Well praise God the days are getting cooler! The rains are here and it is so good to not sweat anymore at night! I still sleep outside most nights because I love falling asleep under the stars and when it gets to be 85 at night it actually feels cool to me and it is so nice to actually “need” to cover up with a top sheet. You laugh? HaHa! When a person’s body is so used to 120 degrees plus, 85 sure is cool. Our days can still be a little hot, but at least bearable most times, usually 90’s to low 100’s.
On Mother’s Day we had our first real storm. Our tents are big canvas tents (see picture) and they are fairly heavy. One person cannot carry one alone. The poles are metal and big and many. They are tied down and stakes driven into the ground and even tied to a concrete pad in some cases. The zipper to the front door flaps on every single tent is broken and so there is no way to shut out wind and rain when it comes at you sideways in a driving wind.
I was in my bed inside my tent because I knew rain was coming. The wind grew stronger and stronger and I felt the whole tent straining at it’s ropes. Soon the wind filled my tent and threatened to carry it away, rain driving in the front flap right into my bed! I jumped up and stood at that flap holding it as best I could against the force of the rain and wind. I watched things begin to topple inside my tent and my bed getting wetter. All of a sudden one of the guys comes running in my tent with a plastic trash can full of his stuff. His tent literally blew through the back fence and went upside down, ripping out of the ground and toppling the fence!
The storm lasted about fifteen minutes and then it calmed a bit. We drove the trucks back to our tents, headlights on, to assess the damage and every tent but two blew over and soaked everything inside. It was a big mess. Even one of our few trees broke in half. And so, some had to cart their beds to the office and sleep there for the last two nights. No one was hurt and we got everything put back together today.
Well, guess what? Another storm threatened just a few hours ago. The winds came and we all raced right out and drove the trucks right up to the tents and tied them to the trucks! Take that you storm you!!! We had just picked up three 7 Ton truck loads of cement bags and were racing around to cover those and all the while the roof is blowing off of the kitchen!! It was just crazy! I was standing out there declaring Psalm 91, mostly that no more destruction would come to this property in Jesus Name! I stood there until the rain came. When it did it was so amazing. The sun was shining and rain was coming down in almost buckets and I am the only one standing out in it again. Oh how I love the rain! It was so beautiful. Nothing was destroyed. Thank You Jesus.
Here’s another animal story. Right before the first storm, I raced to go to the latrine because I knew I might get stuck in my tent for a while. I ran inside just in time to see a bat fly down into the latrine hole! Now what?! I had to go. I really did. And so here I am trying to take care of my business while fending off this bat that is flying around down in that hole! I tell you what, my perseverance concerning this tour of duty in Africa almost came to an end this night.
With this rain, out of the dessert grass is coming forth. Our entire compound is dirt, pure dirt, not a shred of grass, even dead grass, anywhere. Where on earth does the grass spring up from then? Just an hour ago I bent down and just ran my hand across the top of a patch and it was sheer joy and I actually smiled because it felt so good to touch grass again for the first time since being here in Akuem. I will never take grass for granted again. I am going to water my own little patch and not let it die while I am here just so I can enjoy it. With thanksgiving and praise I go to the Lord because He is worthy to be praised!
This grass from a seemingly dead place causes me to think about the dreams and thoughts of our hearts and what we have given up on because we thought, “How could there be anything to grow from here? It surely must be a dead place.” I think about how many people have given up on the dreams of their hearts. They have told themselves that it must surely be a dead thing because they see no life there anymore. I look at all this dirt I am daily surrounded by. I remember worshiping near my tent many weeks ago and how excited I was when I saw just one tiny sprig of green standing there alone, a fragile shoot surrounded by dry and parched earth. I looked at the thing and I said, “Surely there is hope in the desert.”
God looks at our fragile dreams and thoughts and He sees them sometimes standing alone there, standing against the winds and storms of life, when all else seems dead. And even when we lay them down thinking they are not really what was to be for us. And we bury them there in the desert and walk away, thinking they are forever done because there is nothing to water them with, no one to care for them. And then the rains come. And then life comes. And out of a seemingly dead place, life comes in abundance. It shoots up and spreads across the desert and overtakes that dead place with new life.
Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
I think the Lord was showing me with that single little shoot standing alone of the things to come. He shows us little things and He spurs our hearts to wonder, gently asking us, “Do you not perceive what I am starting just for you? Do you not know it by this small thing I am showing you? Will you not give heed to it My beloved?” Oh, the Lord is so great and so good and He wants to show us so many things. He loves to give and give and He loves to take those seemingly dead places and bring life and make it all new.
What dreams and thoughts have you buried in the desert and put to rest once and for all? What have you seen spring up, a lone sprig, a tender shoot, and then it has been taken from you or you have walked away thinking it a dead thing? Beloved, go back and look at the tender shoot. Go back and perceive what God wants to do. I have seen grass grow from the dead place. I have seen the most beautiful green grass, prettier than any I have ever seen, come up from a seemingly dead place, buried under a dry and parched earth under the 127 degree sun. I believe that your dreams are still waiting for the rain of heaven. But I believe the Lord wants you to go back and look for the young shoot and expect the rain to come. Water it with His Word of promise and it will come.
I was thinking this morning, as I sat quietly with the Lord, about fruit. I always think about fruit because it is so rare here. We had some of our crew arrive from Yei this week and they brought fresh pineapple and bananas and apples. It brought such joy to us who were starved for fruit.
So, still thinking of fruit, I went to the market to show the new people around. We had lunch at my favorite Arabic place, we went to my favorite market stall, we went to my money guy to change currency, we went to my favorite stationary stand for office supplies and to a hardware stand for some building material. And our new colleagues were so impressed by how very nice everyone was. We would shop a little in each place for necessary items and were most times offered a cold drink, which is normal. They guys at the restaurant always let me go back behind the counter to look in their pots of food and pick what I want. Today one of them put his little Muslim hat on me and we just laughed and had fun pretending I was the cook.
Whenever I go to my money guy, he always sends a runner to get me a cold drink, he offers me a chair, he makes me feel very welcome. He inquires of my health and my work and my life. He never gets to the business until I am well taken care of. He is Arabic, as are most of the shopkeepers and owners.
And I was thinking about all of this as I sat here this morning and thought about fruit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is found in Galations 5:22 “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” And I look at the fruit of these shopkeepers, many who are without the Holy Spirit, and I wonder what is my fruit like? In every thing that I do, do I bear this good fruit? Mmmmmm I still have some pruning to do. I have some good fruit but some is still not ripe yet and so I have to keep growing, as do we all.
Today was my usual day to go minister to the kids at the hospital but we had a huge cement truck come in and so I got stuck here as I have to pay the laborers after offloading. So, never at a loss for something to do, I grabbed my bags of beads and went to our back gate where the ladies pump water at the borehole. There is never any shortage of children there. I invited them in and they were so excited to come in and have these colorful beads. And so we sat there in the dirt under a scrub tree and played for a bit. Simple, but fun. Soon though I had to close the gate because many started to come.
Word was filtering through the village and old ladies were coming in and I soon had a fiasco on my hands. Thank God that there was one of our guys to tell the old ladies this was for the children. They didn’t like that too well. Unfortunately, in the culture here, the older the person, the more they think it is there right that they get first pick, no matter what it is. Most of these children will probably have to give up their beads to older siblings and even parents. That really bothers me but I keep giving and I keep denying the older people. I want them to see that children deserve some good things too, first.
And so, the children are gone, the cement is stored and the huge truck from Khartoum is making ready to head back. And then I saw the most amazing thing. The Arab guy, who owns the truck, washes his feet and his hands and face and lays out his mat in the middle of our Christian compound and does his prayers. I see it all the time in the market in their stalls but I was so impressed that he was not ashamed or hindered from worshiping his god in the manner he was accustomed to in front of everyone in a strange place not his own. It reminded me of Daniel, being in the heart of Babylon and unbelievers all around, yet he still worshipped his God openly, in the way he was accustomed to.
I wonder how many of us would stop in the middle of our “busy” day and get on our knees in a supermarket or a library or a shopping mall and worship our God? I was pretty convicted to say the least. We westerners are okay about praying for others in public, sometimes, but how do we worship our God in public? Do people know that we worship God? Or do we blend with the crowd? Would we be like Daniel or this Arab guy and worship God unashamed? I know that I have been provoked.