The Steadfast Faithfulness of God
My mind was overwhelmed with questions: Why had God let it come to this? Where was He? Had He forgotten to be faithful? Had He forgotten that the whole reason that I was in Uganda was because He had so clearly called me? Had He forgotten that I loved Him and wanted to serve Him? What about His promises? How did I get into this situation? How could I be here in Africa to serve Him and completely run out of money? Where was all of this abundant provision that I hear so much about?
"Where God guides, He provides!" is a phrase that I myself had used on so many occasions, but where was God's provision and guidance now? A week or so earlier I had borrowed a 4WD vehicle on a "break it, you fix it - wreck it, you buy it" basis and after driving for days all over Eastern Uganda, I was driving through Kampala near the end of my trip when there was suddenly a big 'clunk' as the drive gear disengaged and I coasted to a stop right into the driveway of a Service Station. At least the timing was providential. As I rolled to a stop a mechanic walked over and asked me if I needed assistance. In actual fact, what we discovered was needed was a new component in the automatic transmission - and quite an expensive one at that! That's where all my travel budget had disappeared to and how I found myself in this predicament. I was only half way through a mission trip to Africa and after paying for repairs I had no money at all except for about $50 in Ugandan Shillings. Not enough money for the rest of my trip, not enough for accommodation, nor for food... and no money to pay my faithful African co-worker. "What Lord..." I prayed with a mixture of desperate faith and growing anxiety, "... do you expect me to do now?" I was seriously deflated. It was in a tough spot and it was time to get serious. I determined that what was really needed was "an honesty session" with God, so I walked out of the place where I was staying and walked up a lonely road to find a place where I could get loud and "have it out" with God in private.
It was late afternoon and the clouds that had gathered in the west where spectacular against the late afternoon sun. That vision of majesty helped me to imagine that I was talking directly to heaven. I walked back and forth on the fresh tarmac of a new but unopened road. As I watched African children playing in the distance, I began to pour out my heart to God. "Lord, the Bible says that no soldier should serve at his own expense... but Lord, I am in your army and you know that I have paid my own way to get here... I have made sacrifices and taken steps of faith because I believed that YOU had called me here and that YOU would provide for me! I have laboured, and trusted, and believed and given and served in so many ways... but here I am... alone... broke... and I feel forsaken! What did I do to deserve this? Was I not committed enough to you? Not devoted enough to you in leaving my home, my business and family and coming here for no pay and to travel and teach and help these people?"
I looked up at the sky and wasn't hearing any response, so I got louder... just so I could be absolutely sure that God would hear me. I paced back and forth, accusing God of overlooking my needs. Anyone who might have been watching me from a distance may have wondered what was going on as I pointed into the sky and punched the air, kicked the dirt and paced back and forth. I didn't care what anyone else thought - I just needed a breakthrough. At one point I think I even accused God of not knowing how to manage the world properly! I am so glad that God is not swayed by such silly accusations. He was very loving and patient with me as I made complaint to Him about all of the people that I knew that were trying to serve Him but who were not, in my view, adequately provided for. I complained to Him about all of the complacent people back home who sat comfortably in their luxuriously furnished homes and who cared nothing for the homeless poor. I thought of the many Christians I know who devoted themselves to their high-paying jobs and who felt that their only obligations to the Kingdom of God was to put 10% of their income into the offering plate at their churches, and then spend the rest on large-screen TVs, golf clubs, new cars and jet skis. I wasn't happy being in this situation. I felt betrayed, I felt forsaken, I felt that no-one back home fully understood why I kept coming back to Africa and no-one had committed to partnering with me in my work. Some people believed in what I was doing enough to contribute money for the orphan project, but no-one had committed to seriously supporting me. I poured out all of my complaints right there under the open heaven of that glorious African sky. I also asked God lots of questions... none of which He chose to answer at the time. But this wasn't about really getting answers... this was about me getting honest and real with God.
I can't actually recall now how long this discourse with heaven went on for, but it was quite a long time. It went long enough for me to vent and empty myself of all my doubts, fears, concerns and express all of my hopes, needs, aspirations and desires. I put my petitions before God and clearly told Him what I needed and wanted and what I thought was fair. And after it was all over I realised that I really had no alternative. I had to go into town and use my Credit Card in the ATM to pull some money out of the bank - even if it meant going into debt. Whatever the financial consequences would be, I would have to face them later. But in the short term I had clear and unavoidable obligations to my African co-workers to meet their needs and fulfil my promises, and it was only right that I face up to that. So I got on a Boda (motor-cycle taxi) and took the hair-raising ride into town and withdrew enough money on my Credit Card to meet my immediate obligations. That evening I paid my co-worker and the next day I drove to Jinga to return the 4WD to its owner (all fixed and in good condition) and met up with a missionary friend from Mbale.
On the way to Jinga I got a call from some Ugandan brothers from Lira, in northern Uganda, who had heard that I was in the country and wanted to see me. To be honest, I was a bit reluctant to meet those guys. Why? Because as much as I loved them, it seemed like whenever I met with them it would end up costing me money. A few years earlier I had been put on the spot to lend them some money and had loaned them $500 which I never really expected to see again. After what I had been through I didn't feel like going through that again on this trip. Plus, my remaining days in Uganda were pretty much all accounted for, so I declined their invitation to go to Lira. But I told them where I would be and if they wanted to catch a bus and meet them in Jinga then I would be happy to see them.
I returned the 4WD to David at the Father's Divine Love Mission orphanage in Jinga, then met up with my friends. My UK missionary mate from Mbale was always an encouragement to me. We sat and talked and joked and prayed, and finally he handed me an envelope, along with an apology. God, he reported, had put it on his heart to give me a gift a few weeks earlier but it had taken him longer to get around to it. I opened the envelope to find a wad of cash - about one million Ugandan Shillings (just under $1000 at the time). I was stunned, blessed, grateful and relieved beyond words that God had seen and heard and had faithfully made provision for me - and had planned to even before my need had arisen. By the time I met my friends from Lira I was in much better spirits. In characteristic seriousness they took me aside to tell me how special their relationship with me is to them, and to enquire of my spiritual welfare and the welfare of the brethren back home in Australia. Then after some time one of the brothers pulled a roll of money from his pocket and handed it to me... it was the full repayment of my $500 loan that I had given them about 2 years earlier! After feeling that God had overlooked my needs, I found myself suddenly awash with enough cash to complete my journey and pay off my credit card when I got home.
Now what were the lessons I learnt from all of this? God knows our needs, even before we ask. But sometimes He will allow things to get a little desperate before He comes to prove His love and faithfulness to us. And ultimately it doesn't matter if other people aren't doing all the things that they perhaps should be doing. As long as we are doing all that we should be doing then God will be with us - just as He has promised. He will NEVER leave us or forsake us - no matter what reversals and setbacks we might suffer.
That particular trip to Uganda (and I have now been there 11 times!) was beset with all kinds of unexpected difficulties and financial hardships, yet it was the first and only trip where I ended up coming back to Australia with as much money as I had taken. Just as Jesus said, "God knows our needs, even before we ask."
Allan Weatherall is a part-time missionary, writer and currently a slightly under-employed freelance graphic designer. He is also the publisher of Worldview Interactive magazine.
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