Friday, January 30, 2015

God's Got This!!!

I’m rather excited to see what God is going to do, and my hope is you will be encouraged, too! Let me give you a little background. Lately, I have been under a lot of stress. I won’t go into all the reasons. They aren’t life threatening and I know some of you face worse things, but I had allowed the pressure to get to me to the point that I was in continual physical pain. One of the problems was with our van. While we have been very thankful for our van, the roads here can be hard on vehicles. From the beginning, our van has had a tendency to overheat. We have had it worked on numerous times trying to fix the problem, but finally came to the realization that we would either have to replace the engine or replace the van. Replacing the engine can be risky here because you don’t really know what kind of engine you might get to replace it. We decided we would pray that God would provide some extra money at the end of the year so we could get a different vehicle. The van was getting worse, and we prayed it would make it till then. We made it to the end of the year and found that about four thousand dollars extra did come in for December. Praise God, and thank you so much to our supporters!!! With that, we thought we might have enough to get a cheaper vehicle. But we didn’t jump to buy one. We have learned that it is always better to seek God’s direction even if that means waiting a little. We didn’t have to wait long. Within 24 hours a different need arose that swallowed up all the extra money. It was clear the money was to go there because the extra money was almost exactly the amount needed. On the one hand, this was encouraging, for God not only knew what our needs would be, He had sent just the right amount! On the other hand, now what were we to do about the van? More stress. I decided I would take it to the mechanic and see what we could do to keep it running. There was no money for the work, but we would trust God to provide. This was on a Friday. The plan was to take the van to the mechanic on Monday. On Saturday the battery wouldn’t start the van. I had to jump the van to get to church on Sunday, and then jump it again to go home. Before we could make it home, the transmission started making noises and refusing to shift. As we pulled into our gate, the electronics on the dash went completely out. I had the feeling as if when I got out of the van and shut the door that the wheels would all fall off and the van would roll over on its side. What I felt was an urge to laugh and a sense of relief. It was clear that this was so much more than I could fix. Everything was more than I could fix, and I remembered that we had been here before. God had allowed us to be in these kinds of situations before. And either it was because there was some important lesson that we needed to learn, that, while it might not be pleasant, would in the end be for our good; or God was wanting to show Himself mighty, and was letting things get darker so His victory would be all the more clear. My attempt to try and fix things by my thinking had been answered with a resounding, “No!” Okay, I may be slow but I do eventually catch on. It was not up to me to fix this; God had a plan. I needed to surrender it to Him. That was not only true with the vehicle but all the rest as well. We have learned, when we get to this point, we don’t need to figure out the solution. We just need to focus on doing what we know to do, and trust God with the rest. We had planned to take the boys on the bus to go see Josh and Janae in Kenya. I really didn’t have the spare time or money to make this trip. It would have to be a quick one, lasting about 48 hours with over half of that being spent on the bus. But we knew it was important to go, so we decided not to think of the van and just go. Another thing we have learned is when you turn something over to God, you need to keep your eyes open to see what He might be doing so you can follow along. When we got to the school, we met up with a good missionary friend who told us he was feeling lead by God to offer to sell us his car. The car was much nicer than what we were looking for or even thought we could afford, but again, we have learned to rule out anything with God. So we asked him to pray about it and we would, too. He didn’t tell us how much he would ask for it, but in truth, it didn’t matter. We didn’t have any money for it. But more and more we felt that this was the car God intended for us to have, which meant God would have to be the One providing the money. I am not telling you this to try to make you feel sorry for us or to convince you to give money. The one thing God has made clear to me is that I am not to try to figure out a way to get the money. He already has a plan and I will just get in the way. I tell you this because I believe this is about much more than just our need. This is about God showing clearly how He can take care of those who trust in Him. That there is nothing He cannot deal with. Some of you need to hear this because you are facing situations that are beyond your ability to fix. I still don’t know how God is going to provide, but I believe He will and I write this in faith so you can see it from the impossible side before He steps in. I believe I will also be sharing sometime soon telling you how God has answered our prayers. This is a bit of a risk for if God doesn’t step in as I expect, I will look pretty foolish, but I have looked foolish for lesser things. So I invite you to stand with me to see the salvation of the Lord.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas in Nairobi

When I had gone to Nairobi for my heart in November, the doctor required me to come back in one month’s time, just before Christmas. I did not really want to have to be traveling at that time but I was not really given a choice. So after we got home, we made arrangements for me to catch a night bus on the 21st of December, be in Nairobi for a couple days and get back home on the 24th. The time came for me to catch the bus which was to leave at 9 pm from Jinja, so we arrived a half hour early only to find out that the bus driver had just before we got there. (We later found out I was not the only one he had left behind; there were three others). The ticket agent, a young fellow named Omar (who was new to the job) used two cell phones simultaneously to try to get through to the bus driver or conductor to get them to pull over and wait for me. We three (including Michelle) jumped into our van and started after the bus. Now one of the reasons I take the bus rather than drive is because I don’t really enjoy driving on the African roads, especially at night. The roads are dark with lots of obstacles, including pot holes, animals, people, bikes, motorcycles, what not. Another fun thing is that many people use their high beams all the time and in effect, blind you. So off we race after the bus. I would have preferred to go slower but knowing that bus drivers are notorious for going very fast and that this fellow had already shown little inclination to wait even the required time, I figured if he did agree to wait for us, it wouldn’t be for long. Omar finally got through to the bus conductor who said they would wait for us at Iganga, a town about 45 minutes down the road. “ Why,” I asked, “couldn’t they pull over sooner?” But Omar had no answer. I later found out they were required to stop in Iganga and the driver wasn’t willing to stop earlier. After a rather nerve racking drive, we make it to Iganga only to find no bus. Omar gets back on the phones and is told that the bus driver had changed his mind and now required that we go on to the border, another hour and a half away, to get on the bus. Omar explained that some bus drivers prefer to have some empty seats so they can pick up riders on the way and pocket the money they get. Thus this driver was not very motivated to wait for me. At this point I do not want to go on. There was no guarantee that the driver would really wait for me at the border. Plus, going on would not only mean more night driving for me but it would also mean Michelle would need to travel back with our van over two hours late at night with a stranger. Now Omar seemed like a nice guy, but I did not want to trust Him with my wife. Michelle, however, assured me she would be fine. I knew this took a lot of courage on her part to say this. She obviously felt it was important I see the doctor. So, on we went. We only made it about ten minutes out of Iganga when the van over heated. Another reason I had chosen not to drive was because we were increasingly having problems with the van. We have taken the van to different mechanics, but having your vehicle worked on in Uganda is an adventure in itself, and despite repeated attempts the problems had not gone away. In fact, they had only grown worse and more frequent. So there we were sitting on the side of the road in the dark. At this point I was done. I wanted no more. I told Omar that we would wait for the van to cool, and then add more water (which we now carried all the time, along with extra oil). After that we would go back and I would go home. In truth, I was relieved no to have to leave my family and make the trip at Christmas time. I would see the doctor some other time. Omar was very polite and agreed to give us a refund, but he insisted he could get me on the next bus that left two hours after the one I was supposed to be on. Omar was working very hard on his two cell phones to make this work. At this point I didn’t want to go to Kenya even if he drove me in his own car (which of course he didn’t actually have); however, Michelle also seemed to think I should try to get on the second bus. I knew she was only concerned for my well being, but it felt like there was a conspiracy against me, trying to get me to do what I knew I should rather than what I wanted to do. I decided I would outsmart them. I agreed to take the later bus only if Omar could get me a seat up front like I had paid for on the first bus. Seats up front were more expensive because seats in the back tended to be uncomfortable and very bumpy. I knew that the buses at Christmas time were usually sold out, so I felt safe Omar would fail in getting me a front seat, but I would still look like as if I was being agreeable. I was still mentally patting myself on the back when we arrived back in Jinja. The second bus was just arriving. Omar went on and to my dismay managed to finagle to get me a seat towards the front. The ride to Nairobi was about typical - long with little sleep. When we got to Nairobi it was around 10 o’clock in the morning, and we were stuck in a traffic jam, which was also typical. The problem was since I was on a later bus I was now going to find it difficult to make my 11 o’clock appointment. After we spent some time watching us getting nowhere fast, I decided I would need to do something different. I told them to let me off the bus. I made it across traffic to some bodas (motorcycle taxis) I saw across the street. I jumped on and off we went weaving our way through the traffic making our way to the hospital across town. We made it to the hospital with a few minutes to spare, which I was very thankful for, for it gave me time for something that had become increasingly very important - finding a bathroom! Fortunately, I knew of one close to my doctor’s office. I got to the bathroom grabbed the handle to find it locked. Someone else is already in it. “Okay”, I thought, “I can wait a couple minutes.” I wait and I wait, shifting from one foot to the other. Finally the handle rattles. I think, “Great, he is coming out.” But the handle just continues to rattle. The guy is locked in the room and can’t get out. I quickly look around for someone to help. I see a guy with a name tag, which I hope means he works there, and try to explain to him that someone has locked themselves in the bathroom and can’t get out. It takes a few attempts to get the message through but eventually he agrees to go find someone who can let the guy out. I wait around for another couple minute but then decide I need to go find another bathroom. I walk up and down corridors but have no luck finding a bathroom. I decide by now the guy surely has gotten out so I go back to the corridor by my doctor’s office and find the guy is still locked inside and there is no one there helping him. I find another person, this time a gal who is a janitor and explain again the situation. She says she will go find someone to help. “Great,” I think, “I have heard this one before.” So I leave the guy to his own fate and go off once again looking for the golden throne. Finally I find an open bathroom, and there is great rejoicing. I never do find out what happened to the guy locked in the bathroom but I do make it to my appointment just in time. They take me right back to a room to check my vitals, including my blood pressure. The nurse tells me that my blood pressure looks a little high, and I think, “You have no idea!” The rest of the appointment goes fine. My blood pressure goes back down, and I am given an okay from the doctor. The next day has its own adventures, making my way around the city by bus, doing some last minute Christimas shopping, looking for things unavailable in Uganda. I catch the night bus back to Jinja and arrive a little before noon on Christmas Eve. It is not exactly the way I would have chosen to get into the Christmas spirit, but I am back with my family and once again thankful for the many ways our God has watched over and blessed us.