Journal entry, 3 June 2014
“If today wasn’t evidence of being integrated, I don’t know what would be (apart from maybe participating in a serious kastom ceremony–which no one in my village does anymore).
“I have had chronic hives since I was 12 or 13 years old. Sometimes they’re small itchy bumps, maybe one or two here and there, and sometimes they cover me crown to toe, leaving welts all over my skin so I look like someone beat me with a 2×4 until their arms fell off.
“This morning I woke up somewhere in the middle. Enough hives to not want to go sing and dance at a kindy with forty <6 year olds, but not enough to take steroids. So because I didn’t go to the pre-school, Uyo Rachel (and the rest of the planet Port Narvin and its visitors) knew I was some sort of sick.
“The Presbyterian youth group from the other side of the island has been here for nearly a week now, singing each night away in the church and around the village. Accompanying them is the infamous (on Erromango, in the Presbyterian church) Healer. He is known for his gift of faith healing. Uyo summoned him as soon as she was able, thus doing everything she knows how to do to help me.
“Eventually he arrived in our kitchen with Uyo, Peter’s counterpart Don, and another young woman I don’t know. The healer sat on one of our wooden chairs while the rest of us settled on a mat on the floor.
“Our healer began by quoting a few verses from the bible about faith and resting in the care of Jesus. Then he asked me about my ailment–how long/often I have it, if it causes pain, what other irritations it causes, etc. This part was fairly conversational between he and I.
“Then he returned to Bible references, speaking fast enough that I could just keep up. He talked about the church being important, but more important is our personal relationship with Jesus and the Father (I think Uyo must have tipped him off for this part since this is nearly word for word what I had said about why I don’t attend church–all except specifically referencing ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Father’).
“Next he announced that together we would all say individual prayers of forgiveness. I hadn’t thought it was Presbyterian, but I remembered one of the churches here doing the we-all-pray-out-loud-simultaneously thing, making it sound and feel like a seance. He said this prayer was to call down the ‘tabu spirit’ or holy ghost to come join us.
“As we all began to pray, I had no idea what to say. I felt so disingenuous and stupid–but to call it off would have not only been more awkward, but very rude and relationship-destroying.
“As far as I could tell, they were all praying in Bislama, whispered ‘Jesus’es here and there. I began to mumble awkwardly in English, not knowing what to say. I mostly commented aloud about how lucky I was to have such a unique experience and that I’d likely never experience something like it again. I tried to throw in a few phrases in there of asking–someone–for forgiveness for–stuff. It was a ‘forgiveness’ prayer after all.
“The prayer finally came to an end and the healer continued with the Bible references. Lay your ills at Jesus’ feet and with faith he will take care of us, etc. etc. And our ailments are mountains for us to climb, challenges for us to face–and hives have been my trouble since I was a teenager, so now He sent this guy to relieve me (I’m glad I didn’t tell him about the GI troubles and resulting discomforts I was also dealing with). He told me that the Holy Ghost and Jesus had the power to clean my blood (they’re all about dirty in the blood causing ailments) and cleanse my skin of my ailment. Then it was time to pray again.
“The young woman placed a beat-up Bible in my hands and they all gathered around me, each with a hand on me–one hand on my knee, one on my shoulder, and one on my arm–and the praying began again. At first I had pray-ers’ block…but finally I began muttering with them. This time the words came easier. I talked about gratitude for these people who were doing so much for me in these two years of my life-changing experience; that I wish for them the same positive opportunities to expand their perpective and understanding; that as awkward as I felt, I was glad to be experiencing something so exceptional and that I have so much gratitude for the effort they are making for my benefit…then finally the prayer came to an end.
“For the first time (outside of prayer) someone other than the healer spoke up, but in the local language (which had to be translated for me). She said she had a vision of a beam of light shining down on me. I smiled and otherwise left that alone–she has a right to her own experiences without questioning or even comment from me. But the healer was not to be outdone (that’s how it felt to me anyway) and he told of his vision of the holy ghost, like he was washing dishes, wiping my skin clean. This time it did take an effort not to raise an eyebrow at him. Uyo even let out a small giggle.
“He then went on to tell us that God has a supply of blood in heaven, and if you come to him with your troubles and have faith in him, he will relieve you of your diseased blood and replace it with this blood supply. There’s a similar supply of skin for the same purpose. There’s a supply of every body part that could ever ail. Through all of this I didn’t know what else to do but look up at him as he talked and smile.
“Finally we came to the final prayer. The words came relatively easily this time, saying much of the same things, hoping the people surrounding me couldn’t’ feel how disingenuous and stupid I felt–guilty even.
“Afterward we all smiled. The Healer said if I get a hive again, I can put my hand on it and focus my faith on asking Jesus for relief and he will wash me clean. We all shook hands, saying ‘God bless’ and they left.
“Afterward, I felt anxious, awkward, and even a little shaky. It made my hives start to itch.”
To be continued….