One year ago, I got married and moved to Waco with my new husband to do the Antioch Discipleship School. It was the most refining, challenging and transformational year of my life so far.
Needless to say, it was filled with a lot of newness and get-out-of-your-comfort-zone kinds of scenarios. And what better way to cap off a year of less of me and more of God than two weeks of making disciples in Gulu, Uganda?
I want to share one of my favorite stories from the trip. It’s a story of the kindness of God to include me on His mission, even in my weakness. It’s a story of His goodness and His grace and it’s one of my favorite things I got to see Him do in Gulu.
My Ugandan Sunday morning started with this word from a friend: “Breathe deep today. There is a lot of life out there.” I wrote it down in my journal, not thinking much of it, but taking it as encouragement nonetheless.
I met my friend Joanna in the lobby an hour before we would have left for church, and we headed out to meet a woman named Monica in her village. We had been meeting with Monica all week, and she wanted to come to church with us. We walked for what seemed like several miles that day looking for her.
After the first thirty minutes, I got irritated. My frustration rose steadily with every step along each winding dirt path that led to another grass roof hut that looked exactly like the last one we thought might have been hers. I felt like I was running up the down escalator, never quite reaching the place I actually needed to go.
It’s funny what happens to our spirits when our goals get blocked.
And I thought it was peculiar how I kept seeing this pattern: a hen with baby chicks, a momma duck with ducklings, a dog with puppies. In retrospect I realized that all along that seemingly pointless wandering to find Monica, God was heralding the coming of new life. Abundant new life.
“Pay attention and press on. What you see in these living parables along your path now, you’ll see in the Spirit next.”
But of course, I wasn’t hearing that in the moment.; because I was hot and tired, and we were missing worship. Blocked goals, again. Maybe I was like the people Jesus talks about in Matthew 13, who see but don’t perceive when he speaks through things like stories and metaphors. I was ready to give up. We couldn’t get a hold of Monica on her phone, and we were lost in her village.
Joanna, though, steadfast as she is — she wasn’t giving up. And she wasn’t letting me take her and Monica down.
“We have to get her to church. We’re not leaving without her.”
She was preaching perseverance and my flesh was too thick between my ears and my heart to really receive it…
…Well, I wasn’t going to cross her. So we waited some more. Minutes that felt like hours later, a phone call finally went through. Monica was on her way. She finally made it to where we were, and we walked about 20 minutes in the wrong direction plus 20 more minutes back before finally catching a bota (motorcycle taxi) to church. I was certain we’d missed it all by now.
Wrong again. It was kind of starting to hurt.
Of course we made it just at the right time. We found Monica’s friend Doreen, who we’d also met in the market that week. Somehow (or not-so-somehow but by the grace of God) she made it too, despite us not being able to reach her all week.
And these two women, whom Joanna had led to Jesus days earlier, both raised their hands to be baptized the following week.
The chicks, ducklings and puppies suddenly fled back into my mind. Newness of life. Of course God knew. And now it was all worth it, and I was humbled as I thought of what we might have missed if we’d left when I’d wanted to.
Later that afternoon, as I sat down to write all this down, the clouds were rolling in. And I thought, “How timely. Of course the rain is coming.”
Because God always brings the rain to the sun-scorched land when we ask, and when it rains, it pours. Grace, grace, grace … I was reminded of something a girl on our team said earlier that week: an ocean of grace will mark this trip. And let’s be honest, my heart needed cleansing that day.
So I stopped, looked out over the plains and watched the clouds, awaiting the coming rain as another kind of rain trickled from my eyes. Grace tears — the kind that come when unmerited favor is showered on me.
I take a deep breath. There really is a lot of life out there today.
By Sara Gilmore
To read more of Sara’s work, you can head over to her blog.