Helena grunted from the strain of picking herself up from her prayer mat. Aching knees popped in protest as she steadied herself with the bedpost. Her left foot was even less cooperative. It shot pins and needles up her ankle. A small price to pay, she thought to herself as she put away the worn mat.
Morning prayers complete, Helena felt a little hopeful for what the day might bring. She thanked God for her modest breakfast of boiled plantain. It wasn’t much, but it would sustain her. She then happily hobbled from the hut out into the new morning light. It was time to harvest.
The rusted hoe made quick work in the arid soil. The radishes popping out of the ground reminded Helena of one of those funny Jack in the Box toys. It was like the radishes couldn’t wait to escape the heat of the earth. The lack of rain nearly spoiled this crop. A worn path led from the radish garden a mile or so to the river. Like her prayers, she considered the daily trek a necessary pilgrimage for the life-sustaining water. Mainly because leaving the safe haven of her garden meant encountering the people from her village.
“Hoy, Helena, you gonna pray for us today?” They mocked. Just yesterday the shaman was waiting for her. He looked madder than a rooster on the chopping block. “You hear there is another sickness? This one in the next village,” he spat. Averting her eyes, Helena shook her head no. “Well, you better listen, I am taking offerings and you best give too. Do not mock our rituals Helena, or you gonna pay big time.”
Helena thanked the Lord that today was a good day to harvest her radishes. Still, the shaman’s words haunted her until the sun beat down overhead. Helena took a little nap in the shade of a tree before uncurling her prayer mat. Once her tired bones found the familiar kneeling position she set to praying.
“Papa, thank you for providing every need. You protect my people from sickness even though they do not know Jesus. Some curse me in public then beg help at my back door. They need a teacher. I am so grateful for Mrs. Kennedy who came here long, long ago and taught me about Jesus. I was ripe to accept your love and I know my neighbors are too. There are lots more worthy causes, but I ask again, please send another missionary to my village. Matthew 9:37-38 says to pray for more workers for you are in charge of the harvest.”
Helena was interrupted by the sound of laughter. Looking up, she saw some children hidden behind the pushcart. “I see you there Souba and Kaneel,” Helena called out with a smile. They were eating her radishes and scrambled to get away. “Don’t you want some water to wash ‘em down with?” However, it was their mother who came back around the corner to accept the drink instead.
“Helena, are you praying again?” Netti snickered after taking a long haul on the water jug. Helena just rolled her eyes and settled into for the long talk ahead. Netti’s visits were becoming more frequent. Listening patiently, Helena silently prayed for her friend. Netti needed a missionary to help her with her marriage problems, Helena thought to herself.
At long last, the work of the day was done. As the sun headed toward the horizon, Helena hesitated at the bedpost. A wave of doubt suddenly seized her. “I’m all alone,” she cried aloud. A gentle knock startled her back to reality. She opened the door to find a white man with a kind face waiting there expectantly. “Sorry to trouble you so late, but I saw a lamp burning,” the man began.
“Are you a missionary?” Helena gushed.
“No, I’m a doctor. I’m looking for N’Byan village and seem to have lost my way. I was sent because of the outbreak.”
“Oh,” Helena groaned.
“Don’t be afraid. I am a man of faith and feel the Lord wants you to know He is with you.”
“Oh?” Helena asked with renewed hope.
“Yes, He says there is a missionary already here. It is you. He has equipped you.”
Helena felt his words like a bolt of lightning. Then, after sending the doctor in the right direction, she got down on a new set of knees with renewed purpose.
Tomorrow she would start a new harvest.