A year and a half ago I named my mission to Uganda, Journey to Jinja because alliteration is cute and catchy. I really had no idea what a journey I was getting myself into. This morning I started Beth Moore’s study Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent. I was excited to study Psalms, not realizing the emphasis of the study is the songs sung by Israelites during their pilgrimage to the temple. The girls joined me for the audio introduction. We marked out the chapters [psalms 120-135] we would be studying, staining the pages with their red-dirt fingerprints.
Psalm 120 In my distress I called to the Lord, What misery that I sojourn in Meshech that I dwell among the tents of Kadar. Too long have I stayed in my dwelling among those who hate peace.
Of course I had to Google Map these places, to find out they are opposite directions from Jerusalem- both far journeys to the city of God, to the temple. I thought of my tents, the two countries I now call my dwelling places. And by the next chapter, The Maker of Heaven and earth who is my Keeper, made it very clear that He is in Both places. He knows the place I am leaving and knows the place I am going. Just as Meshech and Kadar were literal places so were my dwelling places.
But Jesus also wanted to be the Keeper of my heart tents.
What misery that I sojourn in uncertainty that I dwell among the tents of anxiety.
What misery that I sojourn in insecurity that I dwell among the tents of fear.
And so my prayer was this ( I wrote this prayer on the page you are supposed to keep covered so your neighbor doesn’t see)
Lord please take these places of wandering through uncertainty and insecurity and turn them into adventures of beauty. Of journeys to know you. Travels with my One Romance. Help me to trust you.
And this is what happened after I put my Bible down and my coffee cup in the sink. One day of the journey. I headed to town to pick up a lab result. With our vehicles currently out of commission, I walked to the main road, about 2 km. The small ones too small for school grabbed my hand and walked with me. More red-dirt fingerprints covered my hands as they continued munching their sugarcane and I kept walking. I made it to the road, and not a single boda (motorcycle for public transport) was coming. Finally a man stopped; he was driving an ancient boda that you could hardly classify as a motorcycle. I would have declined, but I really didn’t know if another would come by. So I hopped on the back. I fumbled my feet around attempting to find the foot-pegs nervous I would bump the muffler until I got off at the footbridge crossing the Nile (built in 1954, history note by my 55 year old driver). I noted the muffler was under the seat and the size of an electric pencil sharpener. And it made the same sound. We reached the clinic. Since were both nurses heading to the same place, he considered us friends and would not accept transport money, only a small bit for fuel. Refusing payment for transport is unheard of, rather I am usually haggled into higher price. If there had been other bodas on the road, I never would have chosen this one. I probably would have chosen one that didn’t look like it was going to fall to parts. But I was so blessed to have traveled with a such a kind- hearted man.
I finished at the clinic and walked to the bank. My debit card was declined. The only option for transaction was “return card.” I tried the next bank, the armed security guard kindly informed me that this ATM was not working. And bank number 3 was closed. Apparently it had moved clear across town. I called my bank to make sure my card had not been blocked, but I was on hold when I ran out of Airtime. I couldn’t make another call, or access my account. I went into the grocery store and had enough cash in my wallet for a cold coke and $1.50 worth of Airtime. There across the street was another bank- the security guard directed me to the ATM. I walked into the small ATM building, and it hit me. It was Air Conditioned! And had the microchip technology nonsense the new debit cards have now. I was standing in the only 4 foot square of A/C in town (except the fancy restaurant with the cheesecake)! This place was called Diamond Trust for a reason, it was a piece of heaven. Jesus heard my crying in the street, but instead just an ATM machine, he brought a box of pure refreshment and relief.
I now had cash to go to the market. I entered the open-market through a different entrance than usual and I was a bit disoriented. But I was not going to tell the two boys that insisted on escorting me through the market that piece of information. But Nick and Earthquake (his name translates in English to Earthquake) made a convincing argument when they offered to help me bargain my way out of muzungu prices. Provision and even some interesting company while I completed my morning shopping, So I boda-ed home with produce filling my backpack.
I made it home, and the half-day school boys met me on the porch requesting to play beads and threads. I was adorned with beaded necklaces and bracelets. One pure boy became bored with beads and started stringing ants. He successfully tied 5 live ants onto his necklaces. Boys. Treasured boys. It was this very boy that Lord used to show me months before, why I was dwelling here. And proved to me He would remember his promise to keep and love his children. Maker of Heaven and earth who keeps these boys. That day there were miracles and so today there were tortured ants.
The boys stomp their red-dirt footprints through the house. The kitchen was flooded with the defrost from the igloo of the mini freezer leaking onto the floor. While the taps are without running water elsewhere on the compound, and kids rush to fill their cups at my house. When there is no water: my floor is covered with more water than I wanted. There is no water, and yet there is overflow. I enjoyed watching the boys fill their bellies with cold water and hack ice to pieces despite the melted, muddy mess that was my house. The satisfied children left and I mopped the mess. The day was complete with one more trip to the clinic for a malaria test. I returned home in time for evening medicine rounds and devotions. And I was back in my dwelling place.
In everything today, the Lord provided in ways I could not have thought in my own mind. Thing after thing went wrong, and provisions came that were just hilarious. Reminders all day long that the Lord was by my side. The Lord is my Keeper. He is there Before and Behind. He is there, no matter where my dwelling place is. The Lord wants to take my tents, my insecurities and uncertainties and bring me to a tent of trust and peace. And day by day He is making me into a dwelling place for him. Where can I go from your Spirit, if your Spirit is living in Me? Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure joined together, grows together into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit [Eph 2:20.] What a thought! As much as I want my dwelling place to be in Him, He wants his dwelling place to be in me. He is removing these broken tents and building a dwelling for himself. We are His dwelling place, His people. And He laid the first most beautiful stone: Jesus to be the Cornerstone.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent we groan, being burdened- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. Yes we are of good courage and would rather be away from the body and with the Lord. So whether at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-9