I am preparing to travel to Senegal, West Africa (its okay, I had to Google its location too – I'll wait while you consult a map). I am going there this month on a BC Pastor's trip with Samaritan's Purse. I am not a well-seasoned traveller, so going somewhere far away and unfamiliar has left me both excited, and at times terrified.
Getting ready has involved several doctor visits, multiple vaccinations, and many stops at the pharmacy to fill prescriptions. I have read email after email detailing information that is designed to make my trip safe and enjoyable. I have come to refer to these emails as the “Complete and Exhaustive Volumes Outlining All the Ways to Die in Senegal.” Seriously. It is quite unsettling.
I trust God. I love God, and I trust that God is loving toward us. Yet it turns out I am quite uncomfortable when confronted with a situation that is foreign to me and is what I might categorize as unsafe. The emails tell me that there are many bugs, mosquitos, viruses, parasites, etc. that are found in Senegal – that makes me uncomforable. There are no reliable ambulances, police are not quick to respond, and medicines that I use are not readily available in Senegal – that makes me uncomfortable. There is blistering sun, unsettling humidity, unfamiliar modesty customs, and unsafe drinking water in Senegal – that makes uncomfortable. And don't get me started about all the ways food could render me uncomfortable.
For an entire month I have obsessed over what I will eat, how I will ensure safe drinking water, and what kind of clothes will keep me both covered and cool. Then one morning my devotion directed me to read these words: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" So I pretty much failed on this account. Given all the ways I have been preparing to find Senegal uncomfortable, the most discomforting thing I have come to face is my need to qualify my trust in God with my comfort level. I trust God provided I am safe. I trust God as long as I am close to home. I trust God as long as I feel in control. Oh, how shallow is my trust? Pretty shallow.
I can remember when I brought my baby daughter home from the hospital, struggling to breastfeed, I relied heavily on help from a public health nurse. After a series of visits, and with successful feeding under my belt, I asked her what her next project would be. She told me that she was headed to Africa for some professional development. I thought this was marvelous, and encouraged her by saying what a gift she would be to the mothers there. She corrected me and my first world bias immediately. “You have misunderstood me. I am going to Africa to be developed. If you want to learn how to support breastfeeding, you go where they do it best – and that is Africa.” I am appreciating her words more fully these days. It turns out I am going to Senegal to be developed. If you want to learn to trust in God, you go where you need to trust God – and for me that is Senegal.
I am only 6 sleeps out now, and I have quietly yet firmly set my heart on being a student of this West African nation. Interestingly enough, she has already taught me so much – and God has used her as a chisel to remove from me the worldly things I have built my foundations upon. I am uncomfortable with how much chiselling has been required. Discomfort is my new classroom – and I hope to not only learn here, but to be changed in both my understanding and experience of God.
What uncomfortable journey is God calling you on these days? I pray that we are developing in our trust of God, and that we are sharing with others our experiences of His love and faithfulness. And perhaps we may even be found setting down our copy of All the Ways to Die in Senegal, and discovering all the ways to live!