The key slipped easily into its slot. I was downtown Nairobi, standing before a bank of metal post office boxes. The bold figures on our assigned box – shared by others of our same mission – read 30207. Drawing out the few pieces of mail bearing the Lout name I paused at one marked with a Louisiana address. I recognized the sender though we hadn’t been in touch since I left San Antonio more than a year ago. I turned the envelope a couple times. How about this. . . What’s Ray up to these days?
Ann and I had passed through our first Nairobi, Kenya months in a seeming blur, a lot of new happening. New friends, new apartment, new culture and new car. . .New baby.
Julie Ann Lout made her squalling entry to Nairobi Hospital July 13, 1972 – a bare six weeks after our Africa landing. Our most joyous moment since Ann and I exchanged our vows.
A few weeks later I engaged another kind of new. A new language.
We found we were short on funds to cover both an insurance payment coming due and my Swahili School entrance fee. By now the language studies were underway. The money worries burdened me.
On the post-office-visit day I had awakened about 5 o’clock. Our little studio flat came with an oddly arranged self-contained kitchen, separate from the rest, making possible an inviting private space for alone-time. Before boiling some coffee water I slid a chair near me and knelt before it. And found myself questioning.
Laugh? I’m to laugh?
My questioning was reaction to a direct, uninvited impression that entered my mind some moments after I knelt. “Laugh. . . simply give your voice to laughing. . . laugh.” To consult my feelings seemed pointless. I felt like doing any number of things. Return to bed. Bemoan our money shortfall. Worry.
The word ‘laugh’ persisted, like a gentle command. A few moments passed.
OK, here goes.
“hahaha”. “hahaha”. “hahaha”.
The sounds coming quietly off my tongue were flat, lifeless as a corpse, ricocheting the yellow-painted walls of my small enclosure. I realized that no smile accompanied my attempted laugh. Alright.
I’ll smile. I willed my face to the posture. By now, though, I had begun sensing that God’s Spirit was likely behind this unorthodox exercise. That something special may await.
Several seconds of emotionless chuckling directed upward stretched into a minute or so. For the most part my eyes stayed open, as the practice didn’t seem entirely like prayer anyway.
What happened next, there in my early-morning space, surprised me. And revisited my thinking later in the day when reading the Louisiana-stamped letter. The impact was profound.
©2017 Jerry Lout