The baked sand cracked and crumbled with each step she took. To the girl it felt just like breaking through the top layer of snow on a walk back home – except for the heat.
Sweat dripped down her front and trickled down her back. Her legs were slick as they rubbed together beneath her long skirt. Her fingers trembled as they tucked back a piece of damp hair that had escaped the scarf wrapped around her head.
Shade. She needed shade, and water. If she didn’t find them soon, she wasn’t going to make it.
“God!” She cried out. “Where are you?”
She tried to clear her parched throat, but it did little good. Her voice was but a whisper.
“Why have you abandoned me?”
All was silent as the sun dipped below a large sand dune, casting shade a few yards ahead. Maybe God hadn’t forgotten her after all.
The foreign words brought her out of a deep slumber. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and tried to make out the large form that was quickly approaching. Afraid, she tried to remember where she was.
As the camel reached her, it all came back. She was in the Sahara Desert, lost and all alone. God had deserted her and she was waiting to die.
A man slid off the camel’s back, too easily for one so old. “Ssalamu elaykum!” he said again as he approached her crumpled body.
“Elaykum ssalam.” She whispered back, thankful that she could still remember the Tamazight greeting.
Mismennem? She searched her weary mind for meaning. Name. He wants to know my name.
“Gita.” Her voice cracked as she spoke her name. Immediately her world went dark.
When she awoke again she was in the cool shade of a black tent surrounded by concerned faces.
The fluttering of her eyes sent into motion a flurry of activity. A woman about Gita’s age helped her sit up while a young girl propped pillows behind her back. An old women with deep wrinkles and kind eyes hurried to pour tea.
“Atay.” It was an order, not a request.
The old woman held out the small glass and steadied Gita’s hands as she drank. She drank and drank, as many cups as they would give her. The hot mint tea soothed her parched throat and warmed her clammy body.
The women fussed over Gita. They fed her, filled her with tea, and ordered her to sleep. It didn’t take much convincing, she was asleep before her head hit the brightly woven pillows.
When Gita awoke the tent was dark and quiet. She took in her surroundings; the women sleeping next to her, the brightly colored fabrics that brought life to the dreary desert, and the sound of animals bed down in the distance.
Feeling stronger than she had in days, Gita slipped out of the tent and stood under a glorious canopy of stars. She wandered toward the animals, so lost in her own world of doubt and self-pity that she almost ran into the old man.
She should thank him for rescuing her, she thought, but then wondered if talking to a male alone was a good idea.
“English?” He broke into her thoughts and his mischievous eyes made her smile.
“I talk English okie dokie!” He said. His big toothless grin and broken English made Gita laugh.
“You okie dokie now?” He asked.
“Yes, I think I will be, thanks to you. How did you find me?”
“Big God in sky send me.”
“God sent you?” Gita asked.
The man just smiled as they stood in silence, both lost in thought.
“My name Tobijah. You Gita. God want us to talk.”
“It’s nice to meet you Tobijah. What does God want us to talk about?”
“You think He leave you. Not true. He not forget you. He love you.”
“If He loves me, why has He let me suffer so much? I came here, just like He asked, and all I find is suffering. Crushed dreams, broken body. Nothing is going the way it’s supposed to. I miss my family and friends. Why did God send you? He should have let me die in this God forsaken desert!”
“This desert not God-forsake. Big God in sky send you. You mix everything upside downside. You suffer – okie dokie! Life not about you. Life about Big God in sky. You live, you suffer, you glory to Big God. People see, they look, they know Big God in sky because you.”
Gita hung her head in shame, knowing the old man spoke truth.
“Gita girl, you have purpose. Big God in sky give you life, so you live for Him. Purpose not job, not what you called, not found. Purpose given. It gift from Big God in sky.”
“You’re right Tobijah.”
“Okie dokie. Tobijah right! You go sleep now. Need rest.”
Gita nodded and made her way back to the tent. As she fell asleep she thanked God for sending Tobijah to rescue her body and slap her upside the head with a good dose of truth. She knew she had a purpose, and better yet, she knew what that purpose was. God gave her the gift of hope and it was her job to share the hope found in Him with those who were hopeless.
The next morning Gita was eager to get up and help the women fix breakfast. When she didn’t see Tobijah, she asked the old woman about him. Confused, the woman replied that there was no Tobijah. Gita smiled and silently thanked God for sending him.
She turned to the women around the fire and asked in perfect Tamazight, “Do you know the Big God in the sky?”
This flashover fiction story was inspired by something D. Stimmel taught our Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class last night. She said, “Your purpose cannot be taken away, no matter what happens.”
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…-Acts 17:24-27 (ESV)