Missionaries and motorbikes

Whatever else can be said about missionaries, they sure are good at sharing. All the ones Mike and I have met recently are, anyway.

Many people have extended hospitality to us during the last couple of months, but several missionaries here in Luang Prabang have gone above and beyond. They have given up time to drive us around town and help us look at houses. They let us set up camp in their own house for a couple of weeks while they were away in Thailand. They’ve taken me to the market. They’ve called just for the heck of it – to see if we need anything. They’ve lent us sheets and towels. And, last week, two of them lent me a motorbike.

I ran into Marc and Raquel in town the day after we moved in.

“How was the move going?” they wanted to know. “Was I finding everything?”

I was getting there, I told them. It was a start. It would get easier after we got bikes or some form of transport that I could use during the day.

Raquel and Marc looked at each other.

“Well, you could have one of our motorbikes for a while,” Marc said, without hesitating. And without, I should point out, asking me if I’d ever driven a motorbike before.

(I had, by the way. In Vietnam, a decade ago. For one, gloriously reckless, afternoon.)

I did confess my lack of recent experience. That didn’t stop them.

“Oh,” said Raquel, with a casual wave of her hand. “I’ll take you to a side street. You can ride up and down a time or two.”

“Did it freak you out when you first got here, driving around town?” I asked Raquel as we headed off.

“Ooh yeeaah,” she said her shoulder, in that soft southern-state drawl that doubles the vowels in every word.

“Everyone drives so crazy here, you know. Not stopping at the corners, or the stop signs. See,” Raquel said of the person in front of us, “he hardly even slowed down. But I’m fine now. I just watch out for the people in front of me to do crazy things, and it’s the responsibility of people behind me to watch out for me. You don’t stop for pedestrians. You go around other bikes. You get out of the way of trucks because they do whatever they want. Those trucks… they’ll just run you right off the road.”

OK, I thought, trying hard to catch all these road rules for Laos from the back of the bike. Watch out for the people in front of you. Don’t look behind you. Stay away from anything bigger than you.

“Now, y’all call us if you need anything else,” Raquel said to me later that afternoon as I took a deep breath and prepared to drive from her house back to ours – an epic journey of less than five minutes. And so it was that I was took temporary ownership of one motorbike and one pink helmet.

When I got home that day I checked my blog and gmail, and what did I find?

A letter from Kate – a friend and missionary in an entirely different country – asking if we needed anything.

She’d read my date night post, she wrote. She knew what it was like to be far away from home. Could she send me up anything with our mutual friends, Matt and Alida (who were currently in Phnom Penh and headed up to visit Mike and I in Luang Prabang in a couple of days). Books? Cheese? Wine? Chocolate? Pirated movies?

“I’m pretty sure I could find good quality (ahem, pirated) films here if I just figure out where the pirates… I mean, dealers… I mean, cinematic entrepreneurs, hang out.” I wrote back. “But if you happen to have a good quality copy of Letters to Juliet lying around that you don’t mind sending up here on a loan, that’d be cool.”

What I really need to do,” I continued – thinking in type more than anything else, “is to find TV series on DVD. They are the best “wind down from writing” distraction. I can’t wait until the entire last season of Lost comes out.”

As for the rest of the comfort items, I summarized:

“Matt and Alida are already carrying me up some books that I’d had shipped to them before they left California.

I’ve found some cheese in one of the expatriate grocery stores.

We can actually get some Chilean wine up here.

And chocolate, well… as I’ve recently picked up the dangerous habit of eating Nutella straight out of the container perhaps it would be best if no one tries too hard to share chocolate with me for the next little while.”

Matt and Alida arrived yesterday. In addition to the books they came bearing big hugs, wine they’d carried from California, and some toiletries. They also ferried up another present from Cambodia.

Kate had sent up the last season of Lost.

Sharing – it is such an elegant conjugation of the verb “to love”.

Thank you to all our old and new friends – from Los Angeles to Anchorage to Laos – who have shared with us these last few months. We feel loved.

10 responses to “Missionaries and motorbikes

  1. When I was in New Zealand I was shocked by the amazing hospitality of people in the churches there. They would have perfect strangers in their home for weeks at a time. It was a huge blessing to us and it completely changed the way I look at generosity. It makes me want to make our home available to people, etc. Generosity is never something you can really pay back… it’s always something that you have to pay forward. I think that’s the best thing about it.

    Cool post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s so humbling isn’t it? One of the most amazing stranger kindness stories I’ve ever experienced happened to me in Germany – a young pastor. I still think often of the way he gave up a whole 24 hours to help us out in a jam. Hope you and the bub are going well.

      • Andrew (that’s what we decided to name him) and I are doing well. We’re almost finished with parenting him from the inside now… he could join us here on the outside anytime now. We’re excited to meet him and get to know what he’ll be like. 🙂

        This is a post I wrote a while back about one of those times when someone who didn’t have a lot stepped into help in a major way… http://itstrivial.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/the-bruiser/

        These are experiences that impact me, so I can definitely relate yours.

  2. I think you might be able to be riding buddies with Kate and her pink helmet!

  3. Ummm, Nutella. I think you might have introduced me to that deliciousness. I might need to pick some up the next time I’m at the store. Also, I’m so glad you feel loved…because you are. 🙂

    • Did I really? That was very naughty of me. Did we find it in Croatia??? Ah, yes… I remember now. Nutella crepes. One third of the equation that was responsible for the ten pounds I gained during those six months (the other thirds being gelato and cherry strudel). Hugs. Hope Alaska summer’s continuing to shower you with light and warmth.

  4. Great story, I have enjoyed your postings. I’m glad to be mentioned as a friend from ‘Los Angeles’.
    Let me know if you need me to send you anything. I dont think I can send firewood though……All the best…-Patrick

    • Well, isn’t it lucky that firewood is the last thing we need then :). Thanks for the offer. We will let you know when we have a postal address. Hope you guys are having a wonderful summer in LA. Loving seeing the family pics on facebook. Think of you often.

  5. We were so glad that we could be your donkeys!

    If we are ever in your neck of the woods we’ll happily serve as your faithful beasts of burden once more!

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