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  • Writer's pictureAdina

Dozen Dudes

Disciples, a dozen dudes,

joined Jesus as he walked

from town to town

on dusty paths.

Dude! A word with many identities. These days, the word ‘dude’ is a term of inclusion and tough coolness, but that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1800’s, dude was the complimentary word for a man with a flair for fashion. Then those urbanites from the east discovered ranch life in the western United States. They temporarily traded in their shiny shoes for cowboy boots, but they still couldn’t hide their pampered hands. To the ranch hands, those city dudes loved to experience ranch life, but they could not handle the hardship and risks real cowboys faced on the open range. Have you ever met a dude? Have you ever been a dude? I’ve been on both sides of that coin. As a kid growing up in rural western Montana, my sister and I laughed watching our city cousins slide off our pony as it stood munching grass. We groaned when they yearned for a McDonalds in the middle of a mountain hike. But when my husband, Dan, and I headed overseas just a couple years after we were married, I was the one struggling to find my footing in awesome, but unfamiliar, territory.

Our initial training took us trekking to isolated villages in the Himalayas, which, at the time, could only be reached by steep, rocky trails. We were part of a language survey team comparing varieties of an unwritten language. Our goal was to collect word lists, conduct language-use surveys, and record and play mini-stories to test how well one community understood the speech of another. The results of our efforts would help identify which language variety could reach the most people in a phonetically-written form. We had the training and the equipment. We traveled with an experienced linguist and a mother-tongue speaker of the language. But we had a lot more to learn than what we put in our survey reports. On one survey trip, day four started with a two-hour ride in the back of a truck that had been converted into a bus. As we were getting settled, I commented to Ross, a veteran linguist of 30 years, that his pack had seen better days. It was so old that many of the zippers were broken and held together with safety pins. The zippers on my backpack were secured with locks! “Kids in the village are so curious, you can’t keep them from playing with the zippers,” Ross said in his rich New Zealand drawl.

As the space filled with people sitting on benches, squatting on the floor, or perched in the boxed in roof of the cab, I maneuvered to stay closer to my backpack. But Ross pulled his legs into an awkward position so that a man could sit on the tire where he had been resting his feet. I cringed when the man set his smelly fuel can against Ross’ backpack, but Ross just asked if he had enough room. Through Ross, I saw my fellow passengers with new eyes. Ross saw more value in a passing stranger than in his own comfort. That brief encounter had all the qualities of eternity, of a life hid in Christ, careless of the cost, free to love. On that same trip, I had decided to substitute flip-flops for bulky river sandals to lighten my pack. We carried everything we needed on our backs—heavy batteries, tape recorders, notebooks, our basic necessities, and gifts of tea, sugar, lentils, and rice. The sandals were usually for village time. At the end of the road, as we adjusted our packs for the day’s hike, Ross casually said, “We’ll be crossing the river back and forth quite a bit.” “On suspension bridges?” I asked. “No bridges here,” he said. Dan and I looked at each other. This was going to get interesting!

We spent the next two hours following the trail, slipping and sliding our way back and forth across the knee-deep river. It would have been challenging even without carrying our heavy loads. The river descended down a spectacular narrow gorge, hemmed in on either side by dense jungle. At one point, I looked up to see Hanuman Langurs lounging in the trees overhead. They look dignified, if that’s possible for a monkey, with their neat black faces and glossy sliver manes.

I felt sillier than the monkeys as I climbed over water-worn boulders, slithered across submerged mossy stones, and chased after my flip-flops time after time when the current pulled them off my feet. Finally, I put on my sturdy Asolo hiking boots and plodded into the water. I’d water-proofed them so well; it was like sloshing along in buckets. Dan had worn the tread off his hiking boots on the last trek; he wore leather dress shoes with a sturdy sole. Those, too, got baptized. But Ross and the two young guys who spoke the language seemed sure-footed enough in light sneakers and shorts as we waded, climbed, and walked upstream for four hours. At 5:30, just when I felt ready to drop, we left the river and began a steep ascent to the top of the ridge. After an hour of climbing, our legs still dripped river water, while sweat soaked our backs. On the other hand, BJ, Ram, and Ross didn’t seem to notice we were on an incline. That night in a village home, we pulled our compact inflatable mattress pads out to lay between the swept clay floor and our sleeping bags. In this spartan home of brown, grey, and tan, the burnt orange color of the mats positively popped with neon brightness. I tried not to notice the curious stares of the granny of the family as she eyed our equipment. Then she looked approvingly at Ross who had accepted her offer of a cornhusk mat. He pulled out a sheet of plastic and slipped it between the mat and his faded green bag. “It keeps the fleas away,” he said with a grin. Suddenly I was envious of Ross’s gear!

The next morning, as we prepared for the day, the old woman spread a mixture of fresh dung and clay on the floor. After completing this chore, she prepared boiling water for morning tea. I asked for just hot water in my cup. I’d been saving a Starbucks coffee pouch from a care package for just such a time. As my coffee brewed, the aroma brought back memories of the comforts of home. I closed my eyes to take a sip, only to choke as warm, salty liquid slid down my throat. “Mitho chha!” I choked. “Tasty!” I had forgotten that in the village, salt was a good substitute for sugar. Our hostess had been generous to share from her limited supply. She nodded pleased and returned to her work. As I sat holding the cup, Ross said, “I’ll give it a try.” He finished it and agreed, salty coffee was not a flavor combination he enjoyed. At the end of every survey trip, I was always that dude who was ready to retreat to familiar comforts. But Jesus disciples were different, weren’t they? As Peter said to Jesus, “We left everything to follow you.” But they, too, had much to learn.

I love to read Jesus’ interactions with his disciples. Simon the Zealot had expectations of political freedom. James and John wanted to know who Jesus’ favorite was. One time those two Sons of Thunder offered to help by calling down lightning on the neighboring Samaritans. Philip felt financially handicapped, especially when Jesus asked them to help feed a crowd of five thousand. All twelve had opinions about what Jesus should do and when. As their love for him grew, so did their desire to protect him. Peter even forbid Jesus from making the risky journey to Jerusalem just before Passover. But they also had questions. When they didn’t understand, they asked, “What does that parable mean?” When they saw Jesus retreat to pray, they begged him, “Teach us to pray.” They didn’t give up when they could not heal a demon possessed boy, but brought the boy to Jesus.

They alone saw Jesus walk on the water and transfigured on the mountain. And they listened to his hard teachings and did not turn away when others did. They chose to obey even when they doubted, like when Jesus told them to cast their nets on the others side of the boat after a fruitless night of fishing.

These men, and many women, too, were devoted to Jesus, but they had not been born again… yet. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “You’ve no idea how much I’ve looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering.” He said this even though he knew they would all soon desert him! Though they all abandoned Jesus as he went to the cross, all but one returned to his love, to see their resurrected Savior, and receive the promised Holy Spirit. They did not persevere by strength of will or character, but by grace—God’s grace. The four Gospels and the book of Acts in the New Testament record Jesus’ disciples’ faith, their faults, and their transformation. In between crossing rivers, climbing steep hillsides, and drinking salt tea (the way it should be made!), our team did manage to collect our quota of word lists and questionnaires on each trip. We often returned to the city several pounds lighter, with twisted ankles and sour tummies, but we gained far more than the comforts we gave up. We tasted a way of life that is quickly fleeting; we found friendship that has lasted through years of change and separation; and we experienced, like Peter, the wonder and risk that comes with stepping out of the boat when Jesus calls. We became Jesus dudes! Read for yourself:

Philip feels the financial pinch: John 6:1-14

Jesus calls Peter out of the boat: Matthew 14:22-33

Peter argues with Jesus: Matthew 16:13-28

James and John want to know who is the favorite: Mark 10:32-45

Judas scolds Jesus: Luke 7:36-50 (This event is recorded in all four gospels)

Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection: John 20:19-31 Read one passage each day this week. Use the ABC method to get the most out of your reading. For each section, choose:

1. A title: Summarize the reading in a few words (try to ignore the printed section headings).

2. Best Verse: Which verse speaks to you the most?

3. Challenge: How can you apply this verse to your situation?

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