Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take on courage! Wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
Leaving my wife and three young children in the care of Muslim and Christian friends in a small village near the border of Tchad, West Africa, I had flown home to be with my father in an emergency health situation. I felt the nagging voice of guilt and shame that I, an only child, would leave aging parents and, worse, take their only grandchildren 7000 miles away into the African sub-Sahara! But I needed to encourage both my ailing father and care-giving mother, and so, we entrusted the results to the Lord, telling my Muslim friends, Inshallah (as in James 4:15, say, If the Lord wills . . .)
After God amazingly renewed health for Grandpa Jim, I was returning, but delayed and re-routed. I became so impatient and anxious to know if my family was healthy—it so much easier to preach to others about waiting! The date was early 1990’s, BMCP (Before Many Cell Phones). I was also carrying an expensive cassette duplicator and worried how I would get through customs without paying many $$ (sometimes bribes) that I did not have! After an overnight in Brussels, Belgium, we finally flew into Doula, Cameroon very late at night.
As the crowded and over-tired people pushed and rushed to the counter to find luggage and accommodations vouchers, an odd but reassuring calm resonated in my spirit, reminding me to let go and let God. Reluctantly, I watched, waited and wondered as I became the last of 200 some passengers to be processed. For some reason, I felt led to insist that I stay in the airport overnight, refusing the vouchers. While it was against policy, the supervisor called le chef de la sécurité de l’aéroport and amazingly, I was escorted into an empty office to sleep on the couch.
At something like 4 AM the following morning, I was awakened by a stewardess and told to follow her immediately. As I groggily walked across the tarmac into the tropical smells of the early morning, my brain began to race . . . Where are all the other passengers? Where are the other passengers? I had many unjustified fears in that moment, some of them because I was a Christian missionary going back into a region of 90% Muslim population. As I boarded the plane, I was shocked to see I was the only passenger! After some difficulty in choosing a seat, I settled in. We were three, a pilot, a steward and me. The story was that a plane had been grounded for repairs in the extreme north with a load of passengers and this plane would pick them up and bring them back to Douala.
The take-off was like a rocket! The acceleration of an empty Boeing 737-200 was amazing–as was the descent! Upon arrival, the open doors of the plane led to a deserted customs entry as I strolled into the country with my tape duplicator and “Pas des problems.” Not only was the waiting rewarded, it also opened the way for our ministry to receive and use this wonderful duplicator without additional cost. We eventually made thousands of cassettes of Fulbe (Fulani) folk tales set to song with Gospel verses and themes. I recounted one last month in Testimonies of Hope, “After the Serpent, Hope!”
Did I learn to always trust and on God? No. Yesterday’s experiences don’t guarantee a hope-pass for today. Sisters and brothers and all, let our hearts take courage; we don’t know what will happen when we wait on the LORD; we do know that we are promised to see the goodness of the LORD! (Ps 27:13)