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Thursday, 28 May 2020

The Voice

Many years ago I had an experience with my husband, and then young son, which I turned into a short story . I used different names for the people in the story, but it was our experience. 
The following is the story that I wrote, which was part of the Lord's teaching in my spiritual walk with Him.

The Voice
The blue water of the Indian Ocean was as smooth as glass as the tugs pulled the liner towards the dock, the air was still and the sun was rising in a cloudless sky.  The young woman stood on the deck, her arms resting on the ship's rail, and felt a stir of excitement as she surveyed the view in front of her.  How beautiful Colombo looked bathed in the early morning sunlight, with its lush green vegetation and pale, sandy beaches. She smiled in anticipation of the wonderful day that lay ahead.

Picture of Sri lanka

The voyage so far had been most enjoyable for Leah and her family. Their days had been filled with exciting things to do on board the large liner, and the further South they travelled the warmer the climate was becoming and the more exotic were the ports.  A picture of the cold English weather of Southampton formed in her mind as she remembered the day they had embarked.  For a moment her feeling of well-being was threatened by a cloud of sadness as she remembered her mother, sisters and brother waving from the wharf as the ship pulled away from the dock.  How long would it be before she saw them again, and what lay ahead in Australia?
'You have to watch out for the beggars!' a coarse voice jolted her jaggedly out of her thoughts.  She was no longer alone. People had gathered along the rail as the ship entered Colombo dock.  'These places are full of them!' spat out the voice once more, 'All professionals.'   'Beggars ......'  Leah thought, 'in such a beautiful place?' She had always been conscious of the poverty in certain parts of the world, and had felt a genuine compassion when she had seen documentaries on the television about such countries, but to sit in the comfort of her home in well fed Wales was a far cry from actually being confronted with the situation. She felt a tinge of guilt as she realised that what was really bothering her was the threat of distortion of her paradisaical picture.
By now the ship had docked and passengers were streaming onto the decks.  She pushed her way along the now heavily crowded deck, searching for a door that would lead below, where she had left her husband Bob and young son Adam finishing their breakfast.  They would have left the dining room by now and may be waiting for her in the cabin.  'Leah!' .... The strong, familiar voice cut through the air above the babble of passenger voices and the crew instructions.  She turned to see her husband raising his hand above the sea of heads.  He and Adam had not wanted to miss the docking of the ship and had come up on deck a few minutes earlier.  They watched together as the ship's ropes were secured and the gangway was lifted into place.  A military band appeared, adding a touch of both formality and welcome to the occasion, and making an excellent subject for a photograph. 
The clouds had already disappeared from Leah's horizon as they made their way to the cabin to get ready for the morning's trip into the city. They had planned to spend the morning in the city of Colombo with another couple, Sue and Graham, browsing around in the local shops and hunting for souvenirs, after which they would return to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon they would go on one of the organised excursions to Kandy, about an hour's journey away. 

There were several taxis waiting on the wharf as they walked down the gangway, they would take one of them into the city.  Somewhere behind Leah, a familiar voice arose above the clicking heels and laughter.  'Just wait and see, the last time I was here they were waiting for the taxis to arrive, and trying to get your money off you before you had a chance to spend it.  Don't be fooled by the children they bring with them that's just to make you feel sorry for them'.  'So 'the voice' had been here before,' thought Leah.  She turned around, wondering who the voice belonged to, but was distracted by another voice directed at Bob. 'You want taxi sir? I take you to shops, good shops.'  They all squeezed into the old taxi and it sped out of the dock area towards the city. 
During the short journey they had glimpses of poverty here and there as they passed shacks with poorly dressed people sat outside, but the beauty of the land itself, with its exotic plants and brilliant greenery seemed to help Leah push this reality from her mind. She did not want anything to spoil the day, and could not allow sentiment to rob her of the pleasure she could have during this once in a lifetime experience for her of visiting this beautiful country. Besides, wasn't there far worse poverty in desert countries where people had no food at all, she mused.  There must be plenty of fruit growing here.  This last thought seemed to ease the slight guilt that was beginning to creep in at her previous, selfish thoughts.

Picture of Kandy Sri lanka

The taxi pulled up outside some old shops whose windows were filled with the usual things that would attract tourists.  There were local crafts and clothes and of course electrical goods, cameras and jewellery in abundance.  Leah was so taken with these lovely things in the shop windows that at first she did not notice the little group of local women waiting as she stepped from the cab.  She was suddenly surrounded by these women, each holding a baby in one arm with their free hand outstretched, obviously begging for money.  They pushed their babies close to the little group of visitors and looked pleadingly at each face. For a moment Leah was filled with compassion as she looked at the thin arms of the woman in front of her whose sad eyes looked from Leah to the baby and then back once more to her.  Then she remembered 'Professionals ... carrying children ... waiting for the taxis.' The 'voice' had been right! Yet they looked so genuine so thin .... But then these people would not get fat on the type of food they ate anyway.  Leah argued with herself like this for a few seconds, then Bob took her hand and pulled her towards the nearest shops.  What good would a few pence have done the woman anyway she reasoned as she was jerked away from the outstretched hand which was now being directed towards a newly arrived taxi.  She felt that the incident was over and yet she felt disturbed.  Why was this, was she still feeling guilt ? But hadn't 'the voice' been ri. ...... 'Let's go inside this shop and have a look around' Grahams's voice broke in on her thoughts and once more Leah's sky was cloudless as she hurried towards the shop.
The rest of the morning was spent buying souvenirs and looking around Colombo and by midday they were heading back for the ship in the old taxi, chatting happily about what they had bought.  The morning had passed quickly and Leah had forgotten about the begging woman by the time the taxi pulled up alongside the ship.  She was happy and looking forward to the afternoon excursion which would take them through the countryside to one of the seaside villages several miles away.  They enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then spent some time lazing on the deck chairs on the sun deck.  'The weather is glorious' thought Leah as the hot sun soaked into her face.  Thoughts of the cold Winter they had left behind in Wales floated through her mind and she started to feel more optimistic about settling in Australia.  'Come on mum.' Her son's voice interrupted her daydreaming.  'the coaches have arrived'.
Fifteen minutes later they were settled in the 'coach' as Adam had called it.  It was a very old bus which had no air conditioning. Leah couldn't help laughing to herself as she noticed large cobwebs on the ceiling and remarked to Bob that she could not remember ever seeing cobwebs on a bus before.  She was glad when everybody was seated and they pulled off with all the windows open, enabling a very pleasant breeze to pass through the bus.  They drove away from the coast through beautiful countryside filled with lush vegetation and beautifully coloured flowers.  Every few miles they would pass small clusters of tiny, makeshift dwellings which stood out against the beauty of the land like hessian patches on a velvet cloth.  Leah's heart was touched by the fact that the shed in their garden back home in Wales had been in much better condition than these homes were.
After about an hour of travelling through small villages the sea came into view again,  they had reached their destination. It was an elegant beach front hotel, a long white building of single story construction.  The passengers quickly vacated the hot stuffy bus all with the same thought in mind, a long, cool drink.  They made their way through the usual gathering of local traders offering their crafts for sale.  Leah decided that the drink had priority over the souvenirs, knowing that the traders would still be there when she came out.  The party was directed through the plush hotel and out through the back doors onto a large, covered patio area.  Tables and chairs were set out neatly beneath a covering of plaited brush, and immaculately dressed waiters stood by waiting for the party to be seated.  They all enjoyed a beautiful assortment of fresh fruits and long cool drinks, and of course every kind of tea that one could imagine.  Leah was ecstatically happy as she walked along the beach an hour later with Bob and Adam.  The sea was a beautiful shade of deep blue and crystal clear.  'Paradise' she thought. They stopped by an outrigger with a brightly coloured sail. ' It was probably what the locals used as a fishing boat.' Bob said. After they had taken some photographs they walked back to the hotel where they were served delicious Sri Lanka tea.
All too soon it was time to go and they made their way back to the bus.  The traders at the front of the hotel zoomed in on them like sharks, and money exchanged hands rapidly.  Leah noticed an old man dressed in a loin cloth, with no shoes on his feet.  He was holding the hand of a little girl, 'probably his granddaughter', she thought.  He held out his free hand to each person in turn as they passed him.  Leah walked away from him over to one of the traders.  'Look Bob ' she said, pointing to a little carved boat the trader was holding. 'It's just like the one on the beach.'  Bob bought it for her and she turned and got on the bus with others.  She took a window seat and examined the little boat.  It had only cost about a pound in English money, and it was beautifully made.  She was pleased with her purchase, pleased indeed with the whole day in general.  Suddenly she was aware of a face outside the window looking at her, not just a face but a hand outstretched.  It was the old man who had been begging.  A man sat in front of her was speaking in answer to somebody else in front of him.  'Sure I gave the old bloke something, what's fifty pence to me, it's a week's wages to these people' The enormity of his words hit her like a ton of bricks.  She looked at the little boat she was holding and all the pleasure she felt at having it disintegrated like a child's burst bubble as she thought about what that pound would have meant to the old man.  He and the little girl had probably come from the old shacks they had passed earlier.
The bus started to pull away and Leah looked out at the old man.  He was moving with the bus, still outside her window, deep dark eyes still looking at her, bony hand still outstretched.  Leah felt cold in the humid atmosphere of the bus.  She saw the tragedy of poverty as it really is trapped in the midst of great wealth, unnoticed to the point of blending in and being accepted.  She saw the old man, and yes the baby-carrying women too, as the victims that they really were in a society that had begun to treat them almost as a tourist attraction, of distraction to some.  These were not 'professionals', their begging had become their profession out of necessity. Their poverty and suffering was etched on their faces and in the eyes she had not looked into. She started to blame 'the voice,' but knew full well that all the choices had been hers alone.  'Driver, stop the bus!'  All heads turned as she sped down the aisle.  'I won't be a minute.'  She got back on the bus knowing that this time she had made the right choice, and listened to the right voice.


Sandi said...

It is hard to understand why there is such poverty in such a beautiful place with a good climate and lots to offer. Corruption, maybe? Why is one place fine and another in want?

I think you did the right thing too.

RCUBEs said...

Beautiful but sad story. Some countries are poor because of corrupt government despite lots of natural resources and it's sad that goes on for generations.

Our God is a giving God. I tell my family it's not up to us to determine whether the one in the receiving end has true needs or not. Just give. With love. And glory to be given to the Lord. With you hearing the True Voice, there's no option but to do that act done in love. It's a great example sister Brenda. To always be His feet or hands, to reflect His light in this dark place. God bless.

Brenda said...

Hi Sandi,
that is the difference between mans' ways and God's ways, and I am so glad that even what my dad taught me as a child regarding kindness to others helped to overcome what the spiritual enemy was trying to cancel out in my thoughts.
I definitely did the right thing and the situation taught me how cunning the spiritual enemy can be.
god bless.

Brenda said...

there are many sad stories in this world, but the main thing with the teaching of the Holy Spirit is that we hear the voice of the Lord through the teaching of God's Word as we work out our salvation. The more we listen to His voice the more we recognise the spiritual enemy and mature in the Lord's body on earth. When I was a little child my dad used to make up stories to tell us as we went to sleep. They always had happy endings, and that is what we get as we journey on in the Lord, learning God's ways - a very happy ending.
God bless you in Him, as we journey on together listening to His voice of true LOVE.

Aritha said...

Whoever saves one life saves the world entire...

Touching story.

Brenda said...

Hi Aritha,
yes, that is a lovely quote isn't it, very encouraging and positive.

Jephyr! said...

That is a touching and beautiful story — and pierces through the complacency of all the abundance many of us in the west find ourselves in. Thank you for sharing it Brenda

Brenda said...

Hi Jephyr,
thank you for your comment. This story was written after what actually happened on a journey to Australia, and it was before I became born again of God's Holy Spirit. Never the less, kindness is what I had been taught by my lovely dad, and even without the Holy Spirit's teaching our automatic kindness can be diverted by the spiritual enemy. He is rife in this world. As I grow in the Lord I am learning more and more how to recognise Satan and his devices.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
I enjoyed your story as it reminded me of many beautiful travel experiences with family, which we may never be able again to enjoy in the same way because of the pandemic. The Voice we must follow is the still, small voice Who will give us discernment in every situation. Thank you for this beautiful and thought-provoking post. God bless you,

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thank you for your comment on my post today, Brenda. I'm sure it will be helpful to my readers.

God bless.

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
yes we have travelled to many places, mostly by sea so that we could visit places on the journey ( I have never liked air travel ). The best place we will ever travel to Laurie is where we go to after this life on earth. There is nothing in this world that can compare to it.
God bless.

Brenda said...

You are welcome Victor
being part of the body of Christ on earth is all about encouraging one another.
God bless.