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Excerpts from The Prince of Sumba: Chapter 8 - The Market

Posted by: Pastor_Don_Milton on Dec 28, 2005 - 11:32 PM
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This excerpt is from The Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives.
Copyright 1998 Don Milton All Rights Reserved.
All Copyright Laws Apply - Thou Shalt Not Steal

Chapters: [Prologue] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]  [19]  [20]  [21]  [22]  [23]  [24]  [25]  [26]

Chapter 8 - The Market

   I woke up refreshed and ready for the new day. I felt every bit as cleansed as last night's converts must have felt, with two exceptions; my mouth tasted like garbage from going to sleep without brushing my teeth and my ankles itched from sleeping with my socks on.
   Mary was already cooking breakfast when I heard a knock at the door. It was Sam and Sarisa. I hurried to the bathroom to clean myself up and a few minutes later came out.
   Mary was following our family tradition of forcing food and beverage down our guests' throats, hungry or not. Mary's efforts were meeting little resistance.
   "Good morning, Sam, Sarisa." I nodded to Sarisa and reached out to shake Sam's hand.
   "Good morning, Ish."
   Sarisa replied for Sam whose mouth was stuffed with the missing brownie from the cookie tin at the center of the table. Washing down the brownie with a sip of coffee, Sam leaned back and stretched as if rising from a long nap.
   "We need a change from the monotony of Cagayan de Oro," Sam yawned, "wouldn't you agree?"
   "Monotony, are you kidding! If yesterday was monotonous, what kind of adventure do you have planned for today?"
   "Just a little drive in the old Ford Fiera and there won't be a better time to leave than right now."
   Mary couldn't contain her excitement.
   "I've already packed our things, Ish. It might be a few days we'll be gone!"
   Mary had packed more than a few days worth of belongings. Her telling me that it might be a few days was her way of shushing me about her excessive packing.
   "Are you ready?" Mary asked.
   "I haven't even had a chance to eat my breakfast and drink my morning coffee. Is this some kind of a conspiracy!" I repeated the words that a dear but overly dramatic pastor we knew had once shouted during a church board meeting.
   "Well Ish, you might say it is." Suni nudged her way into the discussion. Suni, Asina and some of the other girls had been sitting uncharacteristically silent in the corner. "All of us decided to let you sleep late while we were preparing everything. You were so sleepy last night; we wanted you to have plenty of energy for today."
   "Besides, we wanted to keep you humble." Asina quipped. "After the most fantastic revival that Cagayan de Oro has ever seen, we didn't want to give you time to bask in the accolades."
   I remembered the song I'd hummed before falling to sleep, 'Grace grace, God's grace.' It was then that I realized Asina was right, for as I hummed, I felt no small sense of pride in having been part of that revival.1 I understood moreover, that Satan's plans for the destruction of a man's ministry go into high gear with the ministry's first great success. I prayed silently in my heart: 'Lord, keep my thoughts pure and toward you in all ways. Gently keep me humble and let me lean on You and Your word only. May I give you the glory and honor in all things.'2
Grabbing my breakfast which had been waiting for me on a paper plate and a mug of freshly brewed coffee, I headed for the door.
   "You couldn't be more right, Asina. We're outta here!"
Sam's vintage Ford Fiera was parked at the curb. It had benches in the truck bed that faced each other. I took my seat; Mary on one side of me and Suni on the other. Four of the other girls from the church faced us, balancing out the load. There was Modelisa; resident actress, Cherry; the girl with the testimony about coming out of prostitution, Asina; her speech always with grace though seasoned with salt,3 and Tisay; the young girl who'd just turned to the Lord after leaving a life of whoredom. I could barely recognize her. Wearing modest clothing and without makeup, she didn't look older than eleven. It was hard to acknowledge her without choking up, but I did.
   "Hi Tisay, it's nice to know that you'll be accompanying us." She smiled simply. I wondered what had happened to her folks. "So where are we headed, Sam?"
   "We'll begin with the Marawi Brass Market. It's close to Lake Lanao." Then he added with a wink, "You would have been considered rude by local custom had you not accepted our invitation, so sit back and enjoy the ride. You really have no choice."
   "Ha ha. You really have no choice!" Suni mimicked, sounding more like a parrot than a young lady.
   We were all laughing now. Imagine me, laughing before I'd even finished my first cup of coffee. The excitement of going to the Islamic City of Marawi had obviously hastened the effect of the caffeine.
   After Sam lead us in prayer we were on our way.
   Mary and the girls quickly went into their chatting mode. They were doing their best to hold a conversation but the rattling of the old Ford Fiera won out as we were all treated to a concerto in galvanized steel. I managed to move the food off of my plate and into my mouth without dropping so much as a crumb and guzzled down the last of my coffee. I smiled at Mary, assured of my neatness, but then that one last drop of coffee, with which I'd been having an ongoing battle over the years found its place on my shirt. Fortunately, I was wearing brown.
   I'd heard about the brass market. It was a place where mountain men and lowlanders mixed in a clattering of brass from all over the island. Sam said we might inquire as to some remote places to go where the inhabitants weren't entirely hostile to "foreign missionaries." Our purpose for coming here, after all, had been to go on a mission. What better way than to spontaneously set out in search of adventure.
   As we got closer to the Marawi brass market the pot holes increased as well as the hammering from inside the market. I had a hard time telling between the clattering of Sam's truck and the chattering of my teeth. Had I really had that much dental work? Now I understood what Paul meant when he said in his letter to the Corinthians that practicing gifts without love is as sounding brass.4 What a racket! Between the pounding in the brass market and Sam's Ford Fiera growing ever closer to its final bump, my aching ears were able to make out that one joyous sentence from Sam.
   "There's a parking stall. Shall I pull in?"
   "PLEASE!" We shouted in unison.
   "Well it's good to hear that we're all of one voice!" Sam shouted back.
   We beeped and edged our way past carts and vegetables laid out on woven mats to squeeze into what
   I was sure would be the final resting spot for Sam's truck. The sputtering sound when he turned off the key convinced me that we'd surely have to find another mode of transportation for our return home.
   "I'll be back in a few minutes." Sam said.
   He got out and walked up to an old man who was sitting behind the counter at one of the stalls. The man was wearing a kerchief wrapped around the upper part of his head like a turban. His teeth were like the rutted road we'd just come in on; clay colored and broken except for two; they were gold. They glistened as if signaling to each other. Beacons among hills of clay. He was selling bolos and butterfly knives. They glistened too.
   There are stories of Moros attacking military compounds at the turn of the 19th century armed only with such bolos.5 They were usually able to hack up a dozen or more soldiers before falling dead from gunshot wounds. In order to give themselves that extra thirty seconds of life necessary to carry out their mission of death they would wrap their arms and even their chests with bands like tourniquets. The 1910 45 caliber pistol was designed specifically for defense against the Moros. After it was introduced on Mindanao, the attacks stopped.
   My knowledge of these and other facts made me acutely aware of the divisions between Muslim and Christian. The Muslim's grandfathers had correctly told them that before the discovery of penicillin, Roman Catholic priests were seen unashamed in public with open syphilis sores on their faces, so until now, the Muslims had no reason to see any difference between Western decadence and Christianity. But these new Born Again Christians weren't decadent and they were gaining more converts than the Muslims could breed. Truth told, it wasn't the decadence that the Muslims hated. They had decadence. They just kept it underground. It was the Christians they hated and they'd put them under ground too if they had a chance.
   Sam was still chatting with the blade vendor when I noticed a tall mestiso making his way through the aisle that divided the vendors' stalls.6 He had a strong chin, a full head of hair and a Caucasian nose. I felt like I was viewing a scene in a movie. He looked like someone who could have starred in one of our American action films but there was something more about him than that. He had the air of royalty about him. All eyes were upon him as soon as he'd come into view. His steps were deliberate. His boots clopped on the wooden sidewalk which creaked under his weight. He was easily six foot and of no slight figure.
   As he approached the place where Sam stood, the knife vendor greeted him,
   "Datu po, mabuhay!" (May you live long prince.)
   To anyone else, mabuhay would simply have meant "welcome" but I was certain his greeting carried the more literal meaning. The vendor had some very large boxes waiting for this intriguing stranger. I wondered how many bolos and butterfly knives must be inside. The stranger now turned to Sam and shook his hand. They were conversing as if they'd known each other for years. Could this man have something to do with the adventure Sam had planned for us? I'd find out soon enough. He accompanied Sam as they walked over to us. Shaking my hand through the slats in the canopy of Sam's truck, he introduced himself.
   "I'm John."
   "Nice to meet you John. I'm Ishmael and this is my wife Mary and some of the girls from our church; Suni, Asina, Modelisa, Cherry, Tisay, and I'm sure you've already met Sarisa, Sam's wife?"
   "Yes, nice to see you again Sarisa, and nice to meet you ladies too." John tipped his hat then spoke to me again. "So you're an adventurer, are you?"
   "Well, not unless you could call teaching Sunday school an adventure." I replied.
   "Sunday school teacher or no, I have it on good word from a twelve foot tall angel that you have adventures in store for you that few men have even dreamed of. Isn't that right, Sam?"7 John turned to Sam who'd taken his place again behind the wheel of his dilapidated Ford Fiera.
   "One thing I can tell you for sure." Sam pronounced, "If John says he spoke with a twelve foot tall angel then he spoke with a twelve foot tall angel. And if that angel told him you'd have an adventure then we'll be praying you're ready for the ride."
   I grabbed tightly to my seat cushion in comic fashion. The girls laughed at my comic relief but Sarisa cautioned,
   "We're not kidding, Ish. John's had numerous visions concerning our ministry and all of them came true."
   John motioned toward a nearby jeepney full of women and children.
   "I only brought a few of my wives and children today. The rest are back at my place preparing lunch. Keep a distance Sam, I wouldn't want the dust to get you folks sick. We'll see you up at my place."
   John patted me on the shoulder and walked over to his Jeepney. He backed it up to the vendor's stall till it bumped against one of the boxes where his sons had been keeping watch, then he got out and walked over to the old man. After a few minutes of animated discussion they opened each of the boxes. Pulling a machine gun out of the last box, the old man held it out and said, "NBSB," then winked, "forty nine of 'em, just like this one. All NBSB." He was applying the Christian acronym for No Boyfriend Since Birth to the guns. I figured he must have meant that no cartridge had ever been chambered. John smiled, shook the old man's hand, then paid him. His sons loaded up the boxes and we were off to his place. I wasn't worried about the guns; John was a Christian and if anyone knew responsibility with weapons, a man with so many children would.
   Sam started his truck then added, "It runs on gasoline and prayers but mostly prayers." Then Sam led us in prayer and we were off.
   John's place was about 30 miles drive from town. This may not seem like a long distance to Americans used to wide roads and freeways but the potholed pavement that began the journey soon became a dirt road. We arrived at John's place two flats and three hours later.
   Sam pulled his truck to a stop inside the gates of the compound. This time the engine sputtered just once and was silent. Within moments the silence was replaced by the sounds of the jungle; birds chirping, parrots cawing. A monkey's angry call echoed across the canyon.

1. Proverbs 11:2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
2. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
3. Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
4. 1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
5. Moro - Muslims in Mindanao were called Moros in the prior to the early 20th century. Bolos - A small sword used by natives in the Philippines, mostly as a tool for clearing vegetation but also as a weapon.
6. Mestiso - A person of mixed Malay and White ancestry.
7. Angels appeared to many of the apostles in the years after Jesus' resurrection and there is no reason to doubt that they're still appearing to various Christians around the world.

Click Here to Go to Chapter 9 - John's Place

Note: This excerpt is from The Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives.
Copyright 1998 Don Milton All Rights Reserved.
All Copyright Laws Apply - Thou Shalt Not Steal

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If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do [either] good or bad of mine own mind; [but] what the LORD saith, that will I speak.

-- Numbers 24:13 --

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