Questions are something that really interest me lately. In my opinion, a good question is worth more than a thousand simple statements. Being a father of three wonderful children I get asked A LOT of questions all the time: “Daddy, what is for breakfast? Daddy can you help me with my homework? Daddy, how much supper do I have to eat before I can have desert? Daddy why do I have to go to bed so early.” You see, constant questions.
In a way my trip to Swaziland is all also related to questions. My questions have centered around my own journey into relationship with these wonderful people. So I have come to not only strengthen my relationships with them and fumble my way through trying to be a representative of Christ and our church community, but also to get some answers to my own questions about why God has connected me to this place.
In a way things have been very familiar, joyous reunions with great friends, smiling faces of children and the very real presence of Jesus permeating our time. Yep, pretty wonderful and much like what I experienced on my last trip in 2012. But, on Wednesday evening I experienced something that shattered the norm of my expectations, rattled me severely and caused me to ask some very hard questions I was not expecting to ask.
Three of us, including myself went on a visit to the homestead of a special friend of a member of the team. Although I had been on a home visit before on my trip in 2012, this experience was nothing like that. The home was small and in disrepair, quite far from the carepoint and quite a hike up the mountain. Once there an elderly Go-Go who was looking after two small children and one teenager alone greeted us. She had no possessions to speak of and no food at all. We provided her with a gift of some food and took some time to talk to her. She expressed profound thanks and stated we had been an answer to prayer. In fact she emphasized at several points in the conversation that she had nothing and relying totally and completely on God to meet her everyday needs. She also told us about her teenage granddaughter who had to walk a staggering three hours to and from school each day in the dark. This wonderful Go-Go asked us to pray for this young woman as she was struggling with some serious mental health issues. We prayed for her, her family and for God to work a miracle in the life of this young woman and left.
The experience of meeting such a faithful, gentle and dignified woman was more humbling that I can describe and I am grateful beyond words for it. But, the experience left me deeply shaken and asking some tough questions like:
“Father, why does this have to be like this?”
“God, you have unlimited power, why do some people who love you so much have to suffer like this woman?”
“God, aren’t you doing something about this?!”
I grant you that I was really upset when I blurted these questions out so forgive their rather unvarnished nature, but I worship a God who is not afraid of tough questions. After I calmed down they remained on my mind. As I was thinking about this the thought occurred to me that God often answers questions put to him with questions of his own. The rich young ruler who asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” is responded to not with an evangelistic speech but with, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” Or Job, demanding an answer to the question of why he was suffering was consequently peppered with a series of questions by God. Questions force you to open up within your own assumptions about things. As I though about this I slowly began feel the sting of God asking me a question, “What makes you think I am not acting on this?” and “what makes you think you have the whole picture?”
As I pondered this I began to think about the people who serve here, the teams who have come and loved these people, the relationships that have been built and the perspectives that have been changed. I thought about the love that has been shown in real, tangible ways, the lives that have been changed and the number of people whose faith has been encouraged here. As I thought about all of this I began to think I could only answer God like Job did, “I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You asked ‘Who is this who conceals my council with ignorance?’ Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42: 1-3).”
I may not have the answers to these questions but I have seen enough to know that God is working in amazing ways here and that He has granted the privilege to me of being a part of it. It is truly amazing. To anyone who is considering this, or is feeling the “nudge” I encourage you to listen to it. You will see things that will shake you, that will challenge you and that will cause you to question. But in the end, you will also experience a trust and understanding of God’s character like nothing else.
Charlie, Rylie, Jordan – I know this was a lot to wade through but I also want you all to know that I am thinking about you all while I am here. I know that some day you will come with your mom and me on one of these trips and I am hoping that it will help teach you things about our God that you can learn no where else. I love you all and I am excited to come home soon to see you. LeeAnn, several Swazi friends have expressed their love, greetings and send you their best and have told me to tell you they miss you. I miss you too!
Well, that’s it from me! Goodnight from Swaziland everyone and thank you all for your prayers, words of encouragement and support. It means a lot to us.
All the best,