Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

Of all the guys who attends the Bible Study on Sunday nights at the church, Fredo lives the furthest away. He lives “out back,” as we call it. Literally, out in the jungle where they chase monkeys away from their fruit trees and see their fair share of snakes and many other critters. To get to his house you have to walk quite a way along a small narrow trail that is bumpy and sometimes muddy, or even flooded, depending on the season.  A small river has to be crossed, and there is always the chance of meeting a snake, or so I have heard. You may be able to tell, I don’t drop in on Fredo and Emma too often; it is quite a trek. 🙂

Last Sunday night, Fredo had no flashlight. He used to have one, and probably one before that too, but they get broken, dropped, lost, taken apart by the kids and for whatever reason, on Sunday, he had no flashlight. My friend, who is telling me this, starts to giggle, as she then tells how on Sunday, late afternoon, she sees Fredo leading his water buffalo (carabao in Tagalog) down the trail past her house. They invited him in for coffee, but he said he had somewhere to go and he continued on his way. Carabao are used daily here in the village for hard work in the rice fields or moving heavy material. They aren’t normally used for smaller, trivial things, like being a stand-in for a flashlight. And this is exactly why Fredo was bringing his carabao down to the village on Sunday afternoon; so that on Sunday night, even though he had no flashlight, he would be able to make his way home from church in the dark. The ladies in the house laugh, and the story is told of how all the men came out of the church on Sunday night, and walked home with their flashlights, but Fredo walked to a tree, untied his carabao and rode it home through the jungle. The laughter escalated when someone commented, Fredo had the biggest flashlight of all; his carabao! When the coffee was over and the story had been retold a few more times, I got up and went about my day. It was just another day in the village.

I didn’t think too much more about it until yesterday morning when Fredo came back to my mind. But, it wasn’t his lack of a flashlight, or him riding his carabao home in the dark that pulled at my heart strings this time. It was this:

On Sunday afternoon he had brought his carabao down closer to the village and tied it to a tree.

And I thought about that for a while.

Others in the same situation may have decided to stay at home that night, and people would have understood. To have no flashlight out here in the jungle is a very valid reason to be excused from the Bible Study. But, Fredo didn’t want an excuse this night; he wanted to learn from God’s Word. He knew the excuse that the night would bring and, while it was still day, he prepared for the time when he would need to make a way home. A simple act that is a common sight out here, but for Fredo, it was a purposeful action to combat the excuse of darkness, and to make sure he would be able to get to church, to listen to God’s Word.

And as I sit drinking my coffee and eating my bagel, I find it hard to relate to; and yet, so familiar, all in one moment. It may not be a missing, broken or lost flashlight that will keep me from spending time in the Word, but there will be something that will present itself as important. Something personal to me, something personal to us all. Some reasons will be valid, others not so much, but either way, we all have a choice. Will we use the Darkness as an excuse? Or live out our priorities in Light of God’s Word, as Fredo did.

The Darkness will always bring an excuse to keep us away from the Light of God’s Word.
And we all need to bring our water buffaloes down and tie them to a tree. 

My act of “bringing my carabao down” these days means setting my alarm clock every night so I can have my time alone with the Lord, before anyone else is up. Having two little ones in the house, that need constant attention, is not an excuse, it just needs more planning. 🙂  For others, it may mean deciding not to work over-time on the same night as prayer meeting night at church. Maybe not turning the T.V or computer on first thing in the morning. Sure, it isn’t always easy, somedays it takes effort and maybe even sacrifice. But isn’t Jesus worth it?  This precious time of meeting purposefully with Him (whether it be in a grass hut in the Philippines or in a coffee shop in California) is always hallowed ground. A time set apart to incline our hearts with the tenderness of His. Our gratefulness to our dear Saviour, will show up all over schedules, and in the small decisions, and responses, that fill our days.

As I finish this tonight, I have to add that Fredo’s wife, Emma, dropped by to bring me some fresh coconuts during the week. I mentioned this story that I had heard about Fredo and asked her permission to share it with you. She laughed hard, so hard that she was doubled over, then she slapped her leg and then she slapped my leg and when she was finally able to talk she said, “Pip, if you are going to tell it, you have to tell it all because when he got home he was covered in mud!” Poor Fredo, who has ridden a carabao for over thirty-five years, fell off for the first time ever, on his way home on Sunday night. Emma went on to say they all laughed so hard when he showed up at the house that they could hardly get to sleep that night. But Fredo, she says, he slept great.

I am nodding and laughing with her as she talks, knowing that, yes, we may get laughed at, we may be the odd one out, and at times it can bring moments of discomfort, but putting Jesus first in our lives? It brings sweet, sweet rest; peace never ending and fullness of joy.

Fredo reminded me this week, that rather than looking for an excuse, we should be looking to live beyond excuse to please our dear Lord. One Sunday in February, Fredo brought his carabao down and he tied it to a tree; how do I need to live to prepare, protect and pursue my time with Jesus? And as I search my heart, I already know the answer; and maybe you do, too.

With love,

Ephesians 5:8-10
“For you were sometimes darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”

Fredo and Emma on the day of their baptism three years ago.

PS: We have got Fredo and new flashlight, but I have a feeling his carabao may still be making a few more trips to Bible Study in the future. 🙂

2 thoughts on “"Everybody has a water buffalo."

  1. jeff noel says:

    What a lovely story. Inspiring. David Smith sent me here. 🙂


  2. Dapper Dave says:

    Loved the story of the flashlight – Fredo would never have guessed that his story would find it's way back to the US and even shared with someone (Jeff Noel) who is also known as Jungle Jeff because early in his career he was the skipper of the Jungle Cruise at Disney – now an international teacher, speaker and author. http://www.junglejeff.net P.S. I am David Smith, cousin of your Sheila


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