These are the words we were asking the students to not say to their families.
On Black Friday, while most of America was out shopping for holiday bargains, Jos, Nigeria was covered in the smoke of hatred. While our team was incredibly safe on the other side of town, we allowed the students to call home and inform their families of what the day’s events had unfolded. They were given specific things to say and not say and “political unrest” became the best phrase to communicate. There was no need to rustle mommy-feathers from the other side of the world, especially since everything was expected to be calm by night fall.
Everything was calm(er) by nightfall, but the following morning smoke clouded the horizon once again. We had learned news of continued fighting, an angry Nigerian army, more deaths and a refugee camp.
A tiny ray of light had emerged, in the middle of anger and death stood a people grieving and recognizing their great need for help. This refugee camp would be where we spent our next three days in ministry.
Within that tiny ray of light, another war was being fought. A war that could not be fought with guns and knives; a war between flesh and spirit. While surrounded by 1400 refugees, I found myself in a surge of emotion and for the first time in two years I did not want to be in Africa anymore. If you know me well, you can imagine the shock that followed that thought.
This is from my journal on November 29th: “Lord, please remove any emotions and desires from me that are not of you. Please give me wisdom and discernment in decision making and the ability to see past myself. Help and guide me to love well today. Lord, have your way with me. Father, I pray that you would protect me from sin and the lies of Satan so that I would have the ability to discern good from evil. Father, give me your heart.”
Unfortunately my desire to come back to the states had also morphed into something else. Through the grace of God, I was able to discern the difference between my longing to go home and a lack of desire to be obedient. While I never really “came-to” with a self-driven yearning to minister to the refugees, I desired more than anything else to bring honor to Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was finally able to see past my own nose.
I walked away from that 48-hour time period in awe of how God had abundantly answered prayer. I was given a great gift that Saturday afternoon: clarity. For years, I have been pursuing Africa all while praying for clarity from God. While in Africa, through a turn of events that rocked a nation, the Alpha and Omega answered that prayer. The God that created the heavens and the earth, the God that saw fit to redeem mankind through death on a cross, the God that is above all things and holds all things together answered my piddly prayer for clarity. This almost blows me away more than the actual clarity I was given.
The best way to finish my tale is to allow you into my mind for a while. I leave you with two journal entries:
November 29, 2008 was the second most impactful day of my life. Second to _____, no other day has pushed me, stretched me and tore me apart more. As I realized that I wasn’t one with Africa anymore, part of me died. My African dream has been a safety net, an “unmovable” force in my life. Something that took three years to build up was torn to pieces in a matter of days.
Oh, but underneath that temporary safety net we find another. One that is not swayed with the weather of life. One that is eternal. Jesus Christ. The mourning process for Africa has subsided for the evening and I am left with Christ; the Completer of my faith, the Joy of my salvation, my Peace, my King.
During the group debriefing tonight, I was reminded of where the Lord has placed my passion. While I yearn to see lost souls come to Christ and feel privileged to play a part in God building His Church, I am really excited and impassioned by the sanctification of the believers around me; discipleship.
We leave today. Our home for two weeks is no longer a home, but a place we stayed in that one time we went to Africa. We drive from Jos to Abuja this afternoon and tomorrow we fly from Abuja to London. London to NYC.
Leaving is bittersweet. I do love Africa. I don’t love it enough to move here without the guidance and protection of a husband. In a way, part of me died here. I’ve had to grieve it and bury it on these plains. Part of me will always be here.
John B. was right. You can’t take a donkey, put him on a plane and expect him to be a race horse when he lands in Tokyo. If I had no passion or desire for relief-type work in the states, why would I have one here? I do think that this trip has revealed a lack of compassion in me; I need to be praying for more. Secondly, I need to pray that God would continue to grow His ordained passion in me. Discipleship and college-age women are something that God-alone has given me a fervor for. I wouldn’t have known it if I had not come here with LIFT. This passion for discipleship has been here all along, it just took a trip to the other side of the world to see it.
Some people have rocks or momentos to remind them of major life-events. I have more than a rock. Every time I see smoke in the sky, I am taken back to the time when the Peace of the world answered prayer. Every time I see a war movie or hear of political fighting I am reminded of the emotion that comes with severe, harsh pruning. I will never think of Black Friday the same way.