Sitting down, I saw that the were not only coming in the back door; they were crawling through the front door as well. I froze. They would get too close to my feet; I would try to scoot them away with the (thankfully) closed toe of my shoe. Jumping in to the first chorus and drumming meant that one actually made it up onto the bare top of my foot without me noticing until I set the drum down at chorus-end. Flicking it away in disgust, I handed the drum to Rob and sat with my feet elevated.
Long story short, after seeing that one had actually made it all the way up to the skin of drum without me noticing its progress, despite my vigilance, I fled. I squawked, grabbed the drum and my purse and fled. Off to the car I ran, where I skitted from one foot to another - they were all around the car as well - brushing them off the drum before placing it in the car, closing the door and fleeing across the parking lot.
I had to go almost all the way to the entrance of the parking lot to find a place to stand where they wouldn't be sneaking up onto my feet. I had lasted only 30 minutes in the service before running from the wee beasties. I was actually shaking. I couldn't believe that people were still in there, carrying on with the service like there weren't little worms wriggling everywhere! I was a little surprised that Rob didn't immediately follow me out, I don't mind saying - more on what he did do later.
While I was standing there in the late morning sun, trying to clear my head, calm down and figure out what I was going to do next, a car pulled up. It was Luise, a friend of mine who had decided to come visit our church for a look see. She had already attended the Methodist church that morning but had somehow felt compelled to come to my church as well. She saw how rattled I was and got out to talk to me. When I pointed out the swarm, she agreed that it might be best to visit on another occasion and offered to give me a lift home. It had been about 15 minutes since I had run out of the church building and Rob still hadn't followed me so I thankfully agreed to the lift. I sent Rob a quick text message and hastily got in her car; off we went. On our way out, Luise noticed a cabbage patch next to the church grounds. We hypothesized that perhaps some pesticide had been recently applied and they were all just looking for a new home, seeking sanctuary in the sanctuary, so to speak. Later, I discovered that this was a smaller variety of the phane worm that lives in mophane trees, the worm that some southern Africans eat for food. These small ones are a real problem right now, competing for food with the larger, edible worms.
She took me to her house first, to show me around her new digs. While there, I had a cup of sweet tea and regained my composure. We chatted for a while about our respective Christmas holidays and plans for a Bible study that we hoped to begin in the new year. About an hour later, she was dropping me off at my front door, in a much better state than she had found me. I still had a serious case of the willies for
a while but I'm OK now.
It was a rattling experience to see those critters crawling across the whole church, structure and members. Rob got my text message late and so had been there for about half an hour longer waiting for me to return to the pew. But he reported that while I was gone, he too had been distracted by the sight of them everywhere; on the altar, the pulpit, the guy sitting next to him. On the one hand, I felt like I was witnessing some kind of wholesale desecration of "the house of the Lord", made all the more surreal by the people around me who were continuing with liturgy as usual, just as if the place weren't infested. I seriously was incapable of thinking heavenly thoughts during the entire half hour I was in there and, truth be told, for some time afterward. I rather felt like the first person to be kicked off of Fear Factor for failing an insect-based challenge and was feeling rather sheepish about it. I mean, what kind of missionary am I?
On the other hand, the arrival of Luise – out of the blue and entirely unexpected – could have been accompanied by blasts on a trumpet, so palpable was my relief. I have no doubt that she was a God-send; she agrees. And so, she had the chance to be the love of Christ to me in the midst of my own tiny, embarrassing crisis.
And I'm OK with that. And I know what kind of missionary I am. I'm not the kind of missionary who believes that the desire to live the Fear Factor lifestyle is an essential component of being a missionary. I'm the kind of missionary who lives elsewhere only because that's what the job that I've been called to do requires of me. I don't look for trouble and when trouble finds me I'm likely to run screaming like a little girl. But I run to God, to the One who sent me here, even though He knows how I feel about creepy crawlies. I'm the kind of missionary to whom God - in His mercy and grace - will send an angel in the mophane trees.