We asked Amelia what’s it’s like to live on an Indian Ocean island and to seek to share the gospel there. Here, she gives us a glimpse of some of the elements that make up Island living. She also shares with us the choice she faces, to concentrate on the challenges, or to consider the Island and Islanders through the lens of hope, and faith.
I often get asked what it is like to live on an Indian Ocean Island but, even after ten years, I still find it hard to know how to describe it. There are so many different parts of life here; some that are incredibly challenging, and others that make living here a huge blessing.
What do I talk about?
Do I talk about the frequent electricity cuts and how exciting it is when once in a blue moon you turn the tap on and water comes out? Or how the healthcare facilities are terrible, the roads appallingly potholed, the teachers are unpaid and striking, and there is endless corruption that continues to hold this country back? There is a steady stream of islanders heading overseas to find a better life, whether legitimately or as just one of those taking their chances in the seas between North Africa and Europe.
I met Mama M during my first six months here. A round, friendly lady, I greeted her as she sat on her front step. Overcome with excitement at hearing a white person speaking her language she dragged me into her house, introduced me to every member of her family and fed me. They are a warm family and unlike many Islanders, her and her husband seem to have a strong marriage. As a state school teacher she rarely gets paid and they rely on her husband’s private school income. Last year she sent her sick six year old daughter illegally to the ‘French’ island, desperately hoping that from there she might gain access to treatment in France that is unavailable here. She has no idea when she will see her again. She is a devout Muslim who sincerely tries to follow her religion and has asked me many questions about my faith in the past. Pray that this curiosity would return and that in the midst of the uncertainties and trials of life she would find the Father who is seeking after her.
Or do I talk about the dolphins jumping and flipping out of the turquoise sea, the towering volcano I live at the base of, the fresh pineapples and mangos? The people here who are friendly and welcoming, the amazing food, and the elaborate week-long weddings that involve feeding the entire village several times?
I could talk about how my English students start off so eagerly but then slowly drop off one by one as they get distracted by other things. Or the latest neighbour who is troubled by evil spirits. Then there is the national anthem, declaring that this country is one people, one blood, one religion, and the friend who declares that this nation is 100% Muslim and that’s how it’s going to stay. And then there are those who come to faith in Christ, but over time, fade away.
A lonely path
However, there are many individuals who have chosen to follow Jesus here. Some of them walk a very lonely path, too afraid to share with their family or trust other believers. A few have chosen to follow, counted the cost, and even gone to prison for their faith.
But I could also talk about the vision I have of small groups springing up across the island, groups worshipping God in their own language and in their own way, with his word in their language. Strong and unafraid, never failing to speak of the hope that they have. And of my own, sometimes faltering faith, and how it is only through the grace of God that I somehow find I am able to keep going and keep sharing. Or I could share of the days when you pray with faith and wonder whether today could be the day that God moves in power and begins to lead groups of islanders out of the darkness and into his glorious light.