I have a fantasy about being part of the persecuted church. I am captured for my faith and put into a dark dank little room and left there to suffer in solitude. But, in my imagination, I pray. I sense the presence of Jesus and meditate on his beauty. My circumstances become irrelevant as the glory overwhelms me. The divine beauty lifts me up.
Maybe it’s good to put such positive pictures in my head. But every now and then reality marches in and knocks them out.
Several years ago, the executive council of the Friends Church here in La Paz fixed up this little apartment for us. It had been the office of the Bible school staff and when they relocated, the council painted it a peach color, put in a ply-wood partition and a miniscule kitchen counter and sink, and invited us to live here during our yearly visits to Bolivia. It was a loving gesture and we receive it in that spirit. It’s conveniently located near the office of the history commission we’re a part of, and right in the hub of activity of the Bolivian Friends Church headquarters. Moreover, it comes with its own small but private bathroom.
People here have their own nickname for this space. They call it “The Refrigerator.” Truth be told, it’s small, dark, cold, and ugly. When we first moved in, we referred to it as “The Cave,” but later opted for the more positive “Hobbit Hole.” The peach-colored walls help.
The apartment does have one large window—that looks four feet out onto the unfinished brick
Our “Hole” is located on the lower level of the large Friends school in back of the main church. Above us is a primary classroom, and from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the kids shuffle, stomp, recite in unison and scrap their desks across the floor. In the time between the morning and the afternoon shifts, rascally little boys and girls run up to our door, bang on it, and run away giggling. We choose to see the humor in all of this.
But at night, the place is dark and silent. Sleep is sweet.
So, we ask ourselves, “How do we choose life in this particular situation?” There is much we can do. Rugs help warm up the floors (tile over cement), as does the small but efficient space heater. We’ve brought in trees, mountains, flowers and even two affectionate giraffes with calendar photos on our partition. Pictures by our artistic granddaughter, Gwen, add both joy and beauty. We try hard to keep things neat and orderly. Our table serves as a center for study, meals and hospitality. Yes, people do visit us here. We have seating for five if we bring in the stools that serve as our bedside tables. If more show up, some of us stand. It tends to keep visits short.
Living room/dining room/office
Thank you, Gwen!
A place to fix simple meals
But I have to admit that my surroundings do affect my spirit. There are days when I fight depression, when the lack of sunlight and the sheer smallness of this space begin to give me a spiritual claustrophobia. I fight the temptation to give in, but this takes its toll on my energy level.
So we make an effort to get outside every day, to visit our friends around the city, to program adventures that let us see real trees and flowers growing out of the ground.
And in the early mornings, as I wait before the Lord, there are times when his beauty becomes more real than anything else, and glory fills even the Hobbit Hole.
For all the other times, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”