she turned her focus back to God where it belonged and declared that we would proceed as planned and the women who came would probably not notice or care about the brown water being used on their skin. They had dealt with far worse situations, and this was trivial when put in perspective against the backdrop of their lives. We were not going to deny these tired Monsanka women the luxury of their spa treatments just because the water looked like mud!
As predicted, not one woman gave evidence of even noticing the unfortunate water situation. No raised eyebrows, or sneers, or comments muttered under the breath. Americans are so steeped in expectations that we grimace over the least little imperfection, but the only thing these women seemed to notice was that someone was making them feel like princesses for a day! In addition to the seven who had been scheduled for this day, another woman tagged along with her friends and we didn't have the heart to refuse her, so we were kept busy for well over three hours of special attentions lavished on women who had never previously known any part of such an extravagant gift.
Near the door several women in an odd mix of African and western clothing sat in chairs chatting in Creole, passing a baby down the line, awkwardly flipping through pages of a Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
On the other side of the room one woman in a colorful dress sat with her feet in a bucket of brown water treated with a mineral foot soak, while a second woman was being oiled to a glistening sheen across her exposed upper body and simultaneously basking in the pleasure of Tonya's attention to her feet and legs.
At the end of the room I repeatedly swooshed a fly away from the face of the woman lying before me, but she didn't seem to notice its presence.
A little chicken named Beauty, perhaps the world's ugliest chicken and thereby becoming a coddled pet, repeatedly sneaked through the door and stepped around women's feet looking for crumbs or bugs, (see 4th photo up) while a loud clattering and banging in the yard revealed a goat that had toppled a stack of cooking pots just beyond the sea of sandals and was now helping herself to a drink of water from a bucket left within her range of exploration.
Christian music played from Tonya's ipod while Heather sang along and clicked massive numbers of photos on whatever cameras were available, and Kate's and Liz's voices were heard switching languages as effortlessly as I might change a radio station. The atmosphere was friendly, relaxed, and infused with love. At any given moment prayers were being heard as we brought these women's names before the throne of God, asking Him to bless their hands, their feet, their minds, their marriages, their children, their food supplies, their health, and their spirits. I made sure to always ask the name of each woman so that she could at least recognize the sound of her own name as I prayed. She may not have known the content of my prayer, but she knew that it was very personally focused on her needs.
The freshly pampered African women expressed their thanks and made their way back down the dusty road with their colorful bags swinging from their hands. Kate said she expects to see these bags around the market and town for weeks or months to come, as they will be used for purses until they have completely worn out. And I found myself wondering when was the last time I had to use a paper purse.
To Saba, Sara, Carlotta, Iness, Nda, Monica, Dominga, Ngundi, Rosa, Naoza, Bonna and all the other beautiful women who allowed us to bless you this week, we will continue to pray that you know how much you are loved and valued and desired by the Creator of the universe, the One True God, Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!