“Is Heaven” interupting “is-hell”

I was reminiscing about Cairo the other day, and thought I would re-post this for all of my friends to see.

(Warning: Potty humor advisory. If you don’t like potty humor, don’t read.)

There seems to be one inevitable symptom that plagues most westerners that travel to the two-thirds world: diarrhea. Every member of our team has had it, some more than once, some never stopping since they’ve arrived. Bowel movements are regular conversation at the dinner table, as we look at the food and wonder in what form it will leave our bodies the next day.

I learned the Arabic word for diarrhea very quickly: “is-hell” I smiled as I thought the Arabic version sounded much like the feeling in English.

But I stopped smiling when I ended up getting is-hell. I was the second to last on our team to get it, but it was bad when I got it. I braved through it for the first day, resisting the urge to take Immodium AD because it simply stops me up and prolongs the bacteria rather than flushing it out. But day two was worse. At lunch that day, someone asked simply, “how many times?” I won with six visits to the toilet before 1 PM that day.

We left lunch (after I visited the bathroom for the perfect seventh time) and toured what would be a new facility for the handicapped of Mokattam. It will be beautiful and wonderful – six floors (not a large footprint of a building) with amenities for the handicapped that will bring the marginalized of this culture to their proper place of dignity before Jesus.

It was like a bit of heaven breaking into hell.

Except when we visited the construction site, we saw the standing water with garbage and our host told us that the water had been contaminated by the garbage that had been stored there in the past. Like the bacteria in my stomach.

And that thought prompted my contaminated bowels warn me of an immediate and required toilet visit. We made our way back to our place of residence, and we were greeted by the gatekeeper and one of my friends I’ve made in Mokattam.

One of the friends I have made here stopped me at the gate and wanted to speak English with me. And by now I had to go. Really bad. And while I wanted to be engage cross-culturally, I thought the consequences of a prolonged conversation could have far worse ramifications for both him, myself, anyone within smelling distance, my last clean pair of underwear, and any remnant of my reputation. So after about 5 minutes, I said, “I have to go, please – ‘is-hell.’ Please pray for me.”

“Oh, you want me to pray for you? I would love to pray for your healing.”

“Thank-you – Shokran,” I replied.

“Yes, let us go to pray for healing now.”

Oh no. What have I done? Dear Lord…please help.

The man proceeded to show me into a room and asked me to hold out my open hands and to receive healing. So I opened my hands and squeezed my cheeks and quickly prayed for a special dispensation of grace to avoid a stinky dispensation of something else.

But as he prayed for me, and placed his hand on my stomach, I felt something move. And I didn’t have to go. At all. For the next 24 hours. And I was healed.

“Wow.” I thought. “I was just healed. That’s never happened before.”

My second thought wasn’t as holy, “If I just got miraculously healed, why did it get spent on diarrhea? Why not cancer?”

But I came back to the first thought again, and finished the walk home. The power of heaven just overpowered the “is-hell” that was reigning in my belly. Not the most glamorous picture, but I think it’s a good picture of a God who entered a broken and “is-hell” filled world for the sake of reclaiming the world for what it was meant to be.

The next time I went to the bathroom, everything came out clean. I flushed, and then I praised the Lord.

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July 2008

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