Africa, Faith


The sky is dark and still. A street light illuminates a dismal, empty parking lot. The noise from passing traffic competes with crickets, happily chirping in dewy grass, singing their hearts out. I am crying mine out. Back against a hollowed out tree, I gaze at the horizon,  silhouettes of big trees reminding me of a different place, a different me. “Are you still here, God? Are you with me here, too?”
Leaning into African sunsets.
Zambia, 2009

All I can think about are banana leaves falling over brick walls in the sunlight and after sunset, sitting on a cement block just outside the sticky kitchen door where fruit flies nested and plantain peels mingled with mangoes in a fervid race to decompose. All I can think about is hearing the laughter of God in Kwaku’s chuckle, of seeing His hand in the ups and downs of village life, of a life brimming with community and always enough to go around.
Kwaku, the boy who’s changing a village with his smile.
*Photo credit Helena Khosh, originally taken from this post.

All I can think about are Jerry, and P. Laud’s radiant smile, and Matthias’s crazy hair. All I remember are long nights tapping away on keyboards and telling the world (or at least our corner of it) about a place you can’t find on the map, but is charted all over our hearts.
Sitting on a crowded porch last Thanksgiving, celebrating meeting one of our fundraising goals for TANF and sending Kwaku’s brothers to school.
Teiman, Ghana 2013

I smile through the warm tears when I think of my students struggling for a turn to take photos with my camera, when I see their arms stretched wide, running barefoot towards me after another day of feeling inadequate and not enough. Not enough to give them the education they deserve and clothes that fit; not enough love to take away the sting of the cane their teacher hits them with when they get the answer wrong. Not enough to fight their malaria, to bandage infected wounds, to reach out in compassion towards those very same teachers instead of holding onto judgement.

I miss Africa. I miss Lena, and most of all, I miss feeling purposeful joy. I miss basking in the love of God’s presence transcending culture and chaos. I miss the village and I miss feeling like a puzzle piece in His masterpiece.
Saying goodbye to our adopted family with Emilotte and trying to put on brave faces.
Teiman, Ghana 2014

How do you let go of of something, without anything to hold onto? How do I embrace this new season of transition while longing for a new purpose and a deeper joy? This is the story of my life and struggle these days, weeks, and months.

Tålamod. I have this word written on a torn piece of notebook paper and taped to my new bedroom door. Whether we were lying on our mattresses, side by side on the floor in the dark due to another blackout, or by choice, I can’t remember. What I do remember are tentative voices breaking the silence of night, sharing hopes and dreams and laughter, lots of laughter. I remember her reaching through the thin veil of mosquito netting and scrawling deliberately. “I’m not very patient,” I confessed in the shadow of vulnerability. “I’m not good at waiting. I hate it.” That’s when she told me the Swedish definition of patience. Tålamod. To break it apart literally means, to stand and courage. To stand (still) in courage.

Standing is more active than sitting, courage less passive than waiting. Patience. I have been patiently (and not-so-patiently) applying for jobs in my new city all summer. I’ve been interrupted by funerals and weddings, celebration and grief, long bus rides and unexpected flights home. I’ve poured some of my best writing into cover letters, and let my hopes rise and fall with each failed interview and silent rejection.

I’ve asked for trust without borders and then taken it back when the Fear becomes too overwhelming.

Today, after months of seeking employment, I turned down a job offer. A good job offer and the only one I’ve had so far. Yet. Something didn’t resonate with my heart. Fear told me to take it, Faith whispered imperceptibly, “I have something better in store.” Wait. Have patience. Stand firm in courage.

If patience is standing in courage, then courage is faith with shoes on. Courage is where the rubber hits the pavement. It’s where what I say I believe, and how I live my life, meet and interact. As my pastor so eloquently explained, standing firm is having enough faith to claim victory, while still yet in enemy territory.

I’m not sure I’m actually, practically, logically, ready to be the person I say I am. I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of an opportunity with the hope a better one will come my way. Faith feels foolish and childish when I’m faced with mounting credit card debt and bills to pay. Standing still and waiting for God to move is unnerving. It’s much more comfortable for me to make things happen on my own, to accept what I can see instead of believing in what I can’t. Yet.

There’s a fabled conversation that whispers truth and comfort into my heart.

“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

I am tired and want answers. I want to escape the Unknown and set my heart on cruise control. I want to know how much longer, and how far until the Promised Land. But more than anything, I need to know, “God are you still here? Are you still with me?”

Maybe standing still in courage looks more like leaning into the Grace and Presence of Jesus. Maybe it looks more like letting His mercy move like a hurricane as I lean into the wind of uncertainty, firmly planted in His love.
Tulum, Mexico 2013

Maybe, like Moses, the only answer I need is “I am here. I know you by name. My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge