In my 6 1/2 years living in Africa, I’ve seen some really hard times. But this year has been different. A steady stream of one emergency, trial, and conflict after another has kept my spirit weary. Each one has not held the intensity or trauma that I’ve experienced in past years, but it’s been the never-ending tension that’s so hard. With at most a couple days of calm between each new struggle, the weariness of body, mind, and spirit has been overwhelming at times.
From confronting malicious lies about me among the teachers, to grieving over the consequences of sin in some co-workers. From having to be the vet for my kittens (including learning how to put in a sub-cut IV, give injections, and do post-op care), and burying the ones that died in my arms, to cleaning out the fridge that either switches off, spoiling all the food, or freezes all the fresh fruit and veggies. From dealing with sullen teenagers in class, to battling the spiritual warfare that imprisons many of my teachers in the belief that Allah is the same as God, or that Jesus was just a created ’Son’ to God. From fighting the new loneliness of life without my best friends amid the struggle of settling into a more isolated place, to the continuing health challenges that are a typical part of life in Africa. One thing after another surged up to drain my spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental energy.
Plus, settling into Kamonkoli is going much slower than I expected. While I lived in Mbale, I really did feel like it was my second home, and now driving from the supermarket in Mbale back to Kamonkoli still feels like I’m going to work even though it’s where I live now. My first living situation in the village was also far from restful. Constantly pulling out my bucket and bleach as I covered my nose and mouth with a scarf to wipe up the ever-aerosolizing black powder of bat feces that constantly drifted down from the ceiling to cover the surfaces and carpet in my bedroom and sitting room made it difficult to relax and rejuvenate in the evenings after work.
Most mornings I would wake up and have to just make the conscious decision to press on. Because of all of it, Romans 5 has become my theme…
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts…”
Suffering >> Endurance >> Character >> Hope >> Experience of God’s Love
Just think of it…I get to experience God’s love BECAUSE of the hardship. The character that produces hope that He is working in me is what enables me to know and experience His love. But that character only comes through endurance! Without the chance to endure and watch my character be refined, I would be lacking the full expression and experience of His love for me.
I know what it is to wake up and teach purely out of obedience. I know what it is to drive to school pleading the whole time with Jesus to give me enough temporary relief from the stomach problems, weakness, and pain to be able to stand and teach for the next 3 hours. I also know what it is to watch Him do literal miracles so that I can teach my kids and teachers the message He supernaturally brings to my cloudy mind and stumbling lips.
I can’t say that the thrill of watching those miracles and being used by Jesus made the struggle any easier. The physical and spiritual exhaustion and pain stayed just as vivid…but I think that’s the whole point! Endurance isn’t necessary or even possible without the sting of pain and ache of struggle. The cost is huge. But so will be the reward! To take even one step deeper into intimacy with the God of this universe has to be worth absolutely whatever the cost. And it has been.
After a full 10 months of struggle, I have the gift of being back in the States until January. Every year I get to help HUM fundraise and connect with supporters across the US. It’s always a precious time for me as I get to remember and tell about all the ways Jesus has been at work in Kamonkoli. I know this time will be no different! I’m so grateful for not only the chance to see some of you, but also to recuperate and process everything that’s happened this past year. There were so many miracles and blessings tucked amidst the hard, and I can’t wait to share some of those stories with you in the coming weeks!
I love this picture because it's the very mist and cloudiness that make it beautiful. Isn't that just like God?!?