Good Friday morning …

The rooster is the icon of the morning. He is known to greet the dawn with his crow. He crosses cultural and geographical boundaries as the harbinger of daylight. He takes top billing in the folklore of countless cultures … and even several biblical scenes center around his call.

I grew up around roosters. On our small family farm … a new batch of fifty freshly-hatched chicks arrived every spring to replace those laying hens that, during the course of the year, ended up in fricassee or in a pot of soup or as a piece of fried chicken on a Sunday platter. Invariably, though, one or more of these newly hatched chicks was a rooster … and it was only a matter of weeks before we discovered the imposter.

We never kept roosters among our chicken flock. They were a noisy nuisance … always stirring up the hens, never satisfied with their declared turf, and generally disruptive to our egg-laying pullets. As soon as he was plump enough for the pan, his crow was silenced and he became the first of the batch to join the chicken martyrs of the spring.

Roosters are not frequently on my mind these days. However, a Third World encounter several years ago comes to mind every time I prepare for another trip to Tanzania. It happened in the village of Arash on the edge of the Serengeti.

How surprised I was on my first morning camped in the compound of a medical clinic … to be rudely awakened by a rooster. It was 4:10AM … a tad bit early for a morning wake-up call. And the wake-up was not from some distant farm or shamba or a coop positioned in a confined chicken yard.  No … this early morning wake-up was not 30 feet away from my tent at the rear gate to the dispensary doctor’s residence.

Four o’clock in the MORNING! Surely this was an aberration, I thought. No rooster that I had ever known felt the urgent call to crow that far before sunrise. But I was wrong!!! The next morning … and the one after that … and the one after that … and for seventeen consecutive mornings … the rooster call came between 4:00AM and 4:30AM. For seventeen days!!!

As my team would daily remind each other … “TIA” (This Is Africa) … and so we would adapt and adjust and make do.

But this rooster was TOO much! He never quit! One morning he crowed fifteen times in quick succession. And besides him there were several others … each with his own distinctive twist to a morning crow and each pretending to protect his own barnyard turf.

The main culprit, however, was not only loud, boisterous and annoying … he was ugly! His neck was completely devoid of feathers … leaving the raw, red skin of his scrawny stem exposed. His tail feathers were in disarray and his coloring was a putrid reddish brown. His talons and spurs were oddly disfigured … his comb was a floppy, red, left-leaning crown atop his head … and his beak was but a nubby semblance of what it had once been.

One of my teammates commented that he was but one of God’s marvelous creations … to which I quickly replied, “But that is not exactly how God made him!”

To be sure, African nights can be filled with multiple sounds: bush babies in tree tops; wild dogs barking or fighting; hyenas crying; donkeys braying their raspy bark; zebras snorting softly … and on and on. Typically roosters are not among those nocturnal sounds … unless you pitch your tent too close to the territory they have staked out as their own! Then … watch out … or better yet … listen up!

Every African experience is a “first.” That’s just the way it is. Indeed, I stress the “TIA” mantra to my teams, cautioning them that anything can happen, and each participant must always be prepared to change plans … flexibility being the name of the game … for, after all, This Is Africa!

But here’s the bottom line: cultures are all different from each other. Each has its own idiosyncrasies … its own peculiarities, quirks, and characteristics. Each has its own sights, sounds, smells and specialties. Each has its own positives, negatives and everything in between. Each has its own beauty, attractiveness and splendor. Each has its own difficulties, nuisances and inconveniences.

And … each has its own people. And what is a culture without its people? Sights … sounds … smells … they all vary … as do the people … but it is the people who make the culture. It is the people who live and breathe the culture. It is the people who change the culture. It is the people of the culture whom God loves. And it is the people of the culture to whom we go.

So in the end … though the rooster is annoying and irritating and ugly … it is the talking, the crowing, the crying of the people that matters. Ultimately the disturbed sleep … whether from a crowing rooster, a deflated air mattress, a buzzing mosquito or a crying hyena … the disturbed sleep is but a slight bump in the challenge to touch a Maasai heart.  And as annoying and disturbing and irritating as it can be … I relish the thought of returning … even to the territory of the ugly rooster … to simply touch another heart. Somehow I think most of those who know the same rooster as I do … feel the same way.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” [Romans 10:14-15]

Have a great weekend in the Lord …

PR