Friday, May 05, 2006

Ironing … and Alex’s Story

On this last full day in Lui, I was surely paying more attention to some of the little details of “life in Lui.” One point that struck me was the laundry. I have already written about how the Moru (apparently gladly) do our washing, and I have documented how they dry clothes by tossing them over their bamboo fences.

But what shocked me even more was the fact that they not only wash our clothes – they iron them, too. They even iron things we would not consider ironing, like t-shirts or polo shirts.

The iron they use is probably about like one my great-grandmother would have used in the early 20th century. It’s made of iron, and is very heavy. Where our irons now have an electrically-heated plate, they have a “reservoir” in which they put hot coals from the fires they used to cook our food and heat our water.

And the ironing is done by the young men who cared for us in the compound. I never saw a woman ironing. That was a surprising cultural/gender-role difference to me.

The young man I saw ironing most of the time was Alex, probably in his late teens or early 20s. He was very quiet and reserved. Deborah told us his story. Apparently his mother died in childbirth. Alex was very fragile, and it was uncertain whether he would survive. But also, for reasons I do not understand, his father also fell quite ill about the time of Alex’s birth, and both Alex and his father were in the hospital in Lui. Sosten (one of the Lui priests) was visiting Alex and his father, and the father – recognizing he was about to die – placed the baby Alex in Sosten’s hands, and said, “I give this baby to the Church.” And the father died shortly thereafter. Ever since then, Alex has worked for the church and has been cared-for by the church.

This story was another that took my breath away! We dedicate our children to the Lord, especially when we baptize them. But what an experience, to be dying, and to place your one and only child in the hands of the Church! And what a ministry – for the Church in Lui to have raised this boy as its own ever since.

What wondrous love is this? ….

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