the village i grew up in was about twenty kilometers from lumi in the sandaun province of papua new guinea. surrounded by dense jungle on all sides, a great appreciation for lanterns and lights grew in me.
long-handled silver flashlights were a prized possession. but if moonlight was enough, their heaviness was slipped into loose back pockets or bilums. batteries were currency. you did not waste a single penny.
in the evening i would see children the size of my eight years alive D, carrying slow burning bamboo torches, flames dancing in front of them. mothers and older siblings trailed behind carrying back bending results from gardens and sleeping babies.
you never knew how many followed that beacon until each one had crossed the pool of light from our coleman kerosene lantern— lit faithfully by my dad each evening as the sun downed.
i was relieved every time the mantle flared into bright white, light… filling the house until bedtime. and when he turned it down to eventual nothing, darkness rushed in to fill up every space.
somewhere between goodnight back scratches and whispered prayers my mum would light the blackened wick of a small lamp beside my mosquito net covered bed. i would insist she lift it, feeling for enough kerosene to last through my sleeping.
it was a ready warrior against the night dark and sounds that never shushed. it was my faithful guide down a suddenly longer hall when i took my bad dreams to the bad-dreams-not-allowed-here safety of my parents bed.
an old friend gave me a gift of a lantern after years of living in america.
i do not light it as often as i want to. but when i do it is ready.
ready to light paths and lead people and keep the darkness from rushing in.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
psalm 119:105 (NASB)