Friday, February 3, 2012

Shoulders and Faces and Feet, Oh My!

At 4 p.m. we were ready for them, but Kate had warned that we might not see anyone right away since Africans have a different relationship with time than clock-enslaved Americans. She assured us that they would come, and guessed that all five of today's salon clients would probably come together in a group rather than one by one. To fill the time while waiting, and to get a little practice, Tonya decided to give Kate the full foot treatment. Having lived in Africa for three years, her feet definitely could benefit from some attention! Heather was drafted to provide a lovely shoulder massage, so Kate took her place in the chair of honor and the hands of healing began their therapeutic work while Maria and Fatinia looked on. I had informed Katie weeks before that I was willing and able to do any part of this work except for the shoulder massaging, as my hands are apparently massage impaired. If anyone were looking to me to find relief from sore, achy back and shoulder muscles she would surely leave sorely disappointed. Or maybe just sore. My hands are simply weak and pathetically uncoordinated for this type of work. So for that first hour I rearranged the supplies on the table five or six times, looked out the window ten or twelve times, shooed chickens back out the door fifteen or twenty times, and clicked way too many photos of Katie in the chair getting her feet scrubbed, scraped and painted.

And then they came. Four African women, some in their brightly colored dresses and head wraps, some in western-style clothes, stepped into the first ever Jesus Spa in Guinea Bissau, or maybe in all of West Africa. This first group was easily engaged in conversation, as they were all Christians and already had an established relationship of trust with Katie. She had decided that it was appropriate to bless the tired, overworked sisters in the Lord first, as they labor just as hard as the animists and have precious little encouragement in their lives. About 90% of women in West Africa are illiterate, so they don't even have the benefit of being able to read a Bible or a book or an edifying magazine article to feed their starving souls. They have Jesus, they have their Christian brothers and sisters, and they have toil from morning to night every day of their lives. But the faces of those four women told a story of joy and hope in the midst of hardship. They carried their burdens with peace, and they found it easy to receive a blessing when it was available for the taking. 

It was pure joy pampering this group of happy, excited, chattering women! My first guinea pig . . . umm, I mean client . . . was Rosa, our cook. While one woman sat with her feet in a bucket of mineral soak solution and her shirt wrapped around her chest, fully baring her shoulders for the best possible upper body massage, and two other women sat in chairs watching this spectacle, Rosa  had been chosen to be the first to stretch out on the cot with her head on a towel beneath my waiting hands. She wouldn't stop smiling. It was obvious she had no idea I'd never done this before, or she might have been grimacing instead of grinning, but I wasn't going to tell and she wasn't going to find out. I'd done my homework and I was there with my cleanser, facial mask, exfoliator pads, washcloths, and a basin of water that had been heated on the stove. Rosa was in for a treat, and a well deserved one, as she had cooked us a fine lunch after plucking, and gutting, and cutting up, and cooking that obnoxious rooster!

 While under the care of Tonya at the feet and Katie at the shoulders, the honored woman in the chair was the recipient of much prayer. Tonya prayed over each one while scrubbing and clipping and massaging, while Kate prayed over each one while rubbing oil deeply into muscular arms and backs. A woman who spends her days hauling water, chopping wood, scrubbing clothes on a washboard, and threshing rice or making salt is a woman who is a specimen of physical fitness. And in her spare time she bathes her children, walks into town for the daily trip to the market, prepares the meals from scratch over a little stove in the front yard, braids her neighbor's hair, and nurses her baby. No wonder their muscles are like truck tires!

As for my part in the process, it was a marvel to see such magnificent skin on nearly every woman. Where were the blemishes? Where were the ashy patches? Where were the uneven skin tones? With few exceptions, these women have gorgeous skin! They may have been cheated of a lot of advantages in their lives, but their dark glossy skin, with a natural SPF of 200 (!!!) is a blessing that few American women know. I delivered the best facial I could offer up, and during the few minutes when the mask was drying I leaned down to Rosa's ear with her head in my hands and prayed for her. She might not have been able to understand my words, but she knew that I was speaking to the Heavenly Father on her behalf.

With each woman who received our ministerings that day, a bond was formed that joined our hearts beyond the barrier of language. They left with far more than a brightly colored bag of gifts. They left knowing that they were loved by some pale faced American sisters, but more importantly, they left with memories of a tangible reminder of how valuable they are in God's eyes. Daughters of the King.


  1. us soft american women can't even imagine what it's like to be muscular and thin because we don't have enough food and have to do hard manual labor every day.

  2. You blessed those women so much that God will touch their lives always, even if they don't really know him yet.

  3. The tears falling down my face express more accurately what I am feeling in my heart than words could ever say. What a beautiful picture of God surrounding those women with his unfathomable love!

  4. Wow Lin, there are just no words to describe how reading this made me feel. God is so awesome and so amazing! What a blessing you were to these women, and them to you.